Top Tips for NaNoWriMo 2020

Posted by Amy Gerrish on Thursday November 19th, 2020

Writing for NaNoWriMo can feel like a real mission – but here’s the help you need to see the month through.

Somehow, we’re halfway through National Novel Writing Month! Whether you’ve strictly kept to word-count-tracking, or just using the time as an opportunity to get into the habit of writing daily, we’ve dug through the archives and found words of writing wisdom to share with you.

And don’t forget – if you have a completed manuscript that you love, the Times/Chicken House Children’s Fiction Competition is now open for submissions!

For now, let’s hear from those that really know what they’re talking about: our authors!

Kiran Millwood Hargrave

‘Call yourself a writer. No philosophically bellyaching around whether you ‘count’ as a writer yet. If the label is useful to you, use it.

‘Don’t stop reading. Every writer is different, but in my opinion stopping reading something for fear you'll ‘copy’ it suggests you don’t have an idea or voice strong enough yet. Reading is the only way to see what’s out there, and what you could do better. Plus, reading is a lifeline – it keeps you learning, keeps you humble.’

Veronica Cossanteli 

Veronica Cossanteli

‘Don’t get bogged down trying to make your first draft stylistically perfect. If you’re anything like me, you’ll end up jettisoning half of it. The longer you’ve spent polishing chapters 1 and 2, the more annoying it is when you realise your story actually begins at chapter 3!

‘My greatest sin ... DO NOT ALLOW RANDOM CHARACTERS TO WANDER INTO YOUR BOOK. Sadly, this includes those with four legs. As above, if they’re not a necessary link in the plot, send them packing. If you don’t axe them, your editor will – and the longer you have lived with them, the more it will hurt. Console yourself with the thought that it doesn’t have to be goodbye forever: their turn may come.’

Lucy Stange

‘Find a story that you need to tell and give it time to settle and develop in your mind. I find a lot of 'writing' needs to take place in my head before I can start actually writing.

‘I never listen to the radio, podcasts or watch TV etc. before I start writing - I find it drowns out the narrative voice in my head with other people's voices.’

Barry Cunningham

Okay, okay, Barry isn’t an author, but he is the Publisher and Managing Director of Chicken House. If there’s someone that’s truly able to recognise good writing, it’s Barry. Here, he shares some of his top tips for writing something brilliant. Enjoy!

Submit to the Times/Chicken House Children’s Fiction Competition here.

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