Writing Tip: Who’s up for National Novel Writing Month?

What is National Novel Writing Month?

November is that time of year when millions of writers join in on a challenge. To put our butts in the chair and write—50,000 words in 30 days—to be exact!

NaNoWriMo CrestThis event is affectionately called NaNoWriMo. You can connect to other writers to cheer each other on, or write alone. You can work on any writing project you wish. It’s more about making time to write on a daily basis. You might use it to get yourself motivated to start a project that looks overwhelming, or wrap up a piece that needs finishing. It’s your call. Check it out HERE.

I don’t participate in NaNoWriMo every year, but this year the timing fits perfectly with the fact I’m starting a new novel. I’ve used the event in the past to jump-start a new book and liked the results enough that I’m participating this year.

Of course you’ll find your own unique way to utilize this month of writing fervor, but if you’ve never tried it and you’re not sure how to begin, here are some ways I’ve used it to move forward with new writing projects.


Before November 1st:

  • I create the basic premise of my novel and write a brief synopsis
  • I lay out the characters and how they fit into the premise.
  • At this point I utilize the workbook, Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass to define the multiple layers of personality for each character, and to find the levels of conflict for the story. By the time I finish the exercises in this workbook, I have a clear idea of how the book could begin and end, the conflicts for each character and ideas on how to make use of that for tension. It’s a strong starting point, but leaves plenty of room for exploration.

During November:

  • I like to use this event as a way to get myself back into the good habit of faithfully writing every day (useful if I’ve slipped and fallen into bad habits) and a way to push myself into that new project of facing the blank page.
  • I don’t ever write during NaNo with the intent to finish a true first draft of a novel. Instead, I use it as more of a writing exercise that allows me to explore the story and get to know the characters. By the time I write 50,000 words I’ve got a clear vision on how my characters sound in dialogue and how they think. I also discover what does and doesn’t work. And I get all of that accomplished in a shorter time frame than if I started out writing the first draft of the novel and trying to find those elements along the way. It a great kick start for me.

After November:

  • During the course of the writing event there are things I’ll learn about the story and the characters, which I can now use as I sit down to write out that the first draft of the novel. There will be settings that I loved and can use in the novel. There might even be a scene that worked so well I decide to keep it for the first draft. If nothing else, lovely little gems in the way of descriptions, interior thoughts, revelations or unanticipated conflicts rise up to the surface to be saved and tucked into the final story.

It’s not too late to join in on the fun. Sign Up! And I’d love to connect with you as a Writing Buddy, if you’d like. I’m spirithawk. Hope to see you there!

Have you participated in NaNoWriMo?


What were your experiences. I’d love to hear how you utilized this writing event!


  1. Mike Sirota

    I think you know how I feel about this. My usual rebuttal will appear next Monday. 🙂

    • indy

      Ha! Rebuttal away. I understand your position as well. But some of us continue to find this exercise a great way to kick start a project. For me this year, it’s been a way to get back into a good writing routine, after spending far too much time on getting TRACKER published and out to the world. :0)


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