Expert Advice on NaNoWriMo from Melissa Douglas PLUS a Few Words from John Green

Many years ago I taught a night class at BYU (320R Creative Writing). It seems every time I teach that class I find someone who will publish. This time was no exception. One of the writers who rose to the top was Melissa. She and I have stayed friends over the last few years. Every once in a while I have a chance to read her work which is VERY creative, very good. She is also an artist and a web designer. Read below to see what she has to say about NaNoWriMo.

Do NaNoWriMo

NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month – is a month-long writing marathon of insanity. 50,000 words in only thirty days; any genre, any age group. It’s every November and sign ups just began for 2010. Are you going to join in?

If you said heck yes, you get a hearty fist bump from me.  Nice work!

If you said no or looked confused, be prepared for my utter disappointment. Poor non-believer; what will we do with you? Oh right; educate.

Why You Should NaNoWriMo

Deadlines are powerful things. With only a month to write your novel, you’ve got to get 1,667 words written per day.  There’s no time for an inner-editor, you’ve just got to write, write, and write some more. This is the perfect chance to throw up words.  It’s fun.   You have my permission to write an awful first draft with all of the -ly words you want.  Once you’ve stopped overthinking it, you’ll be surprised at the amazing things that just come out of nowhere.  Reading back months later, my best writing was during the writing group word battles where I didn’t have time to think at all.

How To Survive

Convinced? Good. Here are a few of my favorite tips to get you started:

–          Look here ( ) for a local chapter near you – many offer write-ins, support groups, challenges, etc. to keep you on track. A fine example is the one led by Mathew Walker, the ever-fantastic liaison for Springville, UT.

–          Get other writers involved! I finished NaNo by holding weekly six-hour long write-a-thons with my writing group. Peer pressure and support FTW.

–          Make a music playlist for your novel. Keep it on repeat as you write.

–          Have a reward waiting. For the last two years, NaNoWriMo has partnered with CreateSpace to offer a free proof of your novel if you win. I got confirmation that they’re doing it again this year. Sure, it’s just a vanity press item, but it’s still pretty cool.

Anyone who knows me can attest that I’m a rabid supporter of NaNoWriMo.  Why? It gets books written. A lot of people say they want to write a novel but can’t find the time. Truth is, they don’t make the time. “Someday” never comes, which means that the novel is never written. Why not now?

As Walt Disney said, “The best way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.”

Last year, there were 167,150 people who signed up for NaNoWrimo; 32,178 of them won. Are you going to be one of them?

How To NaNo It Up

It’s easy:

–          Head over to and click the ‘sign up now’ button. It’s free, and they won’t kill you if you don’t win.

–          Just remember that you can’t start until November 1st. You’re allowed to write novel notes and outlines, but no actual prose until then.

–          Make sure to comment here with your username so we can be NaNo buddies!

Here are the two books Melissa finished!

Now here’s a link to John Green (An Abundance of Katherines, Finding Alaska, Paper Towns, Will Grayson, Will Grayson) talking about NaNoWriMo. I think you’ll enjoy this, too.


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16 responses to “Expert Advice on NaNoWriMo from Melissa Douglas PLUS a Few Words from John Green

  1. I am going to NaNo this year again – I do it every year with my high school students, but the last two years I was juggling master’s classes and teaching new courses and three kids. This year I don’t have the master’s classes and I’m hoping it will be my first year to win.

  2. CLW

    Hi Kelley!

    I did NaNoWriMo for one day last November. Yup.

    Still, I thought it might be fun for us to think about this as a group.

    Are we thinking?????

  3. I’ve done it the past two years, and plan to do it again. It’s nice to do it with people you know. You all become “writer buddies” on the Nanowrimo web site and can see each other’s little word count bars creep up over the month.

  4. Nanowrimo sounds awesome. Also, I’ve read Melissa’s stuff and she is amazing!

  5. Thanks for posting this, Carol! And for saying such nice things about me. I love that the video said more or less what I said, only with more humor and possibly more hair… it was a nice combination!

    For those curious, my NaNo username is ‘gabapple’ —

  6. Cori

    Go Melissa! What a great article. Now I’m 10x more excited about NaNo than I was this afternoon 🙂

  7. Ashley

    Hey, I’ve signed up and am so excited for November to start!! My NaNoWriMo username is ashleyharward (pretty creative, huh?). I’d love some buddies!

  8. I did nablowrimo last year and it got me addicted to blogging. Soooooo, gulp, here goes with nanowrimo. Scared. So scared. Don’t know how I’ll fit it in – but where there’s a will ….

    Shake and shutter. Somebody wanna hold my hand????

  9. This will be my third nano. I won the last two, and I seriously hope to win this one too. I love nano, especially because my 9 year-old signs up too. He’s had his nano story for a few weeks now, and can’t wait to start. I’m actually getting ready to query last year’s nano book.

  10. I signed up. First timer here. Scared to death, but ready to win. Thousands of people do this, right? Why can’t I?

  11. O.K. Hi, my name is Heather B. and I suffer from verbal reflux. (This is where you all say, “Hi, Heather.”)

    This is my first year to attempt NaNoWriMo. I had never heard of it until last year, so I’m jumping in with both feet this year. I have lived in the Guangzhou, China area for the past year and 4 months-ish but will be moving back to the U.S. in December (free at last!).

    Part of me is a little freaked out that I actually signed up for this, and part of me is saying, “It doesn’t have to be anything well-written, it just has to be written.”

    Ranae, I completely understand what you are saying and I love blogging too!

    Carol, thanks for posting this kick-in-the-pants. 🙂

    My NaNo name is HBwarmsocks.

  12. zuzu1050

    I plan on attempting nanowrimo for the first time this year. I found this article googling for advice. I am hoping this will help me start writing again.


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