NaNoWriMo prep, part one

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Photo via NaNoWriMo.

It’s October! It’s finally October!

Why am I excited? Is it because it’s fall? No. Is it because we get candy later this month? No. Is it because Christmas is that much closer? (Well, yes, but) no.

It’s because NaNoWriMo is coming!

National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo for short, is a free event during November for all ages. The goal is to write 50,000 words in 30 days, but any amount of words written are celebrated. I’ve been taking part for years (I just did the math and it’s been 15, wow!), ever since I read about it in the newspaper in high school. It’s a great exercise in silencing your inner editor and just getting the words out on the page.

It’s also a fun way to meet other writers. Participants in NaNoWriMo who attend meet ups (or write ins, as members call them) and/or have a buddy to “race” word counts with are significantly more likely to succeed in reaching 50,000 words. Plus you can make friends! My current writing group is comprised of women I met during last year’s NaNo.

But wait. Why the excitement in October if it doesn’t start until November?

Because even though you’re not allowed to write any words for your NaNo novel before November 1st, you’re encouraged to plot, plan, and prepare during the days leading up to it. I love this part. October means I get to play with new stories and characters.

I used to be a pantser, someone who wrote by the seat of my pants. I’d have terrific beginnings of stories with an interesting concept or characters, but somewhere in the middle of the story my enthusiasm would fade and I’d never complete them. After repeating that process for years and never having anything completed to show when I told people that I write, I decided being a pantser didn’t work for me.

So, instead, I became a planner. When I get an idea, I let it roll around in my head for a while and get excited about some key scenes, just like before. But instead of diving straight into writing at that point, I put those ideas and scenes into my notes. Then I work on filling in the spaces between those scenes with more notes before working on the narrative. I’ve learned it’s much easier (not to mention light years faster) to write a few bullet points, cross them out, and rewrite the bullet points than to write multiple chapters, throw them out, and then rewrite new chapters.

October is my notes month. It’s also a good time to do any preliminary research needed to plot out my story. The less time I spend researching during November, the more time I’ll have to write!

Will you be participating in NaNoWriMo this year? If you’re new to it all, don’t worry, I’ll explain more about how to get started next week.

Are you a pantser? Some people love finding out what happens next as they write and that process really works for them. Or maybe you’re a planner? Having all of your ducks in a row takes the stress out of getting the story onto paper. Raise your hand if you’re a convert to outlining like me!

This article is the first in a series about NaNoWriMo.
To see the other posts, click one of the links below.

NaNoWriMo prep, part one [that’s this post]
Part two: Getting started
Part three: Notes and plans
Part four: What to expect