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NaNoWriMo: Scribendi’s Guide to Getting Started

A few easy steps to help prepare you for National Novel Writing Month

An older woman is sitting at a table with her laptop and a cup of coffee. She is writing a novel for National Novel Writing Month.
Follow these steps to help prepare yourself
for National Novel Writing Month.

There will be no excuses, and no retreat. You will use the weekend before National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) to stock up on coffee, hoard any leftover Halloween candy, and purchase a bottle of celebratory champagne to open on the first of December. We want you to succeed in your goal of writing a novel in one month, and we have a few suggestions to help you do so.

Do the math and plan

Even though novel writing isn't rocket science, there is a bit of math involved in National Novel Writing Month You have to write 50,000 words in 30 days, so simply divide 50,000 by 30. The result is 1666.6666666, which is your daily target word count. To be safe, round it up to 1,700 words, just in case you have an off day. How you accomplish this is up to you. If writing 1,700 words in one sitting seems daunting, try writing 850 in the morning and 850 in the evening. This may help keep you excited and thinking about writing throughout the day.  

Know the core of your story

A good exercise is to try reducing your story to a few sentences. If you can reduce it to two or three sentences, then you probably have a strong enough narrative to begin writing. If you can't, simplify your story. Don't worry about all the rich, interesting material you think you're leaving out. Once you start writing your novel in a month, it will take on a life of its own. Another good technique is outlining. A story outline provides the significant plot points of a novel—a road map, if you will. This will help keep you focused on your narrative.

Keep an open mind

We know it's difficult, but try to come to this process with an open mind and follow some of our tips on writing a book. Don't worry about quality. Just write. Remember Tolkien. When writing The Fellowship of the Ring, he was troubled by the continued appearance of a character named Strider. Tolkien tried to write around him, cut him out, and rename him, but Strider wouldn't have any of it. This character wanted to be written. Tolkien finally gave in and decided to see where the story would go with this character. Little did he know that he was creating Aragorn, soon to be king of Middle Earth. The lesson here is to come to your writing with no presuppositions. You may be surprised.

Save the editing for later

Perhaps the biggest difficulty you will face throughout this process is silencing your own internal editor. As writers, we all have the innate desire to revise our work in order to ensure what we've written is the best it can possibly be. This is normal and good; however, at this stage in the process, it’s unhelpful and may discourage you. Leave editing for December, January, and February. Better yet, leave the editing to our book editors.

Photo credit: bailaisewicz/