Have a Story in Your Heart You've Been Desperate to Write? Tell It With NaNoWriMo
If you've been eager to write something—whether it's a novel, fanfiction, a script or anything else—you've probably been putting it off until the right moment.
Turns out, that moment could be right now. November is the season of the National Novel Writing Month challenge, better known as NaNoWriMo, making this the perfect time for you to start putting those ideas on the page and seeing where your creativity can take you.
NaNoWriMo started 20 years ago in 1999. It began as a simple challenge to write 50,000 words of a novel between Nov. 1 and Nov. 30, and it was such a good idea that it only exploded from there. Though it had humble beginnings, it's now grown into a massive community event with hundreds of thousands of people taking part every year. That also means that, if you decide to participate, there's an enormous community of fellow writers who are there to back you up and cheer you on. Plus, it produces results. Best-selling books, including Water for Elephants and Fangirl started as NaNoWriMo drafts, and we're excited to see what comes out of the event next.
Even if you don't find out about NaNoWriMo until the middle of Nov., you can still take part and learn a ton from the resources they have available on their website. Though their Nano Prep 101 Workshop recommends starting the process in Sept. to have most of your elements mapped out before you even begin, it's never, ever too late to start poring over the support materials that might help you tell your story. Of course, everyone works differently. Some people can simply sit down and write, and others benefit from having a detailed plan. Either way, NaNoWriMo has systems in place to make it easy as possible to let the words flow come Nov.
And their references are must-reads for any type of writer. It begins by developing a main story idea before lovingly crafting your characters and constructing an outline before you get into building your world, organizing your writing and then finally setting out the time you can carve out to use for your writing.
Don't have a story idea? The workshop speaks in depth about how to spark your ingenuity and create your own original concepts by analyzing the stories and characters you love. Struggling with your characters? NaNoWriMo has great Character Questionnaires that will help you ask yourself just the right questions to get to the heart of their being and find out what makes them tick, whether they're your hero or their greatest rival. Even though this stuff might never make it to the page in your drafts, it will help you understand them so well that writing about them becomes second nature.
Because everyone is different, the workshop also provides five different detailed methods for plotting out and structuring your story before you write it. No matter how you write, there's likely one that'll suit you best. We happen to love the idea of a "Plot Rollercoaster," fitting the events along a diagram with the setup, inciting incident, rising action, climax, falling action and resolution so your story has a satisfying flow and grips readers from beginning to end.
One of the trickiest aspects of seeing NaNoWriMo through is simply making the time to write those 50,000 words, but their guide has some advice for doing that, as well. They even have a quiz to help you understand your best writing schedule, which explains how to structure your work and how many works to write in each session to stay on top of your goals. There are even inspiring pep talks from accomplished writers that you can read when you need a little creative boost. Finishing NaNoWriMo is tough, but even if you're not able to meet the challenge, you can learn so much and get so much writing done along the way.
If writing 50,000 words before the end of November sounds like an impossibly daunting task, think of it as a lofty goal rather than a requirement. 50,000 words comes out to approximately 1,667 words per day for 30 days. If that's doable for you, go for it. If not, go at your own pace and see what you can accomplish in that time and beyond.
After all, NaNoWriMo is all about setting your own personal milestones and tracking your progress along the way. When you see how much you're accomplishing, you'll feel even more motivated to keep writing that story that's been waiting to burst out of your mind.
In addition to writing resources, NaNoWriMo has other great tools for tracking what you do. A stopwatch and timer are built right into the website if you want to time your writing and update your progress. You can either paste your new total word count or the number of words you wrote in the latest session. Plus, there's a section where you can document your feelings during writing, plus how, where and when you wrote it, so you can have a nice log of everything you did at the end.
As you write, the NaNoWriMo website keeps track of stuff like your daily average word count and when you typically add the most words, in case those stats might be a helpful part of your writing process. It also lets you know your overall progress toward your goal, and the date you'll be finished if you happen to keep it up.
The purpose isn't to have a completed, ready-to-publish novel at the end of November. Instead, it's about spilling your heart out and getting those words on the page. It's the roughest of first drafts, and it's about writing down what you've got in your brain, even when you know those won't be the words in the end, rather than laboring over getting everything perfect. Remember that edits can always wait for December, and that it's okay not to get to your goal by the end of November. More than anything, NaNoWriMo is about personal growth and doing as much as you can. And if you have a great story at the end of it, that's a wonderful thing, too.
Plan on writing up your NaNoWriMo story by hand? Click HERE to see if we can guess your personality based on your handwriting.