Nail Your NaNoWrMo (#1)

31 Empowering Posts in 31 Days

Don’t just start something.  Develop something first, so you can start something worthwhile in November… and finish it.

Finishing isn’t the highest goal.  It shouldn’t your only goal.  If you finish, you haven’t “won” anything.

But you can “win.”  By writing a novel in November that’s actually something that stands apart from the process itself as worthwhile.  As something to move forward with.

You’ll write it in November. That’s the name of this game.  But you can develop it in October. 

And if you’re serious about writing, and not just approaching NaNoWrMo like a stadium tour (the seats are empty) or a bunch of people in a bar seeing how many beers they can drink before closing …

… as a bit of a lark, just to see if you can do it…

… if you want more out of this than repetitive motion disorder in your hands…

… you should develop it in October.  As deeply and proficiently as you can.

If you do, your NaNoWrMo may actually amount to something. 

Maybe even a first draft that’s a tweak or two away from being submittable.

A feat which even the most ardant NaNoWrMo enthusiasts sometimes admit is nearly impossible.  Not me.  I think it’s entirely possible, and therefore worth the enlightened effort.

You wouldn’t climb a mountain without the right equipment, right?  Just sayin’.

It begins now.

Last year I was a NaNoWrMo nincompoop.  Partly because I didn’t understand it well enough.  I didn’t realize that you could arrive at your keyboard on November 1 with as much story planning in place as you wanted, that it wasn’t cheating the rules or the process, and that it definately wasn’t cheating yourself.

That it could actually be a compressed writing experience that is viable and real, not to mention creatively rewarding, rather than an experiment in time management. 

I’d like to help you do just that.

So during the month of October I’m going to be posting A TIP A DAY to help you move forward with your NaNoWrMo story planning

Beginning now.

Today’s tip: Know what you’re planning. 

A great story is like a building or a plant or a piece of software or even a person, pick your analogy.  There’s as much on the inside as there is on the outside.  It has foundations, roots.  It has sub-text and heart and gravitas.  It must have a weight-bearing structure, and ultimately an aesthetic appeal.

There are many ways to get all that on paper.  To reach that goal.  However, you don’t have time to do it using what some writers think of as the old fashioned way — to just sit down and start banging it out.  That hardly ever works… not in thirty days… not in thirty weeks.

That one is too many beers, too fast.  And you know what happens to that.

Here’s what you’ll be considering and shadow boxing with as you plan:

The embrcing of a Big Idea… knowing the difference between an idea and a story… knowing how that idea needs to be spun in four different ways… how to develop your idea into a viable, compelling concept… how to cast a starring role (your hero) on that landscape… how to make it a story with teeth and weight and resonance… how to lay it all out in a sequence that is not only logical, but is also optimized… how to give it legs that are running toward a future.

All before you write a word.  All before November 1.

Sound huge?  Crazy?  Sound… like the solution?  It is all that and more: it’s an opportunity.  And it absolutely can be done.

So have a great Saturday, October 1.  I’ll be standing in front of about 50 writers in Medford Oregon talking about all these things.  Some of them may be NaNoWrMo writers.  I hope so.

You have your first tip.  Decide to do this right.

This is all FREE, by the way.  I recommend subscribing to Storyfix so these tips arrive as email every morning.  And if you are sharing the NaNoWrMo experience or know other writers so inclined, share the love.  In a weird sort of way we’re all in this together.

Need more context for this journey?  I humbly recommend this book (CLICK HERE).  I promise you it will juice your NaNoWrMo experience like nothing else you’ve ever read, like nothing else out there.



Filed under NaNoWriMo

40 Responses to Nail Your NaNoWrMo (#1)

  1. QUICK P.S. — Writers Digest is offering a similar solution, and for the same reasons. But… it’s $124.99 (and that’s supposedly 68% off), and the ensuing “package” (a pile of books… good luck reading them all in one month) doesn’t even include the best available book on the subject, for this application, that’s out there.

  2. I’m torn with something, Larry. Should a person who’s never done NaNo try and write a potential best seller, or just come up with something that covers all the cores and is a solid showing? I’m thinking a lot of people like me might not even try it because we may not feel that a potential best seller is inside us.

  3. Patrick Sullivan

    @Shane: Odds of your first book being a best seller is almost nil. Practicing the craft by writing, building stories and learning what works for your voice and style and iteratively building to something great is how you write one. Just start plotting something that intrigues you and make sure afterwords you ask yourself what worked and what didn’t, and where you can improve :).

  4. Judy Migliori

    I am rereading Story Engineering right now and am deeply into understanding and extracting the premise and theme from the concept I have been wanting to explore for a long time. I wasn’t going to do NaNoWrMo again before I had a true handle on what I was really trying to say – now I am excited about your October column because I can follow along with Story Engineering AND your tips – you’re fabulous Larry – thank you.

