Apr 16, 2011

N is for NaNoWriMo

In 2009, I signed up for a contest called NaNoWriMo. NaNoWriMo is held over the month of November each year and the idea is that you start and finish a 50,000 word novel (minimum) in that month. It seems fast paced and the emphasis is definately on quantity rather than quality, but oh the whimsical fun!

I mentioned that this is a contest, but with a difference:
Who are you competing against? Yourself. If you beat the hurdles and excuses that prevent 50,000 words, then you win.
What do you win? Other than being listed as a NaNoWriMo Winner and receive some cool badges for your blog, you win 50,000 words of a first draft for your novel. Come join the madness, and friend me at NaNoWriMo. November will be upon us before you know it.

Fact is, I usually write two manuscripts a year. One takes me 11 months and the other takes me 4 weeks. Why? Deadlines. I make sacrifices and push myself for November, also my family and friends understand my pressure and give me the space and support to write. For some reason I just can't drag that on for the rest of the year.

In 2009 I worked out my plot by starting with a brainstorming (also known as Clustering) session. 2010, I had my story prompt from a character exercise I did at the CYA Writer's Conference (you can see my post about it at Character to Plot Workshop).

Already a NaNoWriMo participant? Did you know NaNoWriMo have a Young Writers Program? It allows the junior authors to become involved as well. They don't have to do 50k of words though, they can pick their own limit. Last year my girls did 6,000 words, Emily with her paranormal mystery (about dragons used for murder) and Matilda with her Greek God mystery (Greekafied). 

There are some great resources on the Young Writers Program site for beginners too. I found the High School Workbook extremely helpful. It will take you step by step through the process of setting up your plot and characters in a lovely simple format. And it's free! 

My tactics: 
  • Don't tackle anything that needs constant research, and if it does, skip that and fix it later (you can edit in December, you won't have time in November)
  • Plan your plot - If I try to write constantly for 50,000 I'm likely to start with a family story and end up with space porn, but only after going through a period of postmodern zombie/military action. I need structure.
  • Don't start something you've been planning. Start something new that you are not yet attached to. Come December you can get crazy about your plot and characters, but you won't have time to dwell in November - there's writin' to do!
  • Tell everyone you're doing it. Put it on your blog. It will make it a lot harder for you to drop out after 539 words.
  • Drag your friends and family into it, or join a region group (you can do that on the site). If you have writing buddies you will urge each other on and help with plot barriers. 
What I love most about this challenge is that it is international and although there are would-be authors struggling over manuscripts every day, now I feel part of that group knowing we are all busily typing at once. Join me... join me.. join me....


  1. Yay for nano! I did it last November for the first time and it was so freeing! No inner editor, just the story. It was amazing :)

    I just wish I could maintain the same mentality throughout the year....

  2. I credit NaNoWriMo for getting me back into writing after a two-year drought. My first year was 2009, also. I've been writing pretty steadily since then and have a half-polished MS and a nearly finished one under my belt. Without NaNo, none of that would have happened. Great post!

  3. I have been thinking about doing this. Maybe this is the year.

  4. Sounds like an exciting challenge. However, I'm not a fiction writer.

  5. Entering the challenge doesn't work for me, but I make a great NaNo cheerleader. I keep the cookies and coffee coming.

  6. I hope to participate in this this coming year. Great tips on how to succeed. I wonder how it will work with me in Grad school :)

  7. I always wondered what the NaNo... meant and now I know. Didn't start my blog until January 2011, so I missed out on the idea.
    Good posting!

  8. This line busted me up “It will make it a lot harder for you to drop out after 539 words.”

  9. You complete two manuscripts a year....that's fantastic!

    No, I don't participate in NaNoWriMo. I write screenplays to make my own movies and short videos so NaNoWriMo wouldn't be a good fit for me, but I know know quite a few people who do participate in it and are making some good progress in finishing their novels.

    From what I've read, NaNoWriMo seems like a really cool contest. It helps to make writers challenge themselves to complete something, which is a great feeling when you get it all done...but, I'm sure you already know that and experience that.

    I'd buy myself a good ol' cupcake to celebrate if I completed a manuscript in 4 weeks, or even 11 months.

    The Madlab Post

  10. I haven't braved it yet. Maybe this year. Don't know. We'll see.

  11. I think this is a great challenge to promote literacy. It's the whole "you read therefore you can write" idea. I even had the kids I tutor try it. Erm...they're almost there...

  12. oooo this is so tempting... I Just don't know if I could do it. I would have to be at the computer all day...I am soooo slow. Blessings, Joanne

  13. I love NaNoWriMo! I probably wouldn't have finished a single novel without it but thanks to my favorite writing event, I can now say I have written two! I recommend NaNo to every writer! Great tips!

  14. I joined NaNoWriMo for the first time last year. I loved it, and achieved my goal.

    Useful tips, thanks.

  15. I love NaNo too! It's such a thrill to see that word count graph shoot up! :)

  16. I've never participated in NaNo, mostly because the timing doesn't work. Fortunately I don't need it to motive me to finish a first draft. :D