Thursday, September 24, 2009


Barring domestic disasters and other other acts of divine interference, I will be (unofficially) participating in this year's National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, which starts November 1st. Along with writing a NaNo novel I'm planning to do some posts here at the blog to help other NaNo'ers.

If you've always wanted to write a novel but have never tried, NaNoWriMo is a great time to give it a shot. You've got thirty days to produce a 50K first draft, and if you can work daily on it that works out to writing about 1,667 words or six double-spaced pages per day. It's also excellent practice for those of you who would like to be professional novelists, because it gives you a taste of what it's like to write daily or on a regular schedule against a set deadline (something the majority of pros have to do.)

There will be some online grumbling about NaNo'ers, as there is every year, from people who don't like the idea of unpublished, uneducated, unworthy riff raff writing novels. It's really cute how they get such a knot in their knickers over it, too, but don't let them discourage you. You don't need anyone's permission to write but your own. I'm proof of that.

Okay, so tell me -- how many of you are thinking about joining in this year? Are you making any preparations, or just planning to dive in on November 1st? What can I do here on PBW to help? Let me know in comments.

(PBW's NaNoWriMo Banner was made online with the free graphics and logo generators over at Cool Text.)


  1. I'm going to join. I have three projects I want first drafts done on by the end of the year. I hope to have the first one of the current WIP done by then, and November will be number 2, and December number three.

    I'd love to see some posts on time management.

  2. Thanks for this I might give it a try although I am perhaps not ready yet. I always read your page but don't often comment due to time restraints but you do publish some very useful stuff and I thought I should say so. Thanks again and us budding writers owe a lot to people like yourself for spurring us on.

  3. Whoo hoo! Nano!

    I'm writing two sequels this year (my fan demanded it) and maybe a third.

    And I have to defend my word count title here in Aus... don't I?

    As for preparation... um... what's that? I just focus and throw myself into the deep end - the hard work comes after.

    I cannot edit what I have not written.

  4. Lynn,
    First of all, I love your blog. You have a great mix here of advice and anecdotes. I think I speak for most writers when I say thank you!

    Secondly, Nano!! I just blogged about this, myself. This will be my first year, so I don't know exactly what to expect, but I'm excited at the prospect of learning to write a rough draft wihout the dreaded 'delete' button that seems to be my demise.

    As for what you can do to help? I'm so new, I couldn't give you a specific topic I need help with, but if you simply keep up this blog, I'm sure it will help.

  5. I don't know if I'll join in Nov. or not; it will depend on how I feel after turning in everything before that and how many edits I have. But maybe.

    Ig you want to give away prizes to participants who meet their goals, I'll chip in author copies!

  6. AnnaM.8:20 AM

    I'm planning to join again this year. I find the timed 10 minute challenges help me a lot.

    I'm going to prep by joining a list I'm on of people who took Margie Lawson's Defeating Self-defeating Behaviors class. As a group, they're going through the Snowflake Method of plotting our Nano novels starting Oct1. I'll be behind a week or so due to a writing workshop and moving, but I'm going to brainstorm until then and then join them in plotting.

    What can you do to help? I find my biggest obstacles are procrastination and the thought that all I write is crap so why bother. Maybe some cheerleading, tips on how to keep going, what to do if the words aren't coming but you know you have to write anyway. That sort of thing?

    I love your blog. I read it several times a week, if not everyday.

  7. I'm planning on trying it, because I have an idea I'm researching right now, but I don't know how well I'll be able to do this. I'm taking classes and working full time so time will be a real crunch. I've participated in the last several years and always had fun with it. One year while I was working at the jail I got some inmates working on it.

  8. I believe in NaNo with all my shriveled little heart.

    Two years ago, I'd never written a book.

    I churned out a 54K, terrible, MG fantasy.

    Two years later, it's an awesome, YA contemporary with almost twice the word count. (And two other novels)

    Thank you Chris Baty, for giving me a launch pad!

    I dared to dream, and writing has been a painfully beautiful journey.

  9. I am planning on giving NaNo a try, and it's my first attempt. I already have an idea in mind, and I'm actually looking forward to writing it.

  10. I never commented on here before even though I've read this blog for awhile now, but today I'm brave.

    I signed up to do it this year at the encouragement of my SIL who's done it before. I've never done anything like this before, and I'm getting nervous. I'm feeling lost about what to do--not about getting ideas--but what comes next.

  11. Hi Lynn,

    Will be Nano for the third time if I don't make Holly Lisle's beta test group for her editing workshop.

