Or more helpfully, how do I gauge for myself in a realistic setting, how many hours an evening it will take to write 1,666 words (assusming all planning is done and no editing is done during NaNoWriMo, as unrealistic as that may be).

I suspect this will be different between people, so I'd like a way to 'figure this out'. Like 'calculate your WPM then divide by ten' or 'Set an hour aside an hour see how much you can write'.

  • 2
    Not an answer, just a note about some things to be aware of. *Don't plan for the minimum 1666 a day. There will be days when life gets in the way and writing doesn't happen, if that puts you in catch-up mode the panic can block your flow, so plan a daily count that allows for some dropped time. *Plan ahead to protect your writing time, eg get friends to tape your TV shows, cook a months main meals to freeze so that you only need to zap them in the microwave (this was my key to success), stock up credit with chores so you can slack in Nov. Warn friends you 'll be busy! Good luck
    – Spagirl
    Aug 24, 2016 at 15:29

4 Answers 4


You know how many words per day you need to average. The main question is how quickly can you write. I tried to estimate my writing pace by timing myself writing short stories and dividing the word count by the time taken. This gave me a pace which I plugged into a spreadsheet. I then kept daily records of how many words I'd written that day to see how my actual pace was compared to my minimum required pace.

However, what I discovered was that my estimated pace was really a best-case scenario, because short stories come easily to me while novels don't. Thus it was very hard to maintain my pace and the length of time I needed was approximately double. Given that and the fact that you can't miss a day if you're only doing the daily minimum meant that I fell off pace fairly early on in the process.

Thus my advice to you would be to write something fairly long (spend 30 minutes writing at least), then see how many words you got. Halve that speed as your estimated effective pace and allocate that much time per day. Then, keep track of your daily and average pace (time spent writing today, words written today) and update your estimates for how many hours remain. Schedule in long blocks of writing if you can, and try to get ahead early on so that you have some slack later.

  • This sounds like the best advice! Aug 27, 2016 at 16:54
  • 1
    Related to this, when you are figuring out your writing pace, you'll want to also figure out your planning pace -- I use my morning commute to plan the broad plot points and my evening commute planning the specific scene or scene to write, which means I spend an hour or so daily thinking about what I will write, which in turn makes the actual writing smoother.
    – Kit Z. Fox
    Aug 30, 2016 at 19:18

So NaNoWriMo requires 50,000 words over the course of 30 days or 1,666.67 words written per day (total words / total days). Rounding up this means you need to write 1,667 words a day, and you will have 50,010 words at the end of November 30. Let's say you write 500 words an hour, this is an arbitrary number, I've never timed my writing. You would need to spend 3.34 hours per day writing (total words needed per day / words per hour). So you gave yourself the first part of the answer. Set up a timer for 60 minutes and start with a blank document. After the 60 minutes are done, you will have what you need to plug into the formulas above.

  • It may be usefull to keep a couple of days for editing, though. Aug 23, 2016 at 13:26
  • 2
    You don't edit during NaNoWriMo. The idea is you write the 50,000 words then the time after that is for editing and amending.
    – Stephen
    Aug 23, 2016 at 13:40

As you mentioned, a lot of it depends on yourself and factors about your writing style. The ones I can see are:

  • Sustained typing speed: Tests usually give you peak speed but I think most people slow down over time.
  • How long can you type: I binge write so I do 18 hour writing sessions every month or so, belt out a lot of words, but then don't do anything else. Others like to do the steady 1.7k/words a day and stop as soon as they are done.
  • Uninterrupted time: If you are interrupted every twenty minutes by a small child, it doesn't matter how fast you write, you'll spend more time coming up to speed to get to the average time.
  • What else you are doing: If you are writing at the end of a sixteen hour day, you'll probably be less productive if you have only two college classes in the afternoon.
  • Planning: There is planning and planning. If you have a vague idea of what you are doing, you'll spend more time working on plot. If you have everything including rough dialog, you'll go a lot faster.
  • Compartmentalization: We all have an inner critic. How easily you can shove them in a box and ignore them will impact your creation speed.
  • Environment: If you have a good writing environment, then you'll relax more.
  • Online, Phone, Family, and TV: When you are just belting out words, it is good if you aren't distracted by Facebook, Stack Overflow, or anywhere else.

That many factors makes it hard to come up with a formula, but it should give you an idea. As I said, for me, I binge write and I have a very tolerant spouse, but I have a heavy workload from my day job which doesn't give me a lot of time. The last time I did NaNoWriMo, I did it in 17 days but I also didn't have to visit family that year for Thanksgiving and used the few days she was visiting family to frantically write.


First, I'm thrilled for you that you are considering doing NaNo! I'm the Municipal Liason for my local region and have done NaNo every year.

I try to shoot for 2000 words a day. This lets me have "off" days (whether coming up short or brain freeze or whatever).

My first piece of advice: Don't fall behind. It's way harder to catch up than it is to start out ahead and maybe slip back toward your goal.

Second: I tell all the local WriMo's that the goal is getting words on the paper. It's a quickly written first draft, and will NOT be good. Strive for mediocrity. December and January is when you can work on fixing things.

Get in touch with your local Municipal Liason. We try to schedule "write-ins" where you go spend several hours as a group focusing on getting words down. It's amazing how much easier it gets when you have the support right there with you.

Planning: There are two different types of writers (roughly): Plotters and Pantsers (otherwise known as discovery writers). You need to figure out which you are. Plotters will have outlines and scene lists and a plan of what is going to happen before they start. That's me, and that's what I do in October. You can do all the planning you want ahead of time and it's not cheating.

If you're a discovery writer, then you will probably have a character in mind and plop them into a situation and see what happens. For those types, I encourage the writers to get to know the characters as much as possible. Character sheets, questionaires, those sorts of things. I find it helpful to do character interviews. That's where I sit in front if the keyboard, ask a question as me, then write an answer as the character. Conduct it like any other interview.

With the proper prep work, I spend two hours a day (give or take) and hit my 2000 words every day.

If you want to be "writing buddies" on the NaNo site, look me up:


I hope you go through with your story and best of luck!!!

  • This is done great general advice, and I'm sure it'll be useful on other questions, but as a stackexchange we want specific, to the point answers. I'm just after the hours per day. Have you seen the tour? Aug 25, 2016 at 9:27
  • 1
    You didn't really ask a question that lends itself to a specific, to the point answer (aside from write for an hour and do the math, which you already knew). The reality is going to depend on your style, which is what Joe was addressing.
    – Lazarus
    Aug 26, 2016 at 12:40

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