Nanowrimo: What Writers Need to Know

Get Ready! Nanowrimo is almost here! The month of November is fast approaching, along with one of the best ways to finish that novel or start a new one.

Writing Tip for Today: National November Writing Month challenges writers to complete a draft of a novel at least 50,000 words in length.It’s only September, but there are some things writers can do to prepare for the marathon or at least ensure the process is more enjoyable as well as “revisable.” Consider these three things:


In order to be alive at the finish line, you’ll need to carve out a regular block of time to work on your story. Some writers use Nano to provide that motivation. Others just love a challenge or love games. And Nano is a lot like a game. Whatever your reasons for joining in, Nano will be much more rewarding if you plan in advance a strategy to help you arrive at the finish line at the end of the month. First, look at your current life schedule. Do you work 100 hours a week? Are you at SAT mom with tiny windows of time scattered throughout the day? Or are you just trying to give yourself a kick in the pants to develop a writing discipline? Decide on how much time you can devote each week, where you tend to write best and how you plan to keep yourself honest. Online communities like Facebook or Twitter can help you stay on track and the official Nano site is a great resource. There’s just one catch: You have to show up, put your BIC (Buns in Chair) and write.

Write Fast and Furious.

Another great reason to participate is that the time limit practically guarantees you won’t be doing much editing during November. Writers who feel they must mull each sentence before they go on to the next are nearly always stuck somewhere in the opening chapters of their work. Perfection is NOT what Nano is about. The month-long exercise is great for teaching these careful writers that a messy sloppy yet complete draft is far more useful than three perfect paragraphs. During Nano, you will write fast and furious. Each new writing session, you’ll read over the last few paragraphs or pages of your last work, but you will NOT edit them. You read the old work only to re-immerse yourself in your story. This may feel uncomfortable at first. But as you write fast, you will also be practicing keeping your writer’s demons (the voices who say you stink) locked away during your writing session. Drafting is about taking an idea and seeing what sticks. Will you have a lot of work to do later on when you do revise? Yes. But start believing that rewriting is writing. It’s just a part of the process. Practice writing fast scenes now. When you begin the actual Nano challenge, you’ll be familiar with the technique.


Finally, prepare for Nanowrimo now by brainstorming story ideas. Take walks, ride a bike, garden or wash the dishes and let your ideas flow. Some writers imagine a story first, but most of us get a character in our minds and then ask “What does this person want? What’s standing in her way? What’ll she do to overcome the obstacles and attain  the goal? Jot down good ideas, so-so ideas and even silly ideas for characters and stories. Keep a tablet next to your bed for those dream ideas. By November 1, you should be set and raring to go. Good Luck!

About Linda S. Clare

I'm an author, speaker, writing coach and mentor. I teach both fiction and nonfiction writing at Lane Community College and in the doctoral program as expert writing advisor for George Fox University. I love helping writers improve their craft and I'm both an avid reader and writer of stories about those with wounded hearts.

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