National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is an annual event in which participants commit to writing 50,000 words during November. What began as a writing challenge between friends has expanded into a global challenge with hundreds of thousands of people taking part each year. The rules are simple: declare your project, usually writing a new novel or a fresh rewrite of an old one, and attempt to finish it or write 50,000 words of it before the end of November.
That sounds like a lot of words and a big commitment, doesn’t it? It breaks down to 1,667 words a day. But, remember, this isn’t to get a fully polished novel, it is just the first messy draft. Every sentence and paragraph doesn’t have to be perfect. NaNoWriMo is there to motivate you to get the story down. It is a community experience with huge support. People return year after year relishing the month-long challenge to get their stories out of their heads.
‘First drafts are all about putting sand in the sandbox; you come back to build a castle later,’ says editor Rebecca Heyman. ‘The goal of NaNoWriMo should be to collect as much sand in the box as you can. Not every grain of sand will end up being part of your masterpiece, and that’s okay. Just get it in the box, and go from there.’
The focus for the writer during November should be writing, not planning or researching as this will slow you down. Planning, plotting, and outlining beforehand is allowed and encouraged. October is known throughout the NaNo community as Preptober. So, what do you need to think about coming into October? The official NaNoWriMo website is a fantastic resource and I have included their website here. I have also put together a list of articles, websites, and YouTube videos that give great tips and advice on preparing for NaNoWriMo.
This is where you can sign up for the challenge and follow their week by week advice for preparation for readiness in November.
Holly Lyn Walrath breaks down preparation into seven days and includes sketching out your plot, settings, character, and themes. She also reminds you to plan for days off or planned events.
Shaelin Bishop has taken part in NaNoWriMo for three years, she advises the writer about preparing with her top ten tips.
This article discusses not only getting your outline and research done beforehand but also having your tools ready. Not just your laptop, notebook, and pens, but music playlists, food, and drink are important to think about too. They advise you to plan to reward yourself with each mini-goal you meet.
Savannah gives a very detailed breakdown of how to prepare for NaNoWriMo with great links to resources.
35 episodes to keep you motivated and inspired to complete NaNoWriMo. These short episodes cover everything from screen fatigue to the 30k slump, to getting and staying motivated during the challenge. Perfect for listening to in the run up to taking part or even during November.
8 reasons to participate in NaNoWriMo are given in this podcast, including finding a sense of community, conquering writer’s block, and learning to push past resistance.
In this Youtube video by Sarra Cannon, she talks about how to prepare for NaNoWriMo during Preptober. Sarra runs the Heart Breathing blog and has lots of useful resources for the writer.
As with everything to do with writing, there isn’t one rule that fits all, so take what you want from a challenge like this. Maybe you are a short story writer, you could set yourself a challenge of writing ten short stories during the month. You could use the challenge to do something achievable for you, even if it’s to establish a more regular writing routine for yourself.
If you take part in this challenge and complete it then you’ll have a new draft of a novel, and the satisfaction that you rose to the challenge. The goal here is to get inspired and to get writing. I, for one, am going to give NaNoWriMo a go.
I hope this week’s column has been helpful for you. If there are any particular writing topics you want me to cover, please get in touch.
(c) Lucy O’Callaghan