Monday, October 18, 2010

Preparing for NaNoWriMo: Writing My First Novel (again/still)

If you have never heard of NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month, don't be surprised if you hear a lot about it starting in a few weeks. November is NaNoWriMo and I will be participating in it again this year, and I'm not the only one.

Every year this online event gets larger and more people hear about it. The idea is to write 50,000 words between the first day of November and the last day of the month. It doesn't have to be a great draft, or even a finished one, but it does need to meet or exceed the word count. There are no prizes, other than a great feeling and a certificate and web page badge, but you will have 50,000+ words of your novel written in a first draft, which is nothing to sneeze at, if you ask me.

I have participated several times. The first two times were during my dissertation writing phase and while I thought I could do my dissertation and my novel, I gave up on NaNoWriMo within the first two weeks or so. The third time I was going to finish but ended up uploading some nonfiction I had been writing that month (effectively "winning" the contest but not with a novel--so it was sort of a cheat).

This time I've decided to try again, with the novel that I was supposed to be writing ever since I lost my job at the end of March. I have an outline and a rough draft of the first chapter, but I will need to start fresh and try again starting November 1.

Here is my plan (and you might want to consider something like this if you decide to join the fun and write your own novel):

1. I'm going to use the next two weeks to review my character descriptions and outlines to reflect some changes I have been considering to the plot, structure, and characters. If you are starting from scratch, this is a great time to make some decisions about what sort of novel you want to write and make some notes or outlines about your plans.

2. I'm going to get some work for other projects done ahead of time (some publicity work for one of my volunteer groups which has an event in mid-November, for instance, could be prepared early, which will be good for the group and good for my ability to work on my novel).

3. I plan to set aside specific writing times where I am not allowed to look at online forums, blogs, or web comics. I am completely addicted to the internet and it is a problem.

4. I've been reading several books in the last few weeks. I will read a few more before the end of October, and think about how these books structure their plot and introduce new characters. I will also look at passages where I like the dialogue and see if I can figure out what works for these authors. I hope this will improve my own writing.

5. I will not only update my word count on the NaNoWriMo site but I'll keep an Excel spreadsheet which I had downloaded last year which allows me to track my progress and whether I am meeting my writing goals for the day.

I am hoping that this year I will be able to "win" legitimately, for the novel I planned to write when I started the month.

Are you planning on joining in on the fun? What techniques do you plan on using? Have you "won" in previous NaNoWriMo years? What helped you do so (or got in the way)? Let me know in the comments, if you are out there.


  1. NoNoWriMo? That's pretty hardcore. I've got at least two decent novel ideas but unfortunately I don't know if I could bang out 50k words in a month.

    I might give it a try next year, when I have a little more free time.

  2. Good luck with it - sounds like the kind of firm structure that could help you stick to your plans.


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