NaNoWriMo–Crawling to the Finish Line

You might look at the title of this post and think I’m crazy. The first week of NaNo isn’t even over yet–why should you be crawling to the finish line? You probably still have the momentum built up from adrenaline and waiting to start on this novel for however long between idea and November 1st. Or you’re still in the honeymoon stage of a new idea, typing out words with abandon.

November 30 and 50,000 words are far from your mind. In all honesty, they are from mine, too. What I mean by crawling to the finish line is something completely different.

In the NaNo forums, they have a section devoted to word wars, sprints, and prompts. The section has things you’d consider standard: “I’m sprinting on the :15 if anyone wants to join me,” or a race to 500 words or whatnot. But it’s also full of what I consider to be the best motivator for a long day of writing: crawls.

There are tons available now: the original pub crawl, crawls based on Divergent, The Hunger Games, Harry Potter… even a few crawls devoted to cleaning your house or getting other chores/non-writing things done.

What is a crawl?

It’s a step-by-step process, some driven by role play, that forces you to write x words in y time, or write for y time, or write x words, or any number of things like that. The role play is what makes it useful to me. This year I’m working through the Harry Potter crawl. On a first read-through, it can be really confusing. What’s going on? Why? Well, in a dice-based RPG, your moves are based on the standard game plus choices that you make. You choose certain strengths, and those strengths plus the role of a die determine whether you succeed or fail at each given task. (Basically. Honestly I haven’t played a dice-based RPG…)

In the crawls, it works out similarly. For the Harry Potter one, you choose a difficulty level before you begin: easy/medium/hard are split up as Muggleborn, Halfblood, and Pureblood. You earn Galleons by successfully completing challenges, and can use the Galleons to skip future rounds. I’m going to copy and paste the first three rounds of the crawl here and explain each one separately, since they cover all but one kind of turn.

You receive your Hogwarts letter by owl and are completely ecstatic to head out for your first year at Hogwarts. Sprint to 100 to let out your excitement and energy.

In this challenge, you write 100 words. It could take you a minute or 30, but you don’t get to stop until you reach 100. It’s a great way to ease into writing for the day. After all, it’s only 100 words!

You arrive in Diagon Alley and your first stop is Gringotts, wizard bank. Write for ten minutes. The amount of words you write will determine how many Galleons are in your vault.
Less than 100 words: 1 Galleon
100-200 words: 2 Galleons
More than 200 words: 3 Galleons
Less than 150 words: 1 Galleon
150-250 words: 2 Galleons
More than 250 words: 3 Galleons
Less than 250 words: 1 Galleon
250-350 words: 2 Galleons
More than 350 words: 3 Galleons

The second challenge is a little less straightforward. You write for a specified amount of time and earn Galleons based on how well you do. It’s similar to a challenge you’d take on with a friend, where you compete for the most words in x minutes. But this one requires no friends, and we all know that as writers, that’s an advantage. 😉

You step into Ollivander’s wand shop. Roll a die and multiply your roll by 100. Sprint to that many words.

This type of challenge incorporates traditional RPGs with the sprint. The number of words you have to write is controlled by a die.

So far I’ve used this crawl five out of six days of NaNo (yesterday, in the common third-trimester battle of Braxton Hicks vs. self, the contractions won. 🙁 ) and am way ahead on word count compared to where I normally am. Especially considering I didn’t write at all yesterday and the fact that I’m not holding myself “winning” with 50k.

Having the challenge to complete (and wanting to finish in time to complete the second-year crawl, too!) has kept me so motivated. I feel like I’d be letting down my Ravenclaw status by giving up. And for whatever reason, I’ve gotten way more into it than I normally do into RPG-type things. I seriously have running commentary in a Scrivener notes file about how well my challenge is going. I even named the owl I got (Her name is Bugle, in case you’re wondering, and she got me out of having to socialize with the other Ravenclaws just after I got Sorted.)

You can get as into crawls as you want to, like me, or just use the various prompts and fail points throughout as a guideline for writing in chunks.

Do you have a favorite way to get the words out?


  1. Thank you for explaining that! It sounds like a lot of fun, and I can see why it would be motivating. Especially because it mixes things up and hello, Harry Potter. 🙂 And reading your explanation made it so much clearer than skimming the loooong list of directions.

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