Hi, folks! Here’s a post, from an “expert,” on a writing challenge you may or may not have heard of. It starts a week from today. Several FWers have participated in the past, and will again this year. Might it be for you? Read on and find out!

NaNoWriMo – Give It A Try!

By Rick Higginson

 National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is upon us, and as a seven-time participant and winner, I’ve been asked to write a little something about the event.

The rules of NaNoWriMo are simple – you start writing a novel on November 1st, and to win, you must complete 50,000 words or more by the end of November 30th. You’re not competing against other writers. You’re competing against yourself and the clock. To many, this sounds daunting, but it is by no means impossible. There are some good methods to use to help you on your way to NaNo victory.crest-bda7b7a6e1b57bb9fb8ce9772b8faafb

First, send your Internal Editor on a month-long vacation to Aruba. One of the big mistakes many writers make on their novels, and one that will sabotage your chances in NaNoWriMo, is that we tend to think about how we could improve the first chapter or two. That’s our Internal Editors speaking, and you’ll never make 50,000 words in a month if you keep rewriting the first thousand. Repeat this mantra – Write First. Revise Later. Purpose to get your story written, and accept that the first draft can be riddled with errors and problems. That’s why it’s called a “first draft.”

Second, spend time BEFORE November thinking about what you’re going to write. (note – you have a week!) Many writers like to use the “seat of their pants” method, and just start tapping on the keys. This works for some, but in many cases, the story bogs down and the writer flounders with where to go next. I find that knowing where my story will begin, where it will end, and what major events will happen between, helps keep my writing moving forward. To this end, I indulge in the dirty ‘O’ word – Outline.

Yes, I know that many of us hate the idea of outlining, because of what we were forced to do in writing classes. This isn’t a writing class, though. You are not going to have a teacher checking your outline and telling you that you need to do this or that with it. The outline YOU write is one that YOU will find useful, and it can be as intricate or as simple as you like.

Think of it this way – you’re about to embark on a journey, so you plan out a basic itinerary. We’re not just going to randomly drive. We’re going to make a point of visiting this city, then this National Park, etc. You’re not planning out every single moment of the trip, just making sure you actually get to the places you want to go. Our outlines should be the same.

For me, I do a very basic outline. I list my characters, the overall setting, important details, etc., and then do a brief one or two line cue for what will happen in each chapter, with a note on whose point of view the chapter will be from, the setting of that chapter, and any other details that I want to be sure to include when writing. Typically, my outline will take no more than a page or so, but it helps keep me on track during those nights of feverish typing.

Third, connect with other writers doing NaNoWriMo. The fact that we’re not competing against each other fosters an environment where we can encourage and cheer each other on, because we’re all competing against the same clock. None of us is more of a winner if less people win, and in fact, my experience with NaNo is that most of us are thrilled when our friends cross the Finish Line.

Many cities have local NaNoWriMo groups, as well as the NaNo forums having other groups to connect with (including some of us FaithWriters members having our own group). If you can, take part in Kick-off parties, Write-Ins, Word Sprints, etc. They not only help with motivation, they’re also fun. And here is a link to the FaithWriters thread in the NaNo forums: http://nanowrimo.org/forums/writing-groups-and-clubs/threads/131551

Which segues nicely into my last point. Fourth, and most important, have fun. NaNoWriMo is not about punishing ourselves. It’s about releasing our creative selves to bring life to our stories. It’s about letting go of the need for perfection, and just letting the words flow.

If you love your story, and have fun with it, then when the month is over, it won’t matter if you have written 50,000 words, or only 15,000. You’ll be ahead of the game, with more words than most people will ever write. That’s a win in my book.


hoomiRick Higginson has been writing fiction since his teen years, and wrote his first novel-length manuscript in 1987. He didn’t write another novel until 2004, when he wrote “Cardan’s Pod.” He has written twelve more novels since, including seven for NaNoWriMo. He has been married to Nancy since 1980, and together they raised a daughter and a son. They currently live in Tucson with five Australian Shepherds, two cats, two snakes, a brown-throat Conure, and a large cast of characters. The second book in the Pod series, “Marta’s Pod,” will be joining “Cardan’s Pod” in print this fall. Click here for ordering information (including in Kindle form).

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