National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo, or NaNo) only comes once a
year—if you don’t count Camp NaNo. During the month of November authors all
over the world (be they aspiring or published) sit down to pen 50,000 words. If
someone wants to reach this goal, they must write an average of 1,333 words per
day. Progress can be tracked on nanowrimo.org, the official homepage of the
Everyone approaches NaNo differently. For seasoned Wrimos (the
official term for a participant), there are specific rules. You must begin a
new project, for which you have written nothing other than plots and character
charts; using a pre-existing work would be wrong.
Others, often too busy to start anew, pick up something they’d
already been working on and push to complete it. I did this last year, but
ended up scrapping it and am now beginning a brand new one.
One user has told me they plan on writing two different novels at
50,000 words apiece…at the same time. Others on the “Memphis Wrimos” Facebook
group that I’m a part of, planned a “write-in.”
Write-ins are an integral part of NaNo. If you’ve entered your
region, the website will automatically put you in a relevant forum. Regions are
run by “municipal liaisons,” or MLs. For Memphis, these MLs are
HuskersGirlLaura (HGL) and kitkatt. These two women plan write-ins to take the
lonely out of writing. Many take place late at night, but there are “Songbirds”
sessions as well, a term meant to compliment “night owl.”
For those who can’t make it to reality’s write-ins, the organization
holds virtual versions through YouTube live streaming, and users can create
individual ones, as well. The website does its best to make writing a social
phenomenon, from these write-ins to forums.
The forums provide users with everything from a place to chat, to
help with writer’s block. My favorite forum has been “Appellation
Station,” a section devoted to the naming of characters, settings,
and books. I used it to name three characters in my novel, yielding such names
as Brinn MacArthur, Emerson Bauer, and Molly Frederickson. Some threads are
meant to help you understand how a name can be pronounced, or to critique the
suggestions of other Wrimos.
NaNo is a chance to jumpstart your writing career by getting in the habit of
writing on a regular basis and possibly even landing you with a full-length
novel at the end of the month. It may seem complicated, but it is a very simple
process, especially if you don’t limit yourself.
When it comes to writing a novel, you often become intimidated. Even
though I’ve got my entire plot decided, I still had trouble deciding other
things. What was my first line going to be? What about point of view?
The great thing about NaNo is you can change things up. You can
write two different opening paragraphs to choose between later, and since it’s
all part of your novel, it goes toward your word count.
I often find that the best place to start is dialogue. It’s the best
way to add backstory, or exposition, and develop my brand new characters. It
also makes the document look longer than it is, since every new line of speech
must be on a new line of text.
The official organization also sends out “NaNoMail” regularly, with
important information about upcoming events and pep talks from authors.
One thing I’ve learned this year is who exactly is behind NaNoWriMo.
The mysterious “organization” I’ve mentioned so many times up until now is The
Office of Letters and Light. Although there is no website for them,
they do have a very cute video about the important things they do to increase
the world’s interest in creative writing.
As a Creative Writing Major, this is pretty important to me.
Sometimes you need a little spark of inspiration to get the words flowing, and
NaNo helps me do that. When else can I push myself to actually get a novel
This year, I also discovered the NaNoWriMo YouTube Channel, found here. During November, as well as the months
of Camp NaNo, they publish videos made by other writers on the platform. Today
I watched one by a group of young adult writers named The WordNerds called “The
Five Firsts of NaNoWriMo.” Videos like this can help struggling
authors to realize that the struggles they face are shared by almost every
other Wrimo out there, and even by published authors.
Even when it seems that inspiration isn’t flowing, I often find that
looking at the works of others can help me continue writing. Today, for
example, I’ve been reading a short story by one of my favorite writers. Author What You See in the Shadows writes fan fiction
based on the CW’s show Supernatural, and recently posted the story “Until
It Rests In Peace.” Being able to read someone else’s plot ideas and
how they’ve created a solid story (in this case, one which won third place in a
One thing I’ve learned is to incorporate many senses into my
writing. Most of the time, I’m tempted to write purely in visual and auditory
terms. To break out of this, I may try to write from the point of view of a
character with either no access or extreme access to those channels. One of the
characters in my book is deaf, while the other can hear the voices of ghosts.