  5. I’m in. I’ve done NaNoWriMo several times. I’ve written some stinkers, but each year they have gotten better. Following your tips, and Story Engineering, I’m going to make this one an ebook I want to publish…

  6. Great idea Larry. I’ve done nanowrimo 4 times (completed 3) – end result – I have 4 editable novels on my computer. I have edited and pubished one and will have two more of them out by the end of this year.
    To Shane; the principle behind nano is get words on computer, edit later. You will need to write 1667 words every day in November to succeed so you won’t have enough time to worry too much about what you are writing. My advice is plan a story now (use Larry’s blog to help) but not in too much detail, then on November 1st go for it. Some might not like writing at that pace because it leaves no time for editing but there are benefits to nanowrimo;
    1. By the end of November you will have 50,000+ words which is a massive achievement you can be proud of – you will know you can write a novel in a few weeks.
    2. By forcing yourself to write each day you will learn what being a writer is about (bum on seat instead of wandering about waiting for the muse to inspire you).
    3. You will learn that Writers’ block is in the mind and it is amazing how good you can write sometimes when you force yourself.
    I love nanowrimo because I write by two principles; borrowed from others;
    There is no such thing as good writing, only good editing.
    You can’t edit a blank page.
    So come on, clear your social calendar in November and be a writer.

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  8. Monica Rodriguez

    I second Christopher’s comments. Nanowrimo does a few great things for writers. One is to make it impossible to edit your work until after November (impossible if you want to finish, that is). This was a huge lesson for me. And I learned it–maybe 10 days in, I manage to even stop correcting my typos. It was liberating! The closest thing to pouring out your brain through your fingers I’ve come across.

    Writing 1667 words a day does something to you, too. After November, you’ll find you notice those days when you don’t write. You write every day for 30 days, and you come out the other end with a solid habit.

    So, will Nano produce a bestseller for you? Doubtful. But there’s so much more that it does for you, it just may be worth shutting off the TV, not responding to emails, putting off Christmas shopping, and maybe showing up late for Thanksgiving dinner ;-).

    Good luck to all those taking the plunge this year. I’m afraid I won’t be one of them. I want to continue the revision I’m working on (last year’s Nano) and don’t want to get sidetracked. I will miss it though–I’ve done it the last two years now!

    Oh, and Larry’s right. It’s WAY easier to get through the month if you have some planning done ahead of time. Take his advice!

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  10. Shirls

    Once again Larry you are being incredibly generous. I’ll be following this closely and reading my copy of Story Engineering with total focus. Thanks so much.

  11. Marilyn Van Tiem

    I’m going to take on the challenge and have my trusty Story Engineering by my side – although the Tigers/Yankee games will get top billing on certain days. Hopefully my boys will come out victorious! Go Tigers! Ironically, one of my characters is a baseball nut. I even went back in baseball history to find out who the Tigers were playing on a specific date in June of 1941 – they were playing the Yankees! So this is inspiration at its best! (Well, if truth be told, Larry Brooks is much more inspiring than baseball when it comes to writing. He helps you “load the bases” and now all I have to do is bring ’em home for the win!) Remember, you can never even hope to get a hit if you don’t swing the bat!

  12. Olga Oliver

    Would someone tell me where I find out more about nanowrimo? I’ve been interested in looking into it every year, but too busy I always say. But Larry’s generous offer for tips is pulling me. Is there a registration? What do we do to submit? Thanks for any info.

    And thank you Larry. I’ll have to put my WIP on hold, but believe the nano experience is well worth the time.

  13. Curtis

    An idea.

    Post Storyfix on your NaNoWriMo region post. Why not share the wealth with others?

    This is a month of life. Why not finish with, as they say,
    “something to show for it.”

  14. Annie

    @ Olga, You can find out more about NaNoWriMo at their website, There is a registration, but it is free and the only requirement is being 13 years or older. There’s also no obligation. You don’t really ‘submit’ anything. Instead, you write your novel on whatever you want- paper, typewriter, Word, you name it. Then you can add your wordcount to the website by going under the ‘Novel Info’ tab on your profile. It’s very simple once you get the hang of it. 😀
    Best Of Luck!

  15. Shane – write your best. Then relax about quality. If it does turn out to be a bestseller, it won’t look like one yet in its rough draft form. The only lousy first draft is the one not written.

    So the best state for writing a Nanowrimo is to give it some uncritical acceptance, just enjoy the process and love it for all the cool things about it that made you love that story. Get it down fast without stopping. That’s the main thing.

    I’ve won Nanowrimo every year since 2000 except the year I had pneumonia and didn’t get started till November 25th. I still got a respectable 25,000 in those few days.

    The point of writing that fast is to learn not to look down, second guess, stop and worry about it instead of just telling the story. It won’t hurt to spend October planning it, idea-bashing and sorting out what you’re going to do. Larry’s got some good advice, so I’d say sign up to follow this blog for more tips every day.

    Larry, your article is great. Thank you for doing this series in October. I tell myself I just start cold with no idea of what I’m going to do – when in fact I choose from a menu of potential novels that I’ve stewed over doing for months or years and worked out a lot of the kinks in the ideas. I just don’t do that planning very formally, it’s in background from whatever other project I’m working on.

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  17. Very generous, Larry. Thank you! I foresee flocks of stressed out NaNoWriMo participants migrating from the forums to your blog as the word gets out!

  18. Thank you for this, Larry! I am SO excited you are embracing NaNoWriMo and helping writers who want to have a plan come November 1. I’ll be sharing this with my readers on Wednesday!!

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  20. Good idea for a series, Larry. And, folks, if Nano is coming up a bit too soon for your plans, there’s always plenty of nailing of novels to be done in my book of the same name: Nail Your Novel – Why Writers Abandon Books and How You Can Draft, Fix and Finish With Confidence.

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  24. Thanks for starting this series. The last 3 years of NaNoWriMo have been quite the blessing for me, a bit of a rush as well since I tend to be a pantster. But I noticed my experience more fun when I knew what I was writing, be it characters or story. Hold onto your hats, folks, we’re going for a ride!

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