Limbering up for NaNoWriMo

Online writing resources, Writing By Oct 03, 2010 20 Comments

Last November I toyed with the idea of doing NaNoWriMo – the National Novel Writing Month during which you write 50,000 words. However, I chickened wimped decided against it because it was already a few days into November and I’d done no planning or preparation whatsoever. I was also worried about the prospect of having to get the word count done, without there being any scope for my much-needed “ponder time”. (This veers wildly from brainstorming ideas in a notebook to hot writing to creating family trees and devising flow-charts to watching the squirrels in the trees out back while eating chocolate and drinking tea and a lot of other things in between.)

This year, however, is different.

This year, other writers who’ve taken part in previous years, 2009 included, have positively encouraged me to give it a go. I’ve talked to published writers like Miranda Dickinson and Keris Stainton, who have successfully used the month to get a jump on a novel by writing 50,000 words of a “dirty” draft. (This is also known as a First Draft but a “dirty” one just sounds like it’s more fun to write, doesn’t it?) Both Miranda and Keris have subsequently gone on to write the remaining word count (50,000 words is not enough for a complete novel, despite the name of the month), finish, edit and polish it. You can read what Keris says about NaNo here.

Roz Morris has some great advice from some of her NaNoWriMo winner friends on her blog Nail Your Novel. (If you’re a writer, I really recommend you following Roz both on Twitter where she tweets as @dirtywhitecandy and on her blog, Nail Your Novel. She also has a book out under the same title and I’m finding it invaluable, as it’s packed full of practical tips, hints and checklists. Check it out here: Nail Your Novel. (I’ll be posting a full review shortly.)

This year, I am being more organised about the whole thing in order to give myself the best chance I can for success. I’ve already signed up and made the commitment to take part, for starters, and I’m currently working out which of my ideas I’m going to submit to the NaNo treatment. I’m going to spend this month prepping it, factoring in some “ponder time” and putting down some ideas. I am also going to be doing mini-NaNo’s to get myself into the habit of writing at least 1,667 words a day. (If you’re doing NaNo, feel free to buddy up with me. I’ve signed up as “katheastman”. Highly original, I know!)

This year, I’m doing my research with some recommended reading, such as Chris Baty’s No Plot? No Problem!: A High-velocity, Low-stress Way to Write a Novel in 30 Days

This year, I have my buddies doing it with me. Thanks to social networking – take a bow Twitter and Facebook – I now have a support group of other writers, most of whom have taken part in NaNo before. We’re going to be cheering each other on and helping each other get past that finish line on 30th November with 50,000 words a-piece. I feel more confident about taking part this year because I know I won’t be going it alone. And, out of everything I’m doing this year, this is what’s encouraging me the most. I believe I can be a NaNoWriMo winner.

Have you taken part in NaNo before? Did you manage to cross the finish line with 50,000 words? Have you worked on what you wrote that November and finished a novel? Do you have any tips or hints for things I should be doing this month to get ready or for November itself?



  1. Rin says:

    Exactly like me Kath – I really wanted to do NaNo last year but it was too close to November for comfort when I realised it existed, I had a mental job at the time that left me little energy to be creative, and generally the timing just seemed wrong. This year I’ve already started drafting the character profiles and plot skeleton (I’m doing a crime novel so I don’t feel comfortable ‘winging it’), and I can’t wait to get started!

    PS Love ‘dirty draft’ – I’m totally going to use that instead of ‘first draft’ from now on!

    PPS Is No Plot, No Problem any good? Should I read it before November or is it just going to make me stress about my technique and ‘doing it wrong’?

    1. kath says:

      Brilliant stuff, Rin – sounds like we’ll both be ready for it when NaNo arrives this year.

      I like No Plot? No Problem! so far. It’s an easy and interesting read and has some useful ideas and tips, although I don’t think I’ll be following them to the letter. It’s more reassuring than liable to make you stress out.

  2. Dirty Novel?? I love that. I’m looking forward to my 2nd Dirty novel!

    I tried to get No Plot no problem for last year, but it was out of stock everywhere. I don’t know whether to bother trying this year (I did it last year without it, so surely I can do it again….?).

