Pro Tips from a NaNo Coach: Figuring Out How to Finish

We’re nearing the home stretch with NaNoWriMo, and whether you’re on par, full speed ahead, or feel like you’re falling behind, it’s important to remember to keep your creativity alive. Today, author and NaNo Coach K. Ancrum shares her tailored advice for wherever you are in your writing journey:

As November grinds to a close and the final day of NaNoWrimo looms near, the grand majority of us have one thing left on our minds: How in the heck am I gonna finish this thing?

Writers all have unique relationships with finishing. Some of us, like Stephen King, have conquered finishing with a brutal regularity. Others wrestle finishing like a many headed hydra. But at the end of the day, we all keenly know the burning stretch of reaching towards that precipice. There is peace in knowing there is equality in sharing that feeling.

When it comes to finishing, everyone at every stage needs to hear something a bit different. No matter where you are in this last week, I hope my suggestions make reaching the end––whether this November or otherwise––a bit easier.

It’s the last week and you’ve written:

1–10,000+ words

First of all, this is not a failure. There are people who have been walking around with their novel in their head who haven’t even written a single sentence. Choosing to bring the world you’ve built in your mind out and onto paper is its own sort of bravery. Don’t undermine that accomplishment. 

Secondly, even if you end this NaNoWriMo under 10k, you’ll be able to start strong next November with an entire year’s worth of time to work through all your plot hurdles––and the more you keep writing through these last few days, the more solid a foundation you’ll have. Pat yourself on the back, you’re doing well!

20,000–30,000+ words

You’ve hit the median so  you’re close enough to see the end and to feel all sort of complicated feelings about finishing or not. You’re also close enough to be at a pivotal part of any novel of any genre. Unless you can churn out 6,000+ words a day, finishing within this last week might be a bit too far to stretch. However, you are close enough to potentially finish your book within the year. With agents and editors on vacation for the holidays, you’ve hit a nice patch of free time to finish your work, edit your work and have it ready to go when the end of January rolls around and everyone’s hungry for new talent. 

Keep working. You may or may not finish, but in the grand scheme of things you have more than enough time to be ready when it matters.

40,000-50,000 words

At 40,000 words, you’re a 3 page paper every night of this week away from finishing. You’re also at a point where you can genuinely decide whether your story needs the full 50k to be finished. As someone who got their contract on a slim 32k, if your first draft is feeling well baked, don’t leave it in the oven just to make word count. On the other hand, If you have another 20k+ words of story in you, you just might be able to make this work. Whether or not you feel like your project is finished by Friday, you’re a lot closer than you were to having a completed novel than you were a short 30 days ago. That’s worth celebrating.

Whether or not you make 50,000 words, you’ve started to build something spectacular this November. Treat yourself gently and be proud of this accomplishment. I’m rooting for you!


K. Ancrum grew up in Chicago, Illinois. She was lured into getting an English degree after spending too many nights experimenting with hard literary criticism and hanging out with unsavory types, like poetry students. She cut her teeth on NaNoWriMo with her debut novel The Wicker King, and is working on a sequel titled The Weight of Stars. She is a self-professed procrastinator, and firmly believes that you can still get a job done well even if you waited until the last minute.