Monday, October 14, 2013

Strategies for NaNoWriMo - 2013

There is nothing NaNo about this WriMo
So, I'm on the fence this year about actually participating in NanNoWriMo. I haven't taken part since 2008 and find that the time of year just isn't conducive to writing consistently. I'm definitely going to step up my output though and I've developed a strategy for cranking out those 50,000 words. And, while I might not participate, I can highly recommend taking part in NaNoWriMo for the inspiration and challenge. For those of you who don't know, NaNoWriMo is the abbreviation for National Novel Writing Month, which happens every November. Established in 1999, the nonprofit organization aims to motivate writers to produce a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. It's a daunting task, to say the least, as it forces the author to crank out 1666 words a day for 30 consecutive days. But, it's possible. And, having just finished my sequel, I need a goal to recharge my writing engine. The trick to NaNoWriMo is to have a game plan. Here's mine.

In the past, I never approached NaNo with more than a whim and a vague idea. This can lead to burnout and frustration when the initial idea runs out of gas (as they often can). I've been brewing up a story lately that I think will work very well in the NaNo setting. It's a young adult (YA) post-apocalyptic paranormal series that I plan on telling in short episodes. It revolves around a young man who is living in a world changed by a cataclysmic event that wiped out almost all of the Earth's population and left the landscape a smoldering remain. When finished, I'll publish them as an introductory series to my YA writing under my own name.

In a sense, I've been preparing this story for a while. I've been jotting notes down for this story for the last three months, right after the initial idea came to me. It all started with an image. I saw it and thought, "That's got a story in it." At moments, I've thought over scenes and characters and tried to lay them out in an order that makes the most sense. I've now got more than enough to write several "episodes" and have written about 4000 words so far (don't do this if you're actually participating in NaNo... that's cheating).

With several weeks to go until November 1st, you should be using this time to plan ahead. Now is the time to plot, lay out that chapter structure and at least have a game plan in place. Trust me, it's so much easier to approach NaNoWriMo with a plan, than hope something comes up as you're writing. My plan involves having a full outline of each section before starting. Essentially, breaking it down into five 10,000-word episodes. A chapter in a book runs anywhere from 2000-2500 words in my usual writing, so the goal is to have 4 to 5 chapters per episode.

Sometimes it's easier to get a grasp when you see it layed out:

Episode 1 (10k words)
     Scene 1 (2k)
          (Characters, Setting, Conflict)

     Scene 2 (2k)
          (Characters, Setting, Conflict)

     Scene 3 (2k)
          (Characters, Setting, Conflict)

     Scene 4 (2k)
          (Characters, Setting, Conflict)

     Scene 5 (2k)
          (Characters, Setting, Conflict)

Episode 2 (10k words)

Rinse, repeat as necessary until you've reached your goal.

I'm reminded of one of my favorite Neil Gaiman quotes: "This is how you do it: you sit down at the keyboard and you put one word after another until its done. It's that easy, and that hard." Writing a novel is a difficult process and NaNoWriMo asks you to take all of that difficulty and try and condense it into a 30-day period. Remember that your goal here is a first draft that reaches 50,000 words. It's often more about turning off your interior editor and putting words to the page than creating something magnificent the first time through. I hope maybe I've given you some direction into how to make the challenge a bit less steep. It's not a bad plan for approaching any story, but when faced with a tight deadline and a seemingly insurmountable word count, it's often best to break it down into more manageable portions.

Good Luck! Are you doing NaNo this year? If so, do you have a plan? Let us know in the comments below!


  1. I'm somewhat on the fence as well, though for a different reason. I'm currently 21k words into one WIP, 30k words into another, and I bounce back and forth between the two (very unsuccessfully, I might add) as I'm only getting very limited time to work on the writing part of daily life. So I certainly can't start a new project Nov 1st, but I could simply set a 50k goal for the month to complete one of these two. Still haven't decided...

    I 'won' NaNo back in Nov 2010, which after a few months of editing turned out to be my debut, Gabriel's Redemption; I 'won' again that following November with what ended up (after quite a bit of addition) being the finale of the trilogy, Gabriel's Revenge. Nov 2012 was a third 'win', this one for a piece that never made it to market but was 70k of a completed work. So something deep inside says, "you HAVE to do it again..."


  2. Three times this year I've managed to break 50k words during a month, the first time(s) I've ever managed it. For me, that's challenge enough without making sure all 50k words are part of the same story.

    I have to admit, I was hugely pleased with myself to hit the 50k mark. It wasn't November, but that didn't stop me from patting myself on the back.

  3. @Steve - It's always great to hear when a NaNo novel has made the leap to a finished product. Do you outline ahead of time?

    @Brent - I am jealous of your production levels! I'm happy if I can crank out a couple hundred good words a day.

  4. I've never participated. I think the very idea of having to hit 50,000 words in one month, and a very hectic month, has always overwhelmed me. While I can't officially participate, I have had a hard time finishing up my latest story. I'm 50K words into it, but I'm considering doing like Steve mentioned and setting a 50K word goal for November. I think it might take something this drastic to get the first draft completed. If I just take November a day at a time I think I can manage the 1666 words a day. I'm going to try and look at it that way. Also, to avoid re-reading previous scenes over and over to make simple changes (which I seem to do a lot lately) I'll be using to keep track of my word count and focus on one scene or chapter at a time. My average chapter lies right around the 1500 to 2000 word mark, so getting a chapter a day would be a huge accomplishment for me.

    I'm glad you mentioned that the breakdown is a good idea. I've been doing a lot of plotting for the second half of my novel lately, but now I know I need to finish out those individual chapter outlines so I can be ready to hit the ground running when November 1st comes around. It'll be a great way to celebrate my birthday! :)

  5. @Heather - I don't necessarily look to compete in NaNo either, but I think it's a great kick in the pants for a lot of people to jumpstart their Winter writing. It is such a tough month, with the holidays and all. Will have to look into thanks for stopping by! :)

    1. November is definitely tough, but I certainly need that kick in the pants. is great, especially if you're prone to distraction when online, which I am. I can get lost in the scene or chapter and it will alert me when I've reached 750 words. I'll need more than that for the 1666 goal, but it's a great way to type away and get a word count for what you're working on.