Friday, October 22, 2010

How to Get the Most Out of Nanowrimo (and Not Go Insane!)

Nanowrimo starts November 1st--at midnight for those of you industrious enough and with enough caffeine to stay up that late—and so begins thirty days of intense typing as thousands of writers strive to meet the goal of 50,000 words. Yikes!

At the onset it seems easy enough. You’re fueled by a new idea, inspiration courses through your veins, and the whole book unfolds in your mind with crystal clear precision.

Week Two: You’re brain-dead. The characters are flat. The plot is all wrong. You’ve hit a brick wall and don’t know what to do!

You want to know a little trick to avoid the second week of nanowrimo freak out? Plan ahead!

Nanowrimo is too intense and too fruitful of an opportunity to dive in willy nilly. You need to arrive at Nano with your plot outlined, your characters’ biographies sketched, and with as much pertinent research done as you possibly can. This way you really can spend all of that time writing and not thinking, researching, or screaming into oblivion.

To truly make the most of Nanowrimo, use the rest of October to do the following:
1.     Forewarn all family and friends that you will be mimicking a hermit/crazy person for the next 30 days. If this is your normal state of being, you can skip this step.
2.     Outline key plot points. These will be your guideposts and generally consist of items such as introduction to conflict, plot twist, false climax, climax, etc. This way you have freedom to “live in the moment” and take a scene where it leads you and still stay on course.
3.     Create a character sheet for each character. On this sheet you will include physical descriptions, important background information, motivations/goals, relation to plot and main character, and other relevant information. These are especially helpful once you get really deep into your story (you know, so you can avoid the changing eye/hair color syndrome).
4.     Research places, weapons, history, topics, customs or anything else relevant to your book. The internet and libraries are great for researching, but black holes in terms of time. Focus November on just writing. You can always go back later and do more research and add details while you’re editing.
5.     Form a support group of other completely, utterly insane and dedicated writers willing to suspend their lives for a collective sense of productivity. Hold each other accountable, cheer each other on, help each other locate viable meeting places that serve loads of coffee and have plenty of electrical outlets, and revel in the camaraderie!

Also, during Nanowrimo do not edit! This is writing time. Edit in December when the weather keeps you stuck inside anyway. Better yet, wait until January so that the gelatinous goo your brain has become has time to solidify and resume normal function.

Happy Writing!


  1. Tell it, girl! I'm looking forward to Nov. 1 so I can begin whatever novel will happen next. I have my idea ready to go, done a little research, and now I'm just watching the clock tick on down!

  2. YAY!! We need to get our Nano schedule lined out. I have an ambitious work load lined out :-)

  3. Hi! This is my first time to your blog and my first NaNo!! I love your advice. I've been doing as much as I can before NaNo starts. I've outlined my stories, figured out character motivation and how they'll change by the end of the book, picked names, and their physical descriptions. I'm hoping I've done enough to be able to get my 50K before the end of Nov!

  4. Hey Heather,

    Glad to hear it! As long as you stick with it and get the average 1,666 words a day you should be fine. Good luck!