What Is National Novel Writing Month?
National Novel Writing Month is an international event where, in the month of November, writers from all over the world attempt to put down 50,000 words of a story in thirty days. Ideally, these 50,000 words are all coherent, have a great plot, have full, 3-dimensional characters, and the story is thrilling, romantic, sweet and/or satisfying. That’s the goal.
Nanowrimo is really good for people who need motivation, community and tangible goals. Nanowrimo is also great for experienced novelists who need the daily writing goals to push them forward in the WIPs. Nanowrimo is for those people who appreciate the prep work that goes into it (if they’re a plotter) or the freedom to write down everything they want, follow any tangent, break every rule (if they’re a pantser). Nanowrimo is really good for people who “pants”, who have low expectations of the final result and who understand that the final product should never be publishable.
Nanowrimo is not good for people who spend hours revising as they go, who may over-outline (or plot) during the course of the month, and who think that it is quantity not quality that creates a novel.
But, all that to say, Nanowrimo is the perfect exercise for people who think they have the writing bug.
It’s the literary equivalent of taking a test drive in a sports car. Or who try a neighborhood 5K fun run. Or who climbs Mt. Washington but can’t afford Everest. Nanowrimo, over the course of thirty days, asks this simple question: do you have what it takes to make it?
How do you prepare for Nanowrimo? You can be fully ready if you spend a little time on these 10 easy steps.
1. Think about the time commitment! How will this impact your daily life? When and where will you put down your 1667 words per day?
2. Think about your workspace! Do you have a place that you can work every day, with minimal distraction?
3. Think about your organization! Do you have your files or apps or software in an easy to access location?
4. Think about your story! Before you start, you may want to review what story structure is, read a few books, check out a few blog posts, print out a graph. I blogged about story structure last week and you can read my top ten resources here.
5. Think about your genre! It may be obvious to you that the only decent stories you need to tell are dystopian vampire romances set in 1641. But if it isn’t so obvious, review the rules of genre. Rules, you say? There are rules? Yup. Like all romantic comedies have happy endings. Sometimes knowing what you want to do, and what you don’t want to do, can keep you focused.
6. Think about your plot! You’re going to need a plot. On this Wikipedia page, Christopher Booker explains the seven major plots that are basic foundations for all stories. If you haven’t got a plot yet, chose one and allow it to be your blueprint for your characters’ objectives.
7. Think about your characters! You need a main character (if this is your first novel, keep to just one) a few supporting characters and an antagonist. Check out these three Pinterest boards that I created just for this very purpose — Main Characters, Supporting Characters, Antagonists. Make notes, play around with them, base them all on people you know. I think character development is the most enjoyable part of the whole process.
8. Think about your setting! That means jot down a few key locations that your scenes will take place, like the barbershop, behind the middle school, on the moon and somewhere in the Great Coral reef. Your setting is just as important as your main character. It will need detail and description. When you write your story you should try to visualize what’s going on in each scene. This will strengthen your story and your reader will find it interesting.
9. Think beginning, middle and end! If you’re into math, (and really, of the people who read this blog, we have -2 people who like math) then you need to see that the beginning or set-up of the story shouldn’t be any longer than the first 10,000 words or so, the middle be up to the 40,000 word mark or so, and then the wrap-up, or third act, in the last 10,000 words.
10. And then? Go for it! If you followed points 1-9 then you have all the basic ingredients of a story. The rest requires putting your butt in your chair and moving forward in the story a little bit every day.
Thousands of people win Nanowrimo every year. You can do it too!