    26 days to go…

    1. kath says:

      The dirtier, the better, I say. 🙂

      Congratulations on being a NaNo winner last year! I wouldn’t have thought you need to read No Plot because you’ve obviously got a system that works, but I’m finding it useful reading.

      Thank you so much for the countdown in days and making it seem so much closer all of a sudden…

  3. Mr Uku says:

    I’ll be taking part for the first time this year having been challenged to it. Quite excited about the whole thing as I am a notorious procrastinator. With that in mind I am planning the whole thing out as much as possible. Got my story sorted over the weekend, I’m now fleshing it out, building my characters and working out my set pieces. It’s almost like I know what I’m doing.
    I looked at No Plot, No Problem and got the impression it was more about motivation than how to write. Would that be about right? Is it worth getting?

    1. kath says:

      You sound as if you’re limbering up nicely, Mr Uku, by doing what works for you.

      The more I read No Plot? No Problem!, the more convinced I am that it’s a useful book, if only because it sets out in a clear and concise way some of the common sense you can apply to the month (or your writing generally). It never hurts to see it in black and white and written down in one place to really drum it home.

      Good luck for NaNo!

  4. Laura says:

    Yey for Nano.

    The books in your picture..what’s the one with the big brown spine? x

    1. kath says:

      It’s a companion Novel-Writing Kit to go with Chris Baty’s book, No Plot? No Problem! A friend got it for me and it has some fun things in it: such as a Novelist badge; stickers saying “Ask me about my novel!”; some Onerosity coupons, which are IOU’s for chores or forfeits you make to someone if you don’t reach an agreed word count by a certain time; a wall chart so you can plot your progress and a Novelist Affadavit, which you sign to pledge your commitment to NaNoWriMo. There’s also some cards to help you through rough periods when you want to quit and a slim book with hints and tips.

  5. I’m liking ‘dirty draft’ too! And I think it’s a really smart idea to have a few practice days. I’m going to tweet this.

  6. And thank you for the mention of Nail Your Novel!

    1. kath says:

      Thanks for tweeting the idea of mini-NaNo’s, Roz, and I’m happy to mention Nail Your Novel. I’m finding it extremely useful.

  7. Preseli Mags says:

    Plan? Never! I just jump in on day one and wing it. I’ve done that for the last three years and hit 50,005 words or thereabouts by November 23rd-25th. If I can’t think what to write I make it up…

    I recommend Chris Baty’s book – I use it every year. It has week by week sections full of tips on how to keep going. I prefer to be unplanned and just let things happen but really you have to find the best way that suits you as an individual.

    1. kath says:

      Congratulations on being a NaNo winner and good luck for this year! I’d quite like to hit the word count earlier in the month, as well.

      I’m not a great planner, winging it is my natural state! Thanks for your feedback on Chris Baty’s book. It’s interesting to know that you use it every year.

  8. I did NaNo a few years ago. Didn’t get the 50,000 – life got in the way – but I did get a heck of a jump start on the novel that is currently with an agent and… well, fingers crossed. I’m thinking of doing it again this year. I’m working on a ms at present, but I have this idea for another one… Might get it started. I didn’t plan anything the first time – just sat down and wrote. But then, that’s pretty much how I always write.

    1. kath says:

      Let me know if you decide to do it this year and good luck if you do. I don’t think it’s crucial to hit the 50,000 mark although I’d like to just once! But it’s really encouraging that you got a jump start on a novel currently with an agent. I want to start writing book two during NaNo and am looking for exactly that jump start from the month.

  9. Rose says:

    I think you are very brave, I have never tried this- I manage about 1000 words on a good day- it will be a great way of getting words down

    Good luck!

    1. kath says:

      Not brave really, Rose – just willing to try anything once but thanks for the good wishes!

      1,000 words is a great number and, if you’re writing at the speed and in the way you’re comfortable doing, that’s got to be the most important thing, right? Good luck with your writing.

  10. Talli Roland says:

    I love dirty draft! I’m going to steal that now, Kath!

    Good luck with NaNo!

    1. kath says:

      Thanks for the good luck wishes and pinch away. I might well have pinched it from somewhere myself!

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.