Another young author who has done something similar is Hannah
Sincavage. In her work “Book Covers,” her female protagonist is blind,
causing her to experience the world through a beautiful mix of emotion, sound,
If it seems that there’s nothing to nix your writer’s block, you may
need to change up your routine. I often like to find a prompt generator online,
such as the ones found at Writing Exercises. Sincavage uses research to fuel her stories.
No matter how authors get the creative juices flowing, what matters
is that they do: especially when you’ve got a 50,000 word novel to write!
Today, I remembered that there’s something called a “communal
character.” This is someone a region creates who an author can use in their
novel. It’s a list of traits, some vague, others extremely specific, which
compile a single person.
When using a communal character, you don’t have to implement every
trait. Usually the first one is about their name. Others dictate relationship
with the protagonist, and still more are about habits. This year’s communal
character for the Memphis area can have the following traits:
I always forget that there’s a communal character, so I often use
these to modify an existing one. This year, I have Reagan, who is roughly
seventy years old and runs a ghost tour company. She definitely fits into two
of the traits already, so it’s easy to toss in a little about how she wears
“long flowing skirts” and “carries around the same worn, faded book” all the
Communal characters are a chance to incorporate something new or
different into your book. Not everyone would immediately use an agenda
character in their novel, or be so specific about the way they stir their
drinks. Deciding to use such things can help you utilize other senses, make
more detailed scenes, and fabricate more interesting people.
Ideas seem to come to me at the oddest of times. Last night in the
shower, I had an epiphany about one of my characters. This morning, I penned a
scene designed to showcase the protagonist’s talent. These kinds of moments may
not have been a part of my original plot, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t
A plot outline is often a key part of writing. However, the
important thing to remember about them is they are more optional than not. If
you think about a “plot” in terms of math, it’s the plane a set of numbers is
on. How you get from one ordered pair to the next, and how accurate the actual
numbers are compared to the estimated, depends on what formula you use.
For example, I ultimately am going to have a character fall into a
coma (evil, I know). This is something I want to happen at the end of my first
or second chapter, or even in the beginning of the third. My path to the coma
may be completely different from what I initially imagined.
Starting out, my protagonist was supposed to be a waitress at a
diner. Now that I’ve actually written about her, she is a guide for a local
tourist attraction. Other things about her have changed, as well, such as her
Plots give your work direction, but nothing can be better than what
feels right to you in the moment. Trust your gut: if you want to add in a
little moment with a random person on the streets, a flashback, or just want to
have fun writing something silly, do it!
Sometimes, there are days when you write less. Those days can feel
unproductive, especially if you’ve been averaging over 1,000 words a day and
suddenly can only eek out 300. However, you can funnel your creative energy
into something else when typing fails you.
Today, I worked on a Secret Santa gift for a friend. The plans for
it had been invading my mind for a good week, so I decided to get to work on it—and
finished within a couple of hours. If you’d rather not focus on other creative
endeavors, maybe studying for an important test is a better option, or even
cleaning up your house.
Some people end up not writing for a couple days because they’re
finding tinder for their work. This could be interviews, research, or even just
exploring the internet for cool ideas. While these may not contribute to your
actual word count, they can help you reach your goal in good time. Having an
idea of where your story is going makes it easier to write.
Let’s be honest: some days we feel entitled to just not write.
For me, today is one of those days.
My birthday is supposed to be spent hanging out with friends and
family, celebrating another year. I shouldn’t be holed up in my room madly
typing away on my laptop. So instead, I’m carrying it around everywhere so I
can write anywhere.
this if you have the ability is a good idea: inspiration can strike at the
oddest moments. Whether you have your actual document, a phone app with a
collection of ideas, or even a physical journal you record in, it’s a good
place to gather anything from a new scene to a span of dialogue.
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