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Oct 262012

National Novel Writing MonthLet’s Play Ready, Set, Goooooooo with NANOWRIMOOOOOO!

Sorry, but I just had to say it just like that. Can you hear my enthusiasm?

November is National Novel Writing Month and the month of the NANOWRIMO challenge to write a 50,000-word novel in 30 days. In the days between November 1 and November 30, both experienced and aspiring writers around the world will take up this internet challenge, furiously writing an average of 1,667 words a day to complete the requirements.

Writers who are considering participating in this event are most likely wondering whether they can succeed in writing a novel in that short time and what, if anything, they can do to get ready for it. So, this article addresses a few things you might (or might not) do to prepare for the writing.

This is the first in a series of posts in Writania’s kickoff to the upcoming contest. Two upcoming posts will focus on – I’m sure you guessed it – Get Set and Go! After that, we’ll have a kick-off post where you will be able to paste excerpts of your favorite NANOWRIMO paragraph, dialogue, or daily writing, and where you can comment and encourage other writers on the same journey – but more on that later.

Getting Ready for NANOWRIMO

The first thing to know about getting ready for NANOWRIMO is that you don’t have to do a thing to get ready. You can just “wing it”. You can start cold on November 1 without a single structure in place, nothing more than a glimmer of an idea dancing around in your head. Writing this way may seem a bit risky, but there are writers who prefer to begin with nothing and let the characters and the story develop on their own. While I’m not saying that is what I’m going to do this year – well, it probably is – it’s exactly what I did last year.

Like many of you now, on November 1 of 2011, I was still deciding whether I had the time and energy to participate in the contest. I already had a novel in process, which was taking forever to finish, and I understood that to participate in NANOWRIMO, I would have to write a new story. From scratch.

I always have story ideas going through my head, which is a good thing much of the time, but somewhat of an annoyance when I’m trying to finish revisions on one novel and thinking about ideas for next novels. So I had a few ideas frolicking around in my mind that I could draw from…but nothing more than the ideas. No character profiles, no settings, no plot, no outline. I had nothing.

NANOWRIMOOn November 2nd, I decided to join the fun – not only a day late but already 1,667 words short. I began to write “with abandon”, letting my imagination loose on the story and letting it take the story wherever it went. I stopped twice to add some structure. The first time was about 15,000 words into the story, when I jotted down a few sentences about a beginning, a middle and an end. The second was near the end of the month, when I wrote down what I thought needed to happen to bring the story to its conclusion. Other than those times, I was writing at least 1,667 words a day. Of course, I had to catch up on the words that I should’ve written on day one because now if I only wrote the average amount, I would finish a day later than the deadline. And to tell the truth, I missed a couple of other days during the month so I had to write double the amount on some days. So my advice is: make it easier on yourself by keeping up with the required daily word count that will allow you to finish on time.

But, if we want to prepare, get ready, for NANOWRIMO, there are things we can do. I’ve written many articles on the elements of story, which we’ve posted in the Novel Writing category/tab of Writania. While the How to Write a Novel – 16 Elements of Novel Writing posts provide a roadmap to any novel that you might write, I’ve extracted the best posts for setting up a story – aspects of a novel that can take place before the actual writing of it; even though they may well be adjust during and after a story is written.

Remember, to comply with the rules and spirit of NANOWRIMO, we don’t want to actually begin writing the story until Nov. 1, and much written in the articles relate to actually writing an entire novel. You can click on links below to read articles in their entirety, but I’ll summarize here what you can do to get ready for the big event.

Things to do without Actually Writing the Story, Yet

1.  Decide on a storyline – Quite simply, this requires sitting around, gazing out the window, thinking about your story idea. Do you have an idea yet? If not, talk to your neighbors, read the news, read other books, and get a plot brewing. Ask what if this happened, how about that, what’s the worst that could happen, what’s the prize or resolution attained at the end of the novel.

2.  Create character profiles – Identify and then write a profile for your lead and other main characters. Use a page for each to identify primary, secondary and contrasting traits. For example, if your lead character is a detective, she might be courageous, aggressive and not easily intimated. She might also be physically fit, an expert sharpshooter and a risk-taker. However, when confronted by a snake, she might be paralyzed in fright.

3.  Decide on your Setting – Think about where your story takes place. Does it start out in Timbuktu and end up in Seattle? Write a few paragraphs about where the story is set, what is the climate like, the time of year, terrain, will your character drip with sweat in the desert or pack a gun beneath his parka?

