My Top Hack for National Novel Writing Month

Writing 50,000 words in 30 days can be a daunting task, even for prolific writers. The idea behind National Novel Writing Month is that during November you lock away your inner editor–that voice that tells you what you’re writing is not good enough–sit at the keyboard, and just write.

Photo by Pixabay on

To reach 50,000 words by the end of the month you need to put down 1667 words per day. Those can come relatively easily at the beginning of the month, when your story idea is fresh, you’re caught up on your sleep, and there’s no need to think much about how each event in the story connects with prior events. It’s like when you start running a long distance race. At the beginning you’re body is full of adrenaline.

But as the days go on, the challenges pile up. The story gets more complicated. And much like a marathon, the further you go, the more tired you can become.

If there’s one tip I’ve found that really helps it’s this:

Write 100 Words First

That’s it. Just write 100 words.

Don’t think about the 1667 words you need for your daily word count. Don’t think about the 50,000 words (or more) that you need to complete your novel. Just write out 100 words.

Sit down at your computer/tablet/notebook etc. Don’t check email. Don’t check your social media accounts. Don’t go to your news app. Don’t dig out your snacks and coffee. Don’t play a warm-up round of solitaire. Just open up your word processor and your novel’s file and write 100 words.

Once you write those first 100 words, THEN you can do any of that other stuff.

Why 100 Words First Works

Focusing on 100 words lowers a kind of psychological action potential. One of the reasons people procrastinate is because a difficult task that lies ahead of us can seem overwhelming when seen as a whole. And often that can lead to us falling into unproductive, but comfortable and rewarding routines, where we feel insulated from the unpleasant aspects of the daunting task. Checking Instagram or Twitter can give us little dopamine rewards that balance the anxiety of starting to write. You need a certain amount of will power to break out of those routines. And the bigger the task, the greater the amount of will power you generally need.

100 words is easy. It’s a few sentences. It’s that paragraph above.

And it gets you doing the desired task.

Sometimes you write that 100 words and it’s a tough slog. Sure. But on the other hand, sometimes you get through that 100 words and that’s all that’s needed for your to slip into your ZONE.100 becomes 200, then 400. And before you know it, you’ve reached your daily word count.