    I hate doing this is public comments but I can't find another way, so...baldly, and realizing it's impertinent...would you please email me privately about doing a workshop for the FFnP Chapter of RWA.


  12. Anonymous9:18 AM

    I'm playing again this year too. I think it's time to take the ghost story that's been simmering in my head and try to work it out.
    I tried embracing the pantsing method in my previous two stories, but discovered with having the kids home for 4 days, and planning my husband's birthday on the last day, the end of the month has no "catch-up" time if I get stuck.
    So I'm embracing plotting this year and will be reviewing your ideas in the next couple of weeks.
    I'm also leading a collage workshop for my local Nano group, who has remianed friends since we started 3 years ago. :)


  13. Well, I work full time and I'm also back in college, but I'll give it a try, I think. I started something this summer, and, although it's abandoned at the moment, I have all the intention of giving it another try starting... tomorrow. I'll try and write everyday before November gets here.

  14. Well, I started one last year, but life *really* got in the way (a couple of family emergencies) so I had to drop out.

    This year, I have two ideas and a sequel to ponder and I'll decide which I want to do by the time NaNo starts.

    As to what you can do to help, just reading your blog every day and knowing that there really are people who seem to be able to write constantly (though I know you need to eat and sleep :-P ) helps keep me sane and gives me the nudge I need. That and Dr. Wicked should get me through this one so I finish.

    Thanks, Lynn.


  15. I've avoided NaNoWriMo like the plague in years past (because of life/work circumstanes), but something just clicked this year that I might try it.

    Any advice on how to deal with the holiday right at the end of hte month would be nice.

  16. This will be my fourth year doing NaNo and my second as the local ML. This year, I've done more prep than in previous years. I'm writing a suspense novel (maybe romantic suspense - we'll have to see what the characters think of that). I've been figuring out backstory and planning out the crimes from the villain's POV. I also have a rough outline of major points/turning points in the plot. I'm looking forward to getting started on it.

  17. I will be participating this year! My handle is booksr4nerds, if anyone wants to join me in my Nano adventure. I still don't know what I'm going to write! I'll be blogging about it as well.

  18. Sharon wrote: I hate doing this is public comments but I can't find another way, so...baldly, and realizing it's impertinent...would you please email me privately about doing a workshop for the FFnP Chapter of RWA.

    No worries, Sharon, we like bald, impertinent people around here. :) My problem is that I don't have any contact info for you; Blogger doesn't list your e-mail on your profile. I'm also not sure which Sharon you are. So if you want to get in touch, my e-mail is

  19. Charlene wrote: Ig you want to give away prizes to participants who meet their goals, I'll chip in author copies!

    That's really generous of you, Charlene, thanks. I will keep it in mind and e-mail you if I decide to do a NaNo giveaway (a lot of what I do for that month will depend on if/when an editor wants to see a book under pending offer.)

  20. Rachel wrote: I never commented on here before even though I've read this blog for awhile now, but today I'm brave.

    You're among friends here, Rachel -- and I'm glad you're going to give NaNoWriMo a go. It's a lot of work but also a lot of fun.

  21. Bethany wrote: Any advice on how to deal with the holiday right at the end of hte month would be nice.

    One thought would be to calculate a daily wordcount while giving yourself a holiday bumper in advance. In other words, if you have to write 1.6K per day to make the 50K requirement for the entire month, then figure out how many days off you need for the end of the month holiday, subtract that from thirty, and then recalculate your daily wordcount goal:

    50K/30 days = 1.6K daily

    50K/25 days (giving yourself 5 days off for the holiday) = 2K daily

  22. This is going to be my second year participating and this year I am going to win, damn it! I'm really excited to try again this year. This time, I'm going to have a rough outline because last year I just winged and found myself stuck on where to go next too many times. Not this year buster.

    I think as long as you're encouraging and share how you're doing on your novel, you'll be plenty helpful. Maybe share some of your secrets for doing a novel in a month!

    I hope you're as excited as I am! =]

  23. Yay, Nano! Go Wrimos! This will be my seventh year participating and I've managed to scrape out a few decent finished drafts during November over the years.

    Of course, I still have no idea what I'll be writing this year. I have several possible projects in mind, however. October is for narrowing down the field. My region is pretty active for its size and we hold several get togethers in October just to work out ideas and get some outlines in place or just bounce ideas off each other. Suggestions on preparing to write a story in October would always be welcome for me!

