#Amwriting October 18: NaNo by the Numbers

If you are going to participate in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) this year, you are going to write 50,000 words during the month of November.  Let’s check the numbers.


Slow and Steady

If you plan to write each and every day, then that is 1667 words for 30 days.

How much time you will need to set aside every day depends on how fast you type. Note that I didn’t say write, but type. Even if you’re feeling creative and the words are flowing like magic, it takes a certain amount of time to set them down on the page. If you are a slow typist like I am, it will physically take you longer than someone who can type fast. That is why I never win sprints or word wars. I – type – slowly.

Let’s do the numbers. I can type between 500 and 600 words in an hour. That means I will need three hours every day to achieve that goal. That doesn’t seem like much if you are thinking the average work day is eight hours, but I already have a busy life. Things are going to have to go.

Exercise:  Keep track of how many words you write per hour over the next few days. Then calculate how many hours you will need per day to write 1667 words. Make a schedule now for setting that time aside.

Tip:  To be even more organized, write the exact hours you are setting aside for NaNo on a calendar or into a planner.

Reverse NaNo

November is a tough month because of the holidays. There’s a lot going on at the end. If that is the case for you, consider doing a reverse NaNo. Start piling on the words at first, with roughly 3000 words a day for the first week, then gradually taper off (link shows exact number you will need per day). So, for me, that’s roughly 5 to 6 hours a day for the first few days.

Even if you don’t do a full reverse NaNo, piling on the words at the beginning may make it easier to achieve your goal.

The Scenic Route

Let’s take this number crunching one more step.  If the average length of a scene in a  novel is 750 to 2,500 words, you will be writing on average 1 to 2 scenes per day. That ends up being roughly 30 to 60 scenes over the full month.

At this point you probably know whether you are a pantser (discovery writer) or if you outline ahead of time (planner or plotter). At the very least, you’ve probably heard proponents of both camps. The reality is, however, writing that many scenes is a daunting task, so a bit of planning now makes it more likely you will succeed.

Dear Plotter,

I’m not worried about you. Charge ahead with your outline. You probably had your outline written last month, right?

Dear Pantser,
No need to be scared. Don’t call it an outline, call it a plan. As you know, plans can change. Or call it a recipe. You always tweak recipes when you cook, right?


Exercise:  Get a calendar for the year(s) your novel covers. Start a timeline of events both during backstory and after the novel begins. Being able to picture the events unfolding over time will help keep the words flowing. Plus, you won’t end up with eight day weeks (has happened in real novels) or pregnancies that last three months.

Time to map out that novel!



Visit our 30 Day Novel Prep Page for all the links.


  1. Karen M Gibson

    The Scenic Route?! I love it. Would not have thought it.

    • Roberta

      Thank you. Although I was inspired by you. You guys take the scenic route all the time.

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