Kevin Chan/Daily Nexus

Kevin Chan/Daily Nexus

With tips provided by: Ashley Ong (freshman, physics major), Jason Chun (Freshman, English major), Sarah Ziemer (Freshman, Biopsychology) and Allegra Bottlik (UCSB graduate, creative writer)


Every year on Nov. 1, thousands of writers — from high school students to auto mechanics to professional authors — partake in the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) challenge to complete a 50,000 word novel by the end of the month. With housekeeping, grocery shopping, babysitting, job responsibilities and the like, many are already busy enough without a daily deadline of 1,667 words.

It’s no different in college where much of our days are spent attending lectures, participating in clubs and working part-time jobs. To those of us who live that five-hour sleep schedule, an extra deadline does not sound welcoming.

But as Forrest Bryant, senior content manager at Blurb, a self-publishing and marketing platform, said when he hosted a webinar with NaNoWriMo founder Chris Baty, November isn’t a month when you have to write a novel, it’s when “you get to write a novel.”

It may sound tough at first, but if you follow these small tips and tricks, you’ll find that slipping an extra 50,000 word paper into your college schedule is easier than you think.


Making Time

1. Write while doing laundry. You can accomplish a lot in 30 minutes and that includes finishing a scene, creating a character and so on. Since drying takes at least two cycles of 15 minutes if you’re in the residence halls (it will never be dry after the first cycle), use that time to crank out a good piece or two of dialogue.

2. Write while eating. We all have those times where our schedules don’t coincide with our friends’ and we find ourselves at DLG eating alone at 2:00 p.m. Take out a pen and notepad and let your thoughts keep you company as you write down ideas and scenes for your novel.

3. Write while waiting for the bus. And just in case you miss the bus because you are so entranced with writing, now you have an accurate and detailed description for what it’s like to abuse the benches after you’ve missed the bus, a perfect scene for your novel.

4. Write in between classes. If you have an awkward chunk of time between those morning classes and the time the dining commons open for lunch, write.

5. Write without the Wi-Fi. If you’re someone who likes to write on the computer, turn off the Wi-Fi so cat videos won’t distract you.

6. Write while procrastinating. Let’s be real, we all do it. But now you have the chance to use creative writing to take a breather from all that anthropology homework.

7. Don’t write at all. Sometimes, taking a minute or two to think about what you’re going to write can save you precious time. And unlike writing, you can think anywhere: while walking to class, while taking a shower, while taking a dump …

8. Know that your first draft will suck. Knowing that, you can disregard all your worries about accuracy and logistics and just focus on the writing. Research is important but not as important as getting words onto the paper.

Remember, you can’t edit a blank document.


Places to Write (and Think)

1. Write on the beach. Take advantage of our beautiful backyard and listen to the soothing sound of the rolling waves to get creative juices flowing.

2. Write near the lagoon. It can provide a quiet, shady spot to write if you don’t mind the bird noises too much.

3. The Labyrinth. Lose yourself in the labyrinth and in your thoughts as you attempt to patch up those plot holes.

4. Your dorm. At least here, you won’t have to plug in earphones to play music as you write.

5. CLAS workshops. Creative writer Amy Boutell leads a variety of workshops at the Student Resource Building, from character development to dialogue creation. Learning and writing alongside fellow authors can provide an encouraging atmosphere and boost your creativity.

Remember, NaNoWriMo isn’t just for English majors. Computer science majors, physics majors and pretty much anyone can participate in this 50,000 word challenge. In fact, backgrounds in different fields can provide good inspiration for a creative plot.

Plus, if you know enough jargon, you can probably sneak in a few extra thousand words, no problem. Have fun noveling!


For more information on nanowrimo, go to To sign up for Amy Boutell’s creative writing class, go to