The Practical Guide for Surviving NaNoWriMo: Friend Edition

Photo by Jamie Street on Unsplash

Emergency! Your friend, roommate, or significant other has just informed you they plan on embarking on the magical journey of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). After explaining to you what this is, you inform them they are insane, not prepared to handle it with everything important happening during November, nor capable of writing a novel in thirty days. Despite your reservations, they are determined to continue.

In this guide, you will learn how to handle all of the spastic, sleep-deprived, and curious emotions that will emerge from your beloved person. Not to fear, you only have to survive a month of this endeavor. Here are some practical tips to supporting and handling your NaNo individual.

How you can support them

It is not unlike a NaNo participant to be completely ecstatic the first few days of the month, but that will fade. Sometimes that results in hiding their computers in random locations in frustration. Sometimes it presents itself as the inability to leave the computer even though they haven’t typed a single word in over an hour.


With all of their brain capacity focused on writing 50,000 words, you can support your loved one with snacks such as candy, vegetables (don’t worry, they’ll be too distracted to notice they are eating healthy things), coffee or tea, and water. Understand that if you pull them away from their writing, they will notice you have fed them vegetables and will throw them at you. Do not dare give them decaffeinated coffee or they will throw that at you too. Proceed with caution, or with protective gear.


Give them rewards when they tell you they’ve had a breakthrough. Keep in mind, these rewards should not pull them away from their computer (unless you find them in a situation I explain below). Bring them things they like. For example, I have informed my boyfriend (this guide was initially written for him) that he should bring me candles and light them while I’m writing. You can also give them presents like their favorite foods (sushi, if you’re reading this Allen), cats (also for you Allen), and shoulder rubs (okay this whole sentence was for you). Bringing gifts or performing nice gestures will reduce your writer’s stress level and make them less likely to throw things at you or at their computer.


Your beloved and crazy friend will need some reminders every once in a while. Things such as eating, drinking water, moving something other than their fingers, and (on rare occasions) breathing. Whenever your writer breaks gaze with their computer or makes eye contact with a human after hours, gently remind them it is three in the morning and they have to be at work tomorrow. You can also change their clothes for them, physically remove them from their seat, and lock them outside the apartment away from their computers until they go for a run or do some physical activity. Promise them that it will help their writing in the long run, but understand you will face their wrath for the rest of the day.

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What to do if you find your writer in these situations

Inevitably, you will walk in to find your writer friend in an unfamiliar state or explosion of emotion. There are ways to prepare yourself for this sight and respond accordingly. This is your emergency preparedness action plan because duct tape doesn’t fix everything.

Writing Block

Writing block is a myth, but don’t tell your friend this. If they have been sitting at their writing instrument for hours without moving, gently remove them from the situation. Give them fresh air, coffee, and soft pets on the head. Take them to an animal shelter and let them pet puppies or force their cats in front of their face to distract them. Do your best to keep your friend away from any screens (or pieces of paper and writing tools if they are writing old school).

Can’t get out of bed

Is your writer stuck in bed — writing or just refusing to get out? The solution is not to dump a bucket of water on them (unless all other attempts to get them up have failed). Forcefully remove them from the scene is another extreme tactic. You can entice them with food, baking cookies downstairs so they follow the smell, or give them rewards such as petting animals and leaving the house. To convince them to leave the house, remind them that people watching and eavesdropping other conversations are great tools to use in their writing.

Finding excuses to not write

If your friend has sat down and started doing anything but writing — Netflix, Hulu, Wikipedia rabbit holes, social media — install an app blocker on their computer when they aren’t looking. You can also threaten them by stealing their wallet and taking a dollar for every minute they don’t have their writing application open.

Or perhaps your writer refuses to sit down because they need to clean, mop, wax the floors, wash their car, or go minimalist and get rid of all their possessions. This is a situation where duct tape is the fix. Check the scene for any sharp objects they can use to cut the tape or stab you, tape your friend to their chair, and tape their computer in a location where their hands are forced on the keyboard.

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You walk in and your NaNo participant is sobbing uncontrollably. There are several things to look for here.

  1. Is their computer screen black? Check if their computer has died (literally) or if it wasn’t plugged in. Sometimes they have forgotten to charge it. If their computer shut off without them saving, sit on the floor and cry with them.
  2. If their computer is fine, briefly glance at the computer screen but do not read. If there are words on the page, it’s possible your writer has just written a scene that brought them to tears. You can cheer and then cry with them. They like the support.
  3. If there are no words on the page, they might be struggling with ‘writer block’. Refer to the first section.
  4. If their computer is nowhere to be seen, it’s possible your writer has hidden their computer in defiance. The duct tape solution is useful.

Manic emotions or acting like a god

Writers go to a deep place to get 50,000 words in a month. That dark place can bring up some crazy emotions. If your person has started exhibiting strange behaviors such as dictating their novel while they are away from the computer, gently remind them they are in the middle of Hobby Lobby and are scaring the children. It might also be necessary to pick up a pen and notebook from one of the aisles and leave your person in the corner to write. Pay the other customers for their discretion in not posting a video of you hanging out with a crazy person.

Sometimes, their behavior results in dramatic declarations such as “I’m killing off this character” or “I will murder the next person who interrupts my work”. Killing off a character here in there is normal book writing activity and you should not be alarmed. The latter situation probably means you were breathing too loud and need to quietly leave the room.

However, if your writer declares they are killing off their main character, or more frighteningly their entire list of characters, you should remove your writer from the scene. Let them rant about their writing to you at an outside location. You most likely don’t even have to listen. The more they talk about the scene, the more they will talk themselves into a solution to their problem.

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When taking care of themselves is suspicious

Sometimes your writer doesn’t face any of these earlier issues. Sometimes they keep a healthy schedule, perform all their normal duties, and still write their designated 1,667 words a day. These individuals are not human and you should report them to the proper authorities.

Some, while still behaving mostly like a human outside of their writing time, find the energy to exercise and clean. If your writer human announces they are going for a run, you should be excited for their self-care, but remain suspicious. If the time elapsed since starting the run is abnormally long — for example, if you know this person never runs outside of November or typically runs a certain number of miles max — you need to send out a search party. It is likely your writer has run away from his problems and does not intend to return.

Not to worry, usually the writer cannot get far. Check bushes and easy hiding places nearby. You should also check the lower levels of trees. There is no telling how desperately they are trying to hide from their writing. If your writer runs regularly outside of November, good luck. Put up Lost posters with a reward for your writer to return on their own, such as snacks, their phone with more distractions from writing, or their wallet.

There are several other ways your NaNo friend can act during the month of November and they often find new and exciting ways to postpone their writing. It is best to assess the situation and determine the best course of action. Sometimes, living elsewhere for a month is the solution.

In the end, NaNoWriMo is a wonderful experience and you should celebrate your writer whether they win or not. On December 1, strongly encourage your exhausted NaNo participant to take a shower before they leave the house to return to the real world.


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