Sunday, October 30, 2011

So You Want To Do NaNoWriMo? #1

The internetz are buzzing. It's the night before Halloween and people who are normally social butterflies have become hermits and hovering over their computers instead of going to a Halloween party. People start to stock up on coffee. Some are begining to freak out because they feel like they aren't prepared.

It must be NaNoWriMo time. National Novel Writing Month.

It is the one month in the year (November) where people decide to go insane for 30 days and write a 50,000 word novel.


You read that right. 50,000 words.

To give you some perspective, 50,000 words is actually not all that much in the novel world. It's about the same size as Twilight or Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. Now, before you freak out and say "But those books are like 300 pages long!" let me remind you that the font for those books is


and therefore, there really aren't that many words to a page.

Broke down it's about 1,667 words per day. That's about 2 1/2 pages if you are using Times New Roman single spaced on Word.

Not so bad, right? Right.

Kind of. It's still pretty intimidating - but trust me it's a lot of fun. This will be my fourth year participating in NaNoWriMo and will *hopefully* be my fourth year winning.

Want to do NaNoWriMo but feel like it's too late to get ready? Do you have a story but don't know where to go with it? Never fear! Emmy is here to help! Through the month I'm going to post a blog giving tips and suggestions on reaching for 50k goal. Tonight and tomorrow we'll focus on last minute preparation.

First - if you haven't signed up yet get yourself over to the NaNoWriMo website and get your account going. (Don't worry, it's free. Also - if you don't have a title or plot summary for your novel yet, don't worry about it. You can get back to that later.) Then add me as a writing buddy. I'm eehornburg.

The first thing I do (after I get my account set up) to get ready for NaNoWriMo is find myself a planning notebook. It doesn't have to be anything fancy - just someplace where you can jot down all of your ideas and thoughts in one place.

This is the one I got for this year. It's from Target and only cost a couple of bucks and it fits nicely into my purse so I can carry it around with me wherever I go. Although don't feel like you have to stick to a traditional notebook. I also use Evernote to help me keep track of things, and you can always use software on your computers, smart phones, tablets, etc. Whatever works for you. I just find it useful to have all of my notes in one place or else they'll get lost. I also like to use NaNoWriMo as an excuse to buy some cool new pens... but that's just me.

Now that you have your tools - you can get started!

Which is probably where people will get stuck. What do I write about?

There are a few places you can start if you have absolutely NO IDEAS whatsoever. 
  • Genre. What sorts of books and stories do you enjoy? Fantasy? Then write something in that area. Maybe romance is more of your style. Well then create that happily ever after story you've been dreaming of! Action and Adventure? Why not? Or perhaps there is a certain message you want to share with the world, or lessons you have learned in life. Go for it! And feel free to mix and match genres. You will hardly ever find stories that are strictly one. 
  • Think of a scene. A lot of writers start their novels because they have this random scene stuck in their head that they can't get rid of. I heard that Stephanie Meyer thought of Twilight because she had this image of two people in a forest and one confessing that he's a vampire. CS Lewis began The Chronicles of Narnia because he saw a picture of a fawn by a lamp post in the middle of winter. Harry Potter all started with "What would happen if a boy found out he was a wizard...?" Do you have a scene in your head begging to get out? That's the perfect place to start.
  • Create a character. Maybe you had an eccentric imaginary friend when you were a child. Or maybe when you used to play with dolls or action figures (or whatever) they always became certain characters. Or maybe you've always wanted to read or hear a story with a certain type of person in there. That's an awesome way to begin your NaNoWriMo novel. When you have some great characters - sometimes they'll write your story for you!
  • Write what you know. Yeah, it's probably one of my most cliche and overused pieces of advice for writers. But it's true. That's how most of my stories have started. I began White As Snow because Snow White was my favorite fairy tale and I knew a ton about it. I wrote Drama! because 1/2 of my life has been in the performing arts. I knew what it was like. I've been working on these two stories for YEARS and I'm still not tired of them.
  • Go somewhere with a bunch of people and watch them. Take notes on what you see around you. You'd be surprised the ideas you can get.
  • The NaNoWriMo forums are your friend. If you know your genres check out those threads. Or give some people advice on their research. I personally love the Adoption Society threads. You can get characters, plots, titles, quotes, quirks, fears, almost anything! If you are stuck on almost anything in your novel stop by the Adoption Society and pick something up to get your brain going. You can also make some pretty cool friends. 
So there you have it! Some basic ideas to get you going on your NaNoWriMo novel at the last minute.

One last piece of advice - is to not worry. NaNoWriMo is about having fun and getting words on a page. Having a plan going in is great (I usually have one), but you don't always need it. Plenty of people reach their 50k goal without having something planned out. Just get the words on the page. Happy NaNoWriMo prep!


What are your tips for writing? How do you get your ideas for stories - or blog posts - or whatever creative thing you like to do? What tips do you want to hear tomorrow for part 2? Anything you want to add?

And.... since I'll be writing 50k words in November I would LOVE having some guest bloggers next month. Contact me if you're interested!


  1. Found you on 20sb. ^.^ This will be my first year writing nanowrimo...and I have not a clue as to what I'll write about. I'm hoping to brainstorm today a little bit the day before and then write away after that. Good luck!

  2. Thanks for writing this-- I have something to think about now! I'm nervous, but I do want to try NaNoWriMo out! I just signed up!

  3. Jaclyna and Tsaritsa - YAY! That's so exciting. You'll love NaNoWriMo - both of you. Sometimes the hardest part though is just getting that idea and getting started. Once you're on a roll the ideas just keep coming.

    Any other tips you want to hear? I'm hopefully going to write another pre-NaNo post today. :)

  4. These are great tips! I'm not able to do it this year, thanks to the fact that I already get no sleep because of school. But I went to bed thinking about what I would write about/thinking of ideas for the future, and I had a dream that I was asleep and had a dream about a great concept for a novel, then when I woke up this morning I couldn't remember the story idea, only that I had a dream about a good idea! So disappointing! Anyways, good luck! I can't wait to hear how your novel turns out!

  5. Hey! You just friended me on goodreads and here I am finding this post. For way too long I have ummed and ahhed about writing more novels. I am all about facts over on Amazon just now. Yet my heart screams at me everyday "Write Novels, Write Novels" In capital letters too!

    So, yes it's June and yes you might say this is a bit crazy early and yes it might even seem impossible given that I work, I'm a mum and a full time medical degree student too... never the less I will visualise it as a dream coming true and make it happen! Thank you for your links on here - I'm off to sign up :) x


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