  24. Anonymous10:58 AM

    I plan to do it this year. I have a novella I want to draft in November and NaNo will be a perfect time to do that.

    As for what you can do, encouraging words, motivational techniques, and any writing advice during the month will be greatly appreciated. :)

  25. Joining for the first time this year...would love buddies, I'm there as PeachesNCream. (I even talked my son into doing the youth program.)

    I've created a basic outline -- Opening, Inciting Incident, Plot Point, Pinch Point, Mid-Point, Pinch Point, Plot Point, Resolution -- and now I'm needing to work on the characters a bit. Mostly, I'm doing research.

    Can't wait to start writing in November.

  26. I'm planning on participating this year, making it my 2nd time. Looking forward to this year even though I am still revising last year's novel. In the past year I've read up on writing, crafting, and planning. So we'll see if it helps or hinders compared to last year.

    As for suggestions for you ... All I can think at the moment is just to hear how other people are doing during the month.

  27. Thanks, PBW. I only finished NANO once, and I want to finish this year, after missing several years.

    This week we're moving some furniture so I'll have a quiet place to write without interruptions. Beginning in October I want to prepare with plot outline, characters sketches, world building, etc.

    My question is - out of all the inspirations you get for writing a novel, how do you choose one to develop into a novel?

  28. Yes, i plan on doing the NaNoWriMo. This will be my first year. I am trying to plan but not sure how to do that. :) Writing some everyday to get my fingers ready and my mind moving and my butt flatter :) by Nov 1st.

  29. I'll be participating again this year. I think it's a great way to drive off the internal editor and just get a rough draft down. I'll also be blogging about it on my own site.

    I'd like to see some posts on how to handle the rough spots (like week 3), getting stuck, falling behind, etc. Some on how to prepare for it would also be great.

  30. Yep, I'm in this year too. I have a general idea but need to work out the outline before Nov 1.

    As for what I would like to hear more about? Definitely time management. :)

    Good luck to everyone else on NaNo.

  31. I have been considering doing NaNo a few times, but I never did it so far, because I either was working on another project I didn't want to abandon to work on something unrelated or I knew beforehand that I'd be too busy with other things to give NaNo the time required.

    However, I may actually do it this year, because it doesn't look as if I'll be overly busy. Plus, I've been feeling uninspired of late, so this might just be what I need to kickstart a new project.

  32. Anonymous9:40 PM

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  33. Just knowing that there are others out there who will be fast in the depths of doing what I am also doing will have a great effect on my self-confidence. Thank you. I'll be watching your blog for more of your encouraging words. Thanks, again. - Yaya

  34. A note to Alcee -- I didn't read your comment until after Tom approved it, and then I removed it because it's a rumor I don't want restarted again. But to answer your question: Honestly, no, I'm not.

  35. Pandababy wrote: My question is - out of all the inspirations you get for writing a novel, how do you choose one to develop into a novel?

    I'm going to quote from the research installment of my "How I write novels" posts because I think it best describes my decision-making process:

    "The first part of research is to look at the market. As in, what's selling, what's becoming a trend, what's dying, what's about to be buried, and where does my idea land. This takes a lot of perpetual data collection about what's happening in the industry. Sort of like watching the stock market. You have to guess what editors are buying, which is what will be popular a year to two years from now. Keep in mind that production time = almost anything you sell won't hit the shelves for a year to two years from date of sale.

    Some writers are good at following the market, and some aren't. I'd say I'm getting better at predicting what will sell and what won't, genre-wise. I base this partly on the fact that last year I sold almost 100% of everything I pitched off the first proposal, while in 2003 I only sold about 75%.

    Why is it important to look at the market first? I may have what I consider a terrific idea for a historical novel, but if no one is buying historicals, I shelve it and do something else. This attitude will not work for everyone, especially the "but it's the book of my heart" writers out there, so if you feel you can hard sell your marvelous idea to a flooded, declining or dead market, by all means, skip this step.

    Once I see how well the idea fits, if I still have doubts, I may run it past my best friend or my agent, get their opinion. If I don't, I look at the other part of the research: what information I have to gather in order to write this novel. Time plays a part here; I usually only have a month to three months to research a novel. If I see I'll have to interview two dozen people and read a thousand reference books, I shelve the idea.

    If the idea survives the market fit, the run-by, and the info gathering scales, I decide whether I want to write the book. This is harder to explain. I've had some great ideas but they didn't feel right for me and the reader. A novel should always be exciting to work on, but it should also be like planning a big present or a hellacious surprise party for someone you love. If I don't feel that potential for me and for the reader, I set the idea aside."

