How to Write a Decent Draft in 30 Days or Less | NaNo Talk 2015


Whether you’ve written novels outside of NaNoWriMo before or NaNo is your first novel-writing experience, it’s tough to balance quality with quantity. For everyone. Experienced writers mostly agree that during NaNo, the most important thing is getting the words out: there will be time for editing out all the garbage later.

While this may be true, and no one is actually suggesting you have to write an awful novel during the month of November, part of the experience is feeling like you’re making good progress – not just word-count wise, but that you’re writing something halfway decent. Something you won’t have to completely trash come December.

It’s hard. We know. So we’ve come up with some tips to keep you updating your word count, and feeling good about those words, too.

Carry your novel with you

Google Drive is an excellent free NaNo tool you can use to take your novel with you wherever you go. When brain rush blocks out all thoughts unrelated to your story, you basically have no choice but to write a little just to get it out of your system (good for word count and sanity too, eh?).

But you also have a job, errands, places to go, lines to wait in, everywhere to be except a place where you can pull out your laptop and crank out a few hundred words. Keeping your novel in a Google Doc lets you open it from anywhere – your phone, your tablet, on your lunch break – and if you’re on a roll, 100 words can happen in no time at all. That can add up over the course of just a day.

Mark your mistakes

There’s not always time to fix continuity errors, especially on days you just need to get the words done and move on. But those errors still bug most of us, sometimes to the point where we either have to try and fix them or risk not being able to write well, or at all, because we’re too distracted by that character who just ate an apple even though earlier she said she hates fruit. (It’s the little things, you know?)

Use a highlighting tool or bold or different colored text to mark places you notice you’ve made a mistake. Not only will this help you move on from them now, but it will make editing later a lot easier. And if you are having a rough writing day but still want to spend time with your novel, see if you can fix some of those small things – and maybe add some words in the process.

Find a place to store your ideas

Brain rush (you might use the phrase “plot bunnies” interchangeably in this case) does not usually happen when we need it to, like when we’re sitting at our desks and writing our daily 1,667 is the only thing left we need to get done today. It comes on when we’re trying to fall asleep, driving to work, in the middle of working on something else. It’s inconvenient, but we can’t ignore it.

Especially during November, we need places to store the ideas we can’t get rid of but can’t sit down and write right this second. Sticky notes, voice memos or a similar note-taking method gets the idea out in that moment you can’t do anything with it, and the fear of forgetting it vanishes, too.


You will have days you don’t feel like writing. Maybe you already have (or today is one). What’s important is that you make the decision that’s best for you: write a small amount that you’re going to be able to keep or just write whatever comes to you, even if it’s not good.

Remember, just because your first draft isn’t exactly what you want it to be doesn’t mean it’s “bad.” Writing 50,000+ words in 30 days sounds impossible, and writing 50,000+ good words sounds even more so. But you can do it. YOU CAN DO IT!!

Image courtesy of Novelty Revisions.