How I Won NaNoWriMo in 15 Days



This is the true story of how I won NaNoWriMo in 15 days while being a full-time employee, graduate student, freelancer, blogger, wife, and mother (and still had time to read).

It started as a kind of dare, a bet, a deal. “You can’t do it in half the time.” Ha! I laugh in the face of absurd challenges! At first, I was kind of thinking that it wouldn’t happen, but when I realized I was ahead anyway, it seemed much more doable to eek out the last few thousand words to hit 50k on the 15th.

I know that 50,000 words in 30 days is hard enough. So, how in the world did I pull it off in only 15 days while still having a life? Here’s a breakdown of what my typical weekday looked like during those 15 days:

5:30 – Get up and write (average word count – 600-800)
6:15 – Get ready for work
7:00 – Drop off kid at grandma’s
7:15 – Leave for work (listen to an audiobook during the drive)
8:00 – Work morning (think about characters and scenes during the day)
12:00 – Lunch (read on lunchbreak, usually a craft book, and fit in some social media time)
12:30 – Work afternoon (still think about my story, also listen to some of my audiobook)
4:30 – Leave to go home (listen to an audiobook during the drive)
5:15 – Make dinner (I’ll also bring my phone in the kitchen to do emails and more social media)
6:00 – Dinner and family time/emails/blogging (to make sure the husband and kid aren’t totally neglected)
7:00 – Evening writing (average word count – 800-1000)
8:00 – Graduate work, freelancing, blogging, more emails and/or social media
9:00 – Write before bed (average word count – 800-1000)
10:00 – Read (usually fiction)
10:30 – Go to bed

I even made a fun video showing you what the day looked like!



This schedule allowed me to write an average daily word count of 2200 to 2800 words in about three hours. 50k in 15 days needs to hit 3333 a day, and that’s where my weekend catch-up time came in. I’d usually write closer to 4000 – 5000 on a weekend day. If I was getting behind, I might also skip my nighttime reading, do less “other” stuff in the evening, or even write during lunch, but mostly it was weekend catch ups.

Notice that I also left plenty of time to get a full night’s sleep! I aim for closer to 8 hours than 7, but this was a tight schedule and I do fine if I’m asleep by 10:30. Writing tired is not nearly as productive as writing with a sharp brain! But also notice this schedule does not allow for exercise or nights out or any fun time. This isn’t a schedule I keep all the time. I don’t think it’d be sustainable 365 days a year, but this was only for 15, and even then I had some nights doing other things (like write-ins!). In my normal life, I have at least a few nights a week out or doing something with my family.




Even if you’re not aiming for over 3k a day, you can probably find time to work in an hour or two in most days to write. Not everyone can hit 800 – 1000 words in an hour. To be able to do that, I first plot everything carefully, spend months thinking about my story and getting to know my characters, then during my day, I’m thinking about the next scenes. By the time I sit down to write, I’ve written the scenes in my mind three different ways. I spend my dreaming and imagining time in the shower, or while driving, or waiting in line, or eating. I don’t do it when I’m at my computer. I just write.

So, that’s how it happened. I hope you’re doing well in your writing endeavors, and I hope you enjoyed the video!

What’s your normal writing day like?

13 thoughts on “How I Won NaNoWriMo in 15 Days

  1. Just when I was getting ready to give up NaNo due to plot problems and time constraints, I read this! Now I can’t because you even did it with as busy a schedule as I have! Thanks for this much needed boost :)

  2. I accomplish a lot of writing by keeping a tight schedule even though I also work full time, attend grad school, and have a family. I get up at 5 am so I can write before I do any other activity during the day. I take advantage of short little windows of time to accomplish all my social media tasks for the day. In the evening, if I have time, I’ll go back to an unfinished scene or chapter, or tackle the rest of my social media list. Structure is the best way for me to keep on track. And self-discipline is a learnable skill!

    1. Sounds like you do exactly what I do! You’ll often see me walking down the hall at work and tweeting because I’d rather not waste those two minutes ;) When you’re busy, not a second can be wasted!

  3. Hi, well done with NaNo. You beat me by two days. I managed it in 17 with much the same kind of life ties as you. I don’t think my laptop is ever going to recover though, there was steam coming out of the keyboard, I swear. Just goes to show it can be done. Now for the revision and editing :(

  4. This is my first NaNoWriMo, and am working on my schedule. I have a full time job, and two young kids, so I don’t get much time to write during the day.

    After the kids go to bed, I write for 1.5 to 2 hours every night, getting in about 1,500-2000 words. On the weekends I also get 2 hours during “nap time”, and have written upwards of 4400 words per day.

    I missed 5 days this month – I decided to try this on a lark on Nov 3rd, and my schedule didn’t allow me to write on 3 evenings. However I am at 44K words, and have some serious momentum.

    I started with an outline, but I ran out of that at 20K words. At that point I wrote outlines for back stories, and have been going strong with them. I am not a slave to my outline (and when I stray I update the outline), but since it is a back story, I need my characters to end up at a specific place, so keeping an updated outline allows me to keep bringing my characters back to that target ending.

    This process can be trying at times, especially when the muse doesn’t hit quite right, but in general, its a wonderful experience.

    1. Sounds like you’re right on track and doing well! My outlines often change, too. It’s usually more of an idea of this is where I think this is going and this is how I think they’re going to get there. But it’s always subject to change :)

  5. Actually posting your schedule like this was really helpful for me to see how someone else does it. Thanks for that. I’m working towards getting my count up from about 1k a day. Spent time outlining and now it’s improving. I think I’ll work out a ‘normal’ and ‘rush’ daily schedule. Thanks again.

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