4.  Write a beginning, a middle and an end – Think about what might happen in the beginning, in the middle and in the end of your story and write a few sentences for each. This may very well change when you are actually writing the novel, but it will give you a brief roadmap to follow when you begin NANOWRIMO.

5.  Write a brief story summary – With the help of the sentences you wrote in item #4, write a short paragraph describing your story. Identify the main characters and the plot.

6.  Write an outline – Expand the beginning, middle and end to chapters, and write a few sentences identifying what you think will happen as the story progresses.

7.  Decide on POV – Identify the character or characters whose point of view will be used to tell the story. Which POV will they use…first person, third….?

8.  Think about your opening chapter, what scene will set the story up with the most excitement, intrigue, and so on. What will get your own creative juices flowing to the next chapters? (More on this can be found in the #4 link).

9.  Remain calm and joyful, sip tea and wine…anticipation is exciting, worry is needless; it’s going to be more fun than you think!

10. Even as your engage in these preliminary steps to get ready for NANOWRIMO, be proud of yourself and your writing…don’t worry if it’s difficult sometimes, it will be. But you’ll get through it. If one element of setup becomes frustrating, step away from it and work on something else. You’ll go back to it sometime, and if you don’t…well, it just might come out when you begin writing; so don’t worry about a thing.

Wrapping it Up

These are just some ideas of what you can do to prepare for NANOWRIMO… or not do. Do them completely or do your version of them. The most important thing now is that you stay positive and excited about the NANOWRIMO adventure…you are going to write and complete a 50,000-word novel in 30 days! While a novel is typically several thousand more words, you’ll create a story that you can revise later. But more on that later too.

Now that we’ve covered Getting Set for NANOWRIMO, next week watch for related posts to Get Set and Go!

Other links you might find helpful:

Your Novel Writing Roadmap Found Here

If you find this article useful or helpful, please feel free to share it with your friends in other social media forums or with your writers group. I’d love it if you did!

BTW, the link to the official NANOWRIMO site is http://www.nanowrimo.org

If you enjoyed this post, please share it, and consider leaving a comment and subscribing to the RSS feed to have future articles delivered to your feed reader.

  8 Responses to “NANOWRIMO – 10 Things You Can Do to Get Ready to Write”


    Hi Rita

    Another great article. I’ve not planned mine yet but hadn’t in 2009 until the day before and ended up writing 117,540 words (with a day to spare). :)




      Hey Morgen, thank you for stopping by and for your kind words! Wow, that’s a lot of words to write in a month! I did a little planning this year, but not too much. My characters and imagination seem to take over as I “write with abandon”, as I’m known to say. So then I start thinking, why do all this planning….just goooooo! Good luck to you this year – your 5th with NANO, I believe!



    First off I thought, no…I can’t participate in that. The book I am working on is one in a trilogy and requires quite a bit of further research to finish it. But then I started thinking about one of the others in the series which is based on personal experience. I have already transcribed notes, news articles, journal entries, letters, etc. It’s first person POV should make it pretty quick to write. So now I’m wondering…do they accept memoir? It probably will read something like a movie written for the Family Channel. What do you think?



      Hey Debra, if your memoir reads more like creative nonfiction, then I think it would work. You can check the rules on NANO – http://www.nanowrimo.org to be sure, but I think you should write it if it doesn’t fall outside their guidelines. It seems to me that if your memoir falls into a category that could be transformed into a movie for the Family Channel, it falls into the creative nonfiction category. I’m not sure if NANO has any rules about it, but check the website to be sure. Let me know what you decide to do!



    I really wish I could participate this year, since I have a few ideas, but I have to finish revising my story or I will never get finished. I understand how you felt last year. Hopefully, I can participate next year.



      Hi Ireca, yes it would be difficult to begin another novel while in the process of revision on another story. I would constantly be thinking about how I wasn’t getting the first story done. Keep it in mind for next year, I know you’ll do just great!



    Thanks for the tips. I participated last year, but did not finish, because I had to finish up my book for a writing contest. I have registered again, and this time with a new story that I have not yet inputted, so I will take along some of your tips and implement them. I usually just wing it, day for day.
    This time I want to go all the way, so I am going to be dragging behind in a lot of things to get to my goal unless something great happens and I have to stop because I have my first publishing contract.

    By the way, the tips listed here are good for writing a book also.




      Hi Pat, yes the tips I posted were taken from my e-book, How to Write a Novel, and from the articles on Writania. I only posted tips that would be useful during NANO, however. The articles actually have much more depth to them than what I’d posted in these NANO articles.

      Now, don’t fret about anything. Just write. What publishing contract!!!! How come I haven’t heard about this!?


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