Monday, 7 October 2013

It's nearly NaNoWriMo month! I'm excited, are you? Or are you smart enough to avoid the 'first draft' rush?

Hello writers!

NaNoWriMo is just around the corner and I'm getting excited as I have for five years in a row.

Are you willing to ignore your family, forget socialising, eat chocolate instead of regular meals, put aside showering, do without sleep, up the coffee intake? In that case, consider joining the thousands of masochists who do all of these in the pursuit of 50,000 crappy words of a first-draft novel in 30 days. 

Thirty-seven thousand masochists wrote a novel in 2012. Of course, first drafts need a LOT of work -- editing, feedback, professional editing, and so on before the manuscript is ready for submission, but anyone who finishes a novel has achieved something amazing.

In case you're a NaNo newbie, here's how NaNoWriMo works:

1. Write a 50,000-word (or longer!) novel, between November 1 and November 30 (in your time zone).

2. Start from scratch. None of your own previously written prose can be included in your NaNoWriMo draft (though outlines, character sketches, and research are all fine, as are citations from other people’s works). You really need to have your story idea, some sort of outline before November 1st, or you will have a nearly impossible task ahead of you.

3. Write a novel. A novel is a lengthy work of fiction. 50,000 words is a small novel. Nothing stopping you writing the next 30,000 words or so when NaNo finishes.

4. Be the sole author of your novel. 

5. Write more than one word repeated 50,000 times. Sure, some non-masochists cheat, but who are you kidding? What's the point in writing 'nada' 50,000 times. I don't want to read that novel, do you?

6. Upload your novel for word-count validation between November 25 and November 30. [Time zone specific].

Daily Word Count

50,000 words sounds like a lot. And it is! But you've got 30 days to finish, so here's how the word count breaks down:

Write every day:
50,000/30 = 1,667 words per day

Take one day off a week:
50,000/26 = 1,923 words per day

Two days off a week:
50,000/22 = 2,273 words per day

I try to write well over the daily word limit, so if something comes up I can't avoid, I don't panic.

Sign up - how?

It's easy, and free, to get involved. Just head on over to the official NaNoWriMo website and sign up. You can work alone, but the site can put you in contact with NaNo-ers in your area. There's often a welcome BBQ and regular write fests in a coffee shop near you (in Brisbane, anyway). Or you can buddy up with fellow masochists just like you and message each other instead of breaking the computer, the wall or your sizzling brain.

Preparing For NaNoWriMo.

NaNo groupies have their own methods for preparation. After 5 years of participation, this is what works for me.

1. Write as many words as you can daily on a regular basis, all year round, so that when November comes around, as it does with great regularity (lol) you find getting 2,000 words on the page easy bikkies. 

Regular blogging counts--it is writing, you know.  Write flash fiction, short stories, guest blog posts, magazine or newspaper articles. Whatever floats your boat. That's why I've hosted a writing meme for over 2 years (Sign up here!). Many of my flash fiction stories have been extended, polished and submitted/published in women's fiction magazines. Cool.

2. Work on the structure of your story

You're allowed to outline your story before November 1st and I think it's a fabulous idea. Here are a few links with thanks to Karen Woodward:

The structure of a story

Orson Scott Card & The MICE Quotient: How To Structure Your Story
Short Story Structures: Several Ways Of Structuring Short Fiction
How Plotting Can Build A Better Story
How To Write A Story
Chuck Wendig On Story Structure
The Basics of Good Storycraft: 5 Tips
A Perfect Plot In 6 Easy Steps
Chuck Wendig on Plot, Complication, Conflict and Consequence

The structure of a scene within a story

Making A Scene: Using Conflicts and Setbacks to Create Narrative Drive


Kim Harrison's Character Grid
4 Ways Outlining Can Give A Writer Confidence

3. Prepare meals in advance if you want to eat anything other than junk food.

4. Find a place to write

Coffee shop? In the middle of the family's hustle and bustle? Hidden away in your home office, or reclining beside the pool or at the beach or on a resort balcony or in the cool, crisp mountains?

Do whatever works for you.

5. Tell your friends and family you're going to write 50,000 words in 30 days.

Maybe then they'll  understand your zombie status and the glazed look in your eyes when they're speaking to you. All you'll be able to think of is what your protagonist is going to do next. 

Or something.

Are you up for NaNo this year? How prepared are you?

  • Don't forget to sign up for some writing practice pre-NaNo. You can sign up for the WEP blogfest right here in my sidebar.
  • I'm still on holidays in North Queensland. Having a great time. Here's another photo for you if you didn't catch it on fb. 

The Strand along the waterfront in Townsville with Magnetic Island in the background.


  1. I participated November 2010 and wrote my second novel. (That should give people hope.) Not writing this year, although if I wanted to, I could, as I have an outline. Not enough detail, and I am taking a week's vacation in the middle of November. My wife definitely deserves it!

  2. I'm doing this for the first time. Guess I'm sort of cheating with not starting from scratch and instead adding the 50k onto the rough 23k I already have.