  36. Anonymous9:21 AM

    I am absolutely, positively the biggest NaNo geek ever. Well, maybe not ever, but definitely up there.

    This will be my fifth year playing and fifth year winning (because I WILL cross that 50,000 word line). My biggest problem is my inner critic. I get into a project and then about 1/3 of the way in, my inner critic rears it's ugly head and convinces me that I couldn't possibly write anything more lame, so I quit.

    NaNo has given me permission to shut my inner critic out and just .... write. Stop over thinking it. Stop analyzing it. Stop agonizing over whether what I'm writing is GOOD enough.

    Just write.

    After completing the challenge for the first time, I felt so FREE! So ALIVE! And for the first time, I FELT like a writer. I'll never forget that feeling. It was fantastic.

    It's incredibly satisfying to me to just let go and allow my characters to take me on their journey. I thoroughly enjoy it and will continue to participate in NaNo for as long as I'm physically able.

    Good luck to everyone! And have fun!!

  37. I never heard of this contest but it sounds interesting. I try to average 2,000-words per day... well, usually, except when my computer needs replacing (like it did this week). I need to finish my second novel before going on tour. So much for a writer to do but I love it!

  38. Anonymous10:06 AM

    I'm always in for WriMo. No prep. I slap on a blindfold and leap in. Sometimes, I get some really interesting things out of it.

    Good luck to all. Remember, NaNoWriMo is supposed to be fun. If you're in MYC, maybe I'll see you at one of the write-ins.

  39. Thanks again, PBW. I have a feeling that historical novels are a declining market. It's ok. The heart of the novels I love to read are the characters and their relationships set against the drama of the plot. So a good plot and charismatic characters and authentic interesting dialog could be set in any place or time, and the costumes and manners are part of the world-building, affecting the plot or vice versa but not the heart of the story. I'd rather try writing a book that could have a market than one that might not.

    I appreciate your coaching and tips and take heed.

  40. I'm in for a third year and will be an ML for the first time around. Should be interesting... I'll be plotting/planning as much as I can around organizing the events & media coverage during October, but either way... NaNoWriMo is a super fun, super great experience, and I'm so glad I tried it on a whim several years ago. Without it, I wouldn't have the manuscripts I have today!

  41. Keita Haruka3:43 PM

    I'm planning on joining in this year. I tried it back in '07 bur only got to 6000 before reality threw a spanner in the works. '08 I chickened out...but this year I'm giving it another shot.

    I'm also going to plot the story out and do some actual planning this time instead f just keeping the outline in my head the way I did last time. We'll see how it goes.

    Maybe everyone here could just encourage each other. That would be great. :-)

    And good luck to you as well for nano! :D

  42. Anonymous1:57 AM

    Really? They grumble? Fascinating...

  43. Absolutely, I'm doing NaNo again this year. I normally don't do much prep, but this year, I've decided to do a category romance (a first for me), so I'm doing a little preparatory work. I'm shooting for 60k, and a complete first draft. Of course, that means I need to average 2k per day.

  44. I will NaNo and this year I will finish dammit!

    I finished a NaNo once upon a time but for that month I had no job, no school, no kids, no life except my novel. Now, under already stressful circumstances I hope to blaze through it.

    I'm interested not just in cheerleading from you but seeing how you think a NaNo schedule compares to your regular life as a writer. Same? Worse? Better?

  45. I'll be doing NaNo for the second time. I absolutely loved it. Sure, you won't end up with an award winning final draft, but you do end up with a lot of words on the paper and the knowledge that you CAN write every day. And it's fun!

    I wrote out a very rough description (can't even call it an outline) of who my character is, a few ideas about her world, and some of the plot points that I can see happening.

    Right now, I'm trying to decide on my character's name and whether I really do want to have her eat cockroaches as part of her diet. (Must research cockroach edibility)

  46. I first did Nano in '06, as a lark. I'd finished law school, passed the bar, and had no job. Nano seemed like a nice break from legal thinking, so I signed up. 90,000 words later I was hooked on novel writing. I'm seriously considering placing my law license on inactive status.

    I should sit out Nano this year to finish revisions on the novel I've been working on for the past two years, but don't think I can stay away from the Geezers Clubhouse. I'll be working on a rough - very rough - draft of the sequel to the one I'm struggling to finish up.

    That's the plan, anyway. I find plans change during November.


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