NaNoWriMo 2020 Prepapalooza

I started NaNoWriMo (“Nano” before I lose my mind typing) in earnest about three or four times since 2008, under two or three different usernames. I mean to do it every year, and I completed it exactly once in 2009. That book is in my WIP list as BS-183. It’s terrible in some ways, great in others. I will most likely tear it apart and put it back together again one day.

Every year has been the same: October 20ish appears out of nowhere, and I realize that Nano’s around the corner. One year I didn’t catch on until November 2nd. But this year, I’ve been prepping. 

If you want to participate in NaNoWriMo this year, then follow along! I’ll be doing a series of articles on how I’ve been prepping to hopefully make the 50k mark a lot easier to achieve. 

But what is NaNoWriMo?

National Novel Writing Month. Every November, writers from all over the world gather on the internets to write 50,000 words toward a novel of any genre they choose. For more information or to sign up for such an event, head on over to nanowrimo.org.

Who can participate?

Everyone! Anyone! Your cat! Okay, maybe not your cat, but you get the point. Nano has been found all over the world in coffee shops, libraries, schools, and – my favorite – locked away in dimly lit rooms with lots of snacks. That last one will probably be the default this year, if we’re honest.

Huck is already overwhelmed, so it’s best he just skip this year. It’s okay, buddy.

Why should I care?

  1. It’s fun. If you like writing, this is a lot of it. If you don’t like writing…why are you even reading this at all?
  2. Community. This year will not have any officially sanctioned, meatspace meet ups, but you still have the forums to chat on. There are groups on Nano’s site for local groups, teens, moms, LGBTQ+, etc. You can go on there and only talk about writing, but they also have procrastination forums or information gathering forums, writing sprints (a game where people start and stop writing at the same to see who wrote the most words), snack suggestions…you name it, and the forums probably have it. If not, start your own thread.
  3. Excuses! When you have: an excuse to write + word goal + a timeline, you are much more likely to achieve your dream of writing a novel.
  4. What the hell else are you doing in the apocalypse? 

No one can write a novel worth reading in 30 days

“You might not write well every day, but you can always edit a bad page. You can’t edit a blank page,” Jodi Picoult

I said the goal is 50,000 words, not 50,000 good words. All Nano is, is writing a first draft. Word vomit. That’s it. The ideal way to do this would be to write a beginning, middle, and end and fill in the rest of it. Then you let it rest for awhile, edit it, rewrite it, etc. etc.

There are also a lot of published novels started during Nano. 

I can’t do this

If you are privileged enough to be able to shift your schedule, or if you don’t need to at all to have an hour or so a day with the odd pocket of several hours on what you consider your weekends, you most likely have the time. 

And even if you don’t, nothing is stopping you from declaring that you are going to start on a novel and then only write a few sentences a day. Even if you only write one word a day, that’s more toward your novel than you had yesterday. Ernest Hemingway only wrote about 500 words a day, so you may as well try. 

The worst case scenario (with the right attitude) is that you’ill now have words toward a novel you otherwise wouldn’t.

Fine, you’ve convinced me – how does one prep for this?

Come Nano time, I have always been a “pantser” – meaning someone who “writes by the seat of one’s pants.” Because of this, I can’t tell you the sure-fire way I prep, because I never have. Let’s go through the process together. At the end, we can compare notes and see what we can do better next year.

But what parts will I talk about? I already wrote about research awhile ago, so you can read about that there. The schedule beyond that is as follows:

  1. What makes up a story? – this is more just a quick run-down of what to keep in mind when trying to write a full novel.
  2. Getting ideas. This is exactly as it sounds. Where do you get an idea for your novel? 
  3. Character Creation. Obvs.
  4. Worldbuilding. This is creating the setting for your novel. Even if you’re writing something that takes place in your own backyard today, you still need to know things you may not consciously be aware of.
  5. Plot development. What happens during this novel? Why?

These posts, a retro, and a Halloween post will get us to the starting line of Nano, ready to slap down 1,667 words a day for 30 days straight. Our plan won’t be perfect, and our prep will not be exhaustive, but it will be enough for an attempt at a first draft. And remember, kids: it’s supposed to be a fun challenge. No breakdowns allowed!


Do you already know what you’re doing for NaNoWriMo? Have you declared your novel yet?

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