    1. Aldrea, I think we should allow ourselves to make our own rules - it's our novel after all. I always start from scratch with an idea but no real outline. Good writing to you during NaNO.

  3. All great tips. Thanks Denis for sharing! I participated twice and wrote 25,000 each time but have taken the past two years off. I'm going to give it another try with a new book I have outlined but haven't been able to touch for the past year.

  4. Holy cow! Sounds crazy! Well... good luck!

  5. Enjoy your holiday! :) I'm all signed up for NaNo as well (as usual), and I can't wait. WOO!

  6. Yes! I'm doing Nano this year and can't wait! Thanks for the outline links! And good luck!

  7. Good tips Dx. I'm avoiding the NaNo rush, and actually will be avoiding the rest of the year beginning in Nov. Good luck with the writing adventure :)


  8. Good luck! I won't be doing NaNo as I have enough WIPs as it is!

  9. Oh good luck, Denise! I don't have time to do this unfortunately. My job won't go on hold for a month, so it's just not possible. I'm curious though, have any of these novels been successfully published, or gone on to be further developed into successful publications? A great post, though, with great links! Now I've finished writing the sequel to Watery Ways, I want to write another novel, so these are really useful. Thank you!

    1. Go here Val, to read about some of the successful NaNo books:

      Sara Gruen’s Water for Elephants is a particularly successful example

      Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen is the most successful NaNo novel.

      It is up to the writers to stick with their novels through polishing and editing, but I for one am only about to finish my first from last year. But I love all my NaNo novel stories so they will get published.

    2. Oh, I had forgotten Water for Elephants is a Nano book!! How inspiring to know all this writing is not for nothing.

  10. Hi Denise - I'm not participating .. but so like the tips and tricks and links you've given everyone - great start for some people ..

    Good for you - so pleased I don't have that target!! Cheers Hilary

  11. Good luck to everyone who is doing this - your self-discipline is inspiring!

  12. Thanks for the advice on making NaNo manageable. I've never done it because it doesn't work with working full-time and a daughter on the high school swim team.

  13. I'm not participating, a time factor . . . barely able to keep up as it is. But I did check out some of the super links you shared. It's really nice how you take the time to do this. Many thanks!

    Um, what are b i k k i e s (Apple wouldn't allow the word without spaces.)

  14. I've never done NaNo. It goes against my sloth-like tendencies. But good luck. I make a great cheerleader on the sidelines. :))

  15. I'm not going to start new, I'm going to take a current WIP and do a re-write, I'll keep track of the word count, won't add it to the NANO website, but will work just as hard, with very little other distractions, I say that, just after signing up for another November bloghop! LOL I'm hopeless!

  16. NO WAY!!!!! I can barely keep up with the once a month blog hop at Write... Edit... Publish! You know how tedious my research is and keeping the "Noir" feel consistent is no easy task... WHY do I do this to myself? Is atmosphere really THAT important? AH.... for me .... HELL YEAH! LOL.

    I have such a busy October with at least four intros, more cover reveals, co-hosting a blog hop, etc. I HAVE NOT TIME. I plan to pass out in November... Lol. If I can. AH, maybe not... I MUST finish the novella... too many screaming fans want more, more, more. LOL

    Good luck, Denise, I admire you more each year!!!

  17. I participated in NaNo in July a few years back, and it left my writing backside black and blue! Seriously, and that pile of tripe I dared call a manuscript? So many headaches. I think NaNo works well for some of us. I think consistent writing works better. Still, I love the social atmosphere and write-til-you-drop mentality. Have a blast!

  18. I'm not doing NaNo. I'm in the middle of a novel already and hope to finish in sometime during the first week.

  19. Hi Denise,

    I don't have the confidence to do NaNo. Maybe next year? I wish I lived nearer to you and be inspired!

  20. Yes, I'm really excited about Nano this year! I've participated twice already (only won once) but it really speeds up my writing (my novels are way longer than 50,000 words but I love to do this because it helps me get a big chunk out) plus who can resist "eating chocolate instead of regular meals"??


    Thanks for the links. Will check them out before starting!

  21. I will be reading all the links as I am giving it a try this year!

  22. Yep, I'm hoping to take part in NaNo again this year, but my outline is a wee bit thin. I must get onto that!! Eeeeek!

  23. Ah, NaNo. It's a lot of fun, but I've already got two ideas that I'm working on. It really is a great exercise, though. It's like the A-to-Z challenge. People should try just for the discipline of doing so much.

  24. awesome post! What great tips. haven't tried nano yet but might do another version of it on my own this month.

  25. I'm reading 'First Draft in 30 Days' by Karen S. Wiesner. Hoping it will inspire me.


  26. Only 37,000 people finished NaNo last year? Wow, that's not very many! I'm happy to have been part of it!
    Thanks lots for th plot links - I'm going to use them to help me edit last year's NaNo novel!
    I hope to write at least 1667 words per day but yes, it always helps when there are some words "in the bank"...
    Loved your Queensland photos, by the way!

  27. Glad I stopped by this post. This is excellent advice for sure. I like the breakdowns for vacation days and the LINKS :) Thanks!


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