The Practice of Creativity

8 Reasons Why I Won NaNoWriMo: The Joy and Struggle of The Last Week

Posted on: November 30, 2014


I crossed the 50K word finish line yesterday and validated my manuscript with NaNoWriMo. I am still buzzing with excitement. These are the factors that contributed to my success:

Writing affirmations: I started most writing sessions by writing a kind note to myself. This ritual kept my doubting inner critics relatively quiet. Go here for more on the power of affirmations for writers.

Learned new writing tricks: I stayed on track by writing about 2,000 words every day. I, however, got stuck by the time I got to 40,000 words and headed into Thanksgiving weekend way behind.

I was running out of time. Luckily, I found some folks on the NaNoWriMo forums who were setting up timed writing sprints. I’ve done timed prompts before while writing longhand. Doing time writing sprints on my computer were new. I participated in a 2,000 word sprint where you write as fast as you can for 10 minutes trying to make the following word counts in each sprint: 400, 300, 200, 100. You take short breaks along the way and then go in for a second round of sprints using the opposite order: 100, 200, 300, 400. In about two hours you can reach 2,000 words. Several people kept time and we checked in as we reached our word counts.

Using this method on Friday and also utilizing the #NaNoWordSprints on Twitter I was able to write about 7,000 words in about six hours. Definitely a personal best. Discovering these writing sprints felt like a miracle. I am grateful to the many writers who organized these events and cheered others on.

Utilized online writing forums: The NaNoWriMo forums were amazing and my go to resource. Encouragement, creativity and humor were in abundant supply.

Periodically reviewed a very popular blog post: on how Rachel Aaron, an author upped her daily output from 2,000 words to 10,000 words. I highly recommend this post. She provides some great tips that anyone can employ. Works wonders.

Used Scrivener-I had heard great things about Scrivener. They are a sponsor of NaNoWriMo this year and I decided to give their special NaNoWriMo template trial offer a go. I literally spent only ten minutes looking at their intro video before diving in. The ease! The joy! It made a huge difference to be able to have all my chapters in one place, and easily visible as icons. I also loved their ‘corkboard’ feature that displays the chapters (or scenes) as movable index cards. This feature was a tremendous help with organization.

Received daily doses of encouragement from Mur Lafferty:  I wrote about Mur Laffterty’s excellent podcast a few weeks ago. She like many creative artists are on Patreon. Patreon is a crowdfunding platform that allows direct and ongoing support of artists. I was already in her Patreon circle when she announced that she would be sending a daily short NaNoWriMo audio message to her Patreon supporters. The 3-7 minute commentaries on topics including narrative structure, staying motivated, and character development were fantastic. I came to rely on those daily writing vitamins to keep my spirits up. Check out Mur’s writing and podcast. You might also want to check out Patreon to see if there are creative artists you’d like to support.

Drew on the momentum of daily writing: The success of NaNoWriMo was built on the headwind I generated in the summer writing a minimum of 250 words a day and using the tracking tool of ‘The Magic Spreadsheet’.

I didn’t try to ‘pants’ this one: I spent most of July and August writing an outline and character sketches for this book. This preparatory work saved me.


Do I have some plot challenges? Yes. Do I need to add more about the setting, conflict and some of the characters ? Yes. Will I need to do a lot of editing? Yes. But, I am pretty proud of my NaNoWriMo draft. I love my characters and my plot.  And, having never written a mystery before I discovered I enjoy writing in this genre. I also like how I just figured things out along the way (without agonizing over details) because of the intensity of writing at high speed. And, I loved being inspired by people who participated in NaNoWriMo and wrote way beyond 50K.

In January I will continue work on this project and shoot for a solid first draft in early spring. I’ll also try to keep what worked for me during NaNoWriMo going.

If you are still in the writing trenches trying to finish NaNoWriMo, I cheer you on. If you’re not going to finish by tonight, celebrate all the hard work you’ve done thus far.

Now, I’m off to order the official NaNoWriMo winner T-shirt and print out my winning certificate!


9 Responses to "8 Reasons Why I Won NaNoWriMo: The Joy and Struggle of The Last Week"

Congratulations, Michele Berger! I haven’t been following your every move (been revising and revising without success a short section of a novel), but now I’ve come up for air. I’m going to read all your NaNo blogs and check out your aides. Thanks for sharing them with aspiring writers.


Hi Diane,
Thanks for the comment. Have fun with the links. You might especially like Mur Lafferty’s podcast–‘I Should Be Writing’ which is geared toward us emerging and aspiring writers. Revision is such a thicket of challenges sometimes. It takes patience. Good luck finding your way through the difficult patch.


Hi Diane,
Thanks! I hope whatever I share is useful to you.


What an accomplishment! I KNOW this will be a great read and I can’t wait to see it in print.

You’ve made me curious about Scrivener and I’ll check out Mur’s podcasts too.


Hey Karen, I can’t wait to polish it up and get it ready for critique. You are going to be in the acknowledgements page whenever it gets to that stage. Definitely check out Scrivener–it’s really great for when you are just beginning a project. Not sure how it is for importing one. I don’t think I will go back to the old way, at least not for longer pieces.


Congratulations on your NaNoWriMo win! And thanks for sharing your positive experience with Scrivener. I’ve been talking with folks about it lately and have heard only good things. Glad to know you found it simple to use. I’ll have to check it out when I start my next novel. Have fun with your revision!


Hi Joan,
Thanks for the comment. I can’t rave enough about Scrivener. I’m letting my fingers rest for awhile and then will tackle the revision!


Congratulations Michele! I’m not surprised! All of your friends look forward to reading what you are ready to share.

Loved all of this post and picked up some tips for myself. Also inspired me to go back and read your affirmations post.

My favorites: “My ideas come faster than I can write, and they’re all good ideas” and “To write is to improvise. I will become jazz.”



Hi Ashley! So glad that you stopped by. I know you already have lots of great tips for writing, but glad that these were interesting to you.


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Michele Tracy Berger

Michele Tracy Berger

Author, Academic, Creativity Expert I'm an award winning writer.

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