NaNoWriMo Milestones List

November is National Novel Writing Month – also known as NaNoWriMo, or just NaNo. It’s a writing challenge that takes place during the month of November, and the goal is to write a 50,000 word novel in a month. That’s right. An entire novel – Fifty Thousand Words – in one month.

You can read all about it on the NaNoWriMo website, here.

For some people, that’s easy as pie, but for most of us mere mortals, it’s a bit of a challenge.

In order to write 50,000 words in 30 days, you’ll need to pull off an average of 1,667 words per day. That’s still quite a lot, but breaking it down like that makes it seem a little bit more manageable.
Another trick is to set up a set of smaller goals to reach along the way. Milestones that you can aim for and that don’t feel out of reach. If you focus too hard on how you have to write an entire book in just one month, it can feel a bit overwhelming. Instead, break it down and take one step at a time.

Write the first chapter. Write the first ten thousand words. Write that awesome scene you’ve been looking forward to. Take a break and have a cup of coffee.

To help you out, here’s a list of milestones for writing your NaNo novel. Think of them as the kind of Achievements or Trophies you can earn when playing video games. Sometimes they’re a goal to aim for, and sometimes they just pop up as you go. A reminder that you’re doing well.

Some of these are in the order you’ll reach them, and some are not. It’s also important to keep in mind that this is not a checklist of things to include in a novel, or that you’re expected to do or experience as a writer. In fact, some of these milestones are best avoided.

Really, it’s mostly just for fun. Here goes:

Novel Milestones:

  1. Once Upon A Time: Give your novel a name. It’s real now.
  2. A Hero is Born: Write a backstory for your main character.
  3. Its Dangerous Business Going Out Your Door: Write a really good first sentence.
  4. Did I Remember To Lock?: Re-write your first sentence ten times.
  5. And So Our Story Begins: Write the first chapter.
  6. That’s Not How I Remember It: Re-write the first chapter.
  7. Okay, This Isn’t Too Bad: Write 10,000 words.
  8. Hold My Beer: Write yourself into a corner.
  9. It’s My Story And I Write What I Want To: Defeat your inner critic and keep writing.
  10. Warning! This Book Has Cooties: Write a kissing scene.
  11. Don’t Worry, I’ve Got This: Write 20,000 words.
  12. I Have A Bad Feeling About This: Your main character suffers a major setback.
  13. That Was A Boring Conversation Anyway: Write an action scene.
  14. What Is That Thing?: Create a new monster and put it in your story
  15. MY STORY IS RUBBISH AND I HATE IT!: Write 30,000 words.
  16. That’s Not Right: Move one chapter to another place in the story.
  17. We Need To Talk: Write a deep and serious conversation.
  18. Those Aren’t The Dragons You’re Looking For: Write a comic relief scene.
  19. This Is Going To Be AWESOME!: Write 40,000 words.
  20. Where Did This Come From?: Tie up at least one subplot you’d completely forgotten about.
  21. No Sleep ’til Minas Tirith: Stay up way too late working on the last few chapters of your story.
  22. Happily Ever After: Finish your story.
  23. What Do You Mean It’s February?: Write 50,000 words.

There we go. It’s not quite one milestone per day, but it’s also not meant to be. Some days you might not reach a milestone, and some days you might reach many. It’s all up to you. If you’ve got any milestones of your own you want to add, feel free to leave a comment below.

That said, not everyone is doing NaNo.

For some people, it’s just not their thing, and for others, there’s no time, or there are other things that are more important. That’s okay. You don’t have to try and write a novel in a month if you don’t want to.

But, what if you do want to, but you’re just not ready yet? Maybe you’ve never written anything that long before – you’re definitely not the only one. Maybe you used to write a lot, but you’ve lost the habit, and you want to get back into it – you’re not alone in that either.

To get you into the swing of things, here’s a list of milestones to help you get (back) into the habit of writing regularly. Keep in mind that this doesn’t have to be for NaNo, but can be done at any time, whenever the time is right for you.

Starting out:

  1. You’re a writer, Harry: Write for fifteen minutes.
  2. So, You want to be a Jedi: Write for half an hour.
  3. I know Kung Fu: Write for one hour.
  4. What about second breakfast?: Wake up half an hour early and write for at least fifteen minutes.
  5. The step that starts the journey: Complete one piece of flash fiction (a story of less than 1,000 words)
  6. Even trees start as seeds: Complete one short story (less than 7,500 words)
  7. One does not simply walk into Mordor: Settle on an idea for your novel.

Getting into the habit:

  1. Enthusiast: Write every day for 7 days in a row.
  2. Dedicated Enthusiast: Start writing at the same time 7 days in a row.
  3. Yarn-Spinner: Write at least 500 words a day for 7 days in a row.
  4. Optimization: Learn about the Pomodoro method (25 minutes of work, 5 minutes of rest) or some other productivity method.
  5. Storyteller: Write at least 1,000 words a day for 7 days in a row.
  6. Downward Quill: Look up some stretching exercises and do them for at least ten minutes a day.
  7. Novelist: Write at least 1,500 words a day for 7 days in a row.
  8. NaNo Winner: Write at least 1,667 words a day for 30 days in a row.

That’s it.

Or is it? Perhaps you have suggestions for other milestones like the ones above? Surely, these can’t be the only ones.

Have you lost the habit of writing and struggled to get back into it again? What helped you create a habit of writing regularly? What advice would you give to someone starting out?

And finally, of course, if you reach any of these milestones, even the little ones, feel free to leave a comment and let us know. Is there any one in particular you’re aiming for?

Nils Ödlund