On the Eve of NaNoWriMo
By Steph Beth Nickel
If you’re a writer, especially a fiction writer, National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), may be familiar to you. Each year, during the month of November, hundreds of thousands of people sit down to crank out 50,000 words. Not 50,000 brilliant, astounding, incredible words. Fifty thousand words that may end up in a drawer (virtual or physical) never to see the light of day.
But maybe. Just maybe.
Those 50,000 words will become the bones a novel. They may morph into your first published book or your twentieth.
So, since it’s already October 29, is it too late to sign up? Absolutely not.
While some writers spend the month of October preparing an outline, creating character sketches, and ironing out the plot, others hit the ground running on November 1 with only the vaguest idea of what their story will be about.
I have three books I could work on during November, but instead, I decided to dive into a new project. The preparation? Make a list of what’s important to me right now. Review that list until a character introduces herself and lets me know her story needs to be written—and maybe a little of what that story’s about.
Sound too “out there” for your liking? That’s okay. There are as many different approaches to NaNoWriMo as there are participants. We all bring our unique writing style to the project.
Want to give it a try but don’t know where to start?
Here are nine ideas to get the creative juices flowing—even if you only have a couple of days before NaNo begins.
- Make a list of genres you like to read. There is great wisdom in writing what you like to read. (Note: Although it’s called National Novel Writing Month, some participants sign up for the challenge to motivate them to write 50K words toward any type of book. Some consider themselves NaNo Rebels.)
- Decide on the atmosphere you want to create. A light and happy romance. (We all need a little light and happy these days.) A suspense that will keep readers on the edge of their seats. A fantasy that will carry readers off into a world you’ve created. (If you choose to write a fantasy, your aim will likely be to write approximately 50 percent of the first draft in November. Most fantasies run closer to 100K words. But since this is your project, you may want to write the first 25 percent and the last 25 percent, leaving “the messy middle” for the revision process.)
- Think about what you typically write. Writing what you’re familiar with may give you the confidence to sign up for NaNo. Plus, you may come to the project with countless ideas that have already been tumbling around in your brain.
- Try something completely different. What better time to dip your toes into writing something you’ve never written before? Remember the goal is to write 50K new words, not 50K earth-shattering/inspiring/compelling words. (Psst! They don’t even have to be good.)
- Create a rough character sketch of your protagonist and/or antagonist. Rather than including their hair and eye colour and their favourite TV series, decide on an age range, gender, their ultimate goal and a list of obstacles that you’ll throw at them to keep them from achieving it.
- Create the skeleton of your plot. Where will the story begin and where will it end? You may even want to decide on an inciting incident and a dark night of the soul event. (The inciting incident plunges your protagonist into the story. The dark night of the soul event occurs at approximately the 75 percent point and is just what it sounds like. Things have gone from bad to worse for your protagonist, and this is the lowest point of them all.)
- Wake up on Monday, November 1, put fingers to keyboard, and just write. While you may be a die-hard plotter, this is the perfect opportunity to see what all the fuss is about “discovery writing” or “pantsing.”
- Give yourself a break. While it feels amazing to write 50K words in just 30 days (1,667 words per day), every word you write toward a new project is one you didn’t have written before.
- Recruit a friend or two to write with you. There are local groups and numerous opportunities to connect online with other participants. However, if you dive into this challenge with a small group of friends, you can become one another’s accountability partners. You may even want to meet at a local coffee shop once a week for lunch and a writing session. (Warning: If you’re as much of an extrovert as I am, the writing component will require excessive discipline.)
If you’re participating in NaNoWriMo this year, I’d love to hear from you. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
To sign up, visit the NaNo website: https://nanowrimo.org/
Steph Beth Nickel is an editor, writer, and birth doula. If you would like more information about her services, you can contact her at email@example.com;
join her Facebook group:
or visit her website-in-progress: nurtureandinspire.com.
Great tips! All the best with NaNoWriMo, Steph! Makes me wish I could dive in too, but I’m in the middle of edits.