Surviving Nanowrimo #1

November is almost upon us and you know what that means. Sure, we’ve got an election coming up and I am one of those who urge every eligible voter to vote. And November means Turkey Day, and that is a big yummy.

November is also National Novel Writing Month, better known as Nanowrimo. For those of you who don’t know about nanowrimo, here’s a short introduction. Beginning November 1st, participants are urged to write a 50,000 word novel in the next thirty days.

Easy peasy, right? It can be. Just means writing 1700 words a day. Which takes me a little over an hour. For some, it’s less time. For others, it’s a little more.

I’ve done it six or seven times.Each time gave me an opportunity to work out my creative muscles,and I found it a lot of fun.

Here’s a few reasons to participate:
1.Writing is a solo experience. This gives each of us an opportunity to join a community and share that experience with others.

2.It gives the writer an opportunity to try something new. Say, I’m a mystery writer. I might want to try another genre like romance or science fiction or fantasy. If I am a romance writer, I might want to tackle a mystery.

The great thing about tackling a new genre is that I get a chance to learn what elements make that genre tick. It’s like a musician who plays country. Maybe he tries his hand at rock and roll. If he does, he’s going to bring the rock-and-roll elements back to his country songs and it’s going to make for some interesting music.

Or I might just discover I like the new genre.

3.At the end, I can say you’ve written a novel. Even if I write less than the 50,000 words, I can feel like I have accomplished something. If the novel I am working on is more than the 50,000 words, I’ll have a shot of adrenaline and be able to go the distance.

4.I may not end up with a novel, but I might end up with a darn good short story. This has happened twice to me. Or I might not like the novel I have written but I discover a germ of an idea for which I actually want to write.

5.A number of novelists have published novels that began with nanowrimos and they became bestsellers. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern and Water For Elephants by Sarah Gruen are two.


Once I decided to participate, there were some things I had to realize and this is where some survival skills come in handy.

1.Nanowrimo is not about editing and perfecting my prose. My nanowrimo novel is my first draft. All first drafts are crap. Editing comes later after the first draft is finished.

2.Preparation is essential. I use October to prepare by brainstorming what I want to writer about. If I am a plotter, I will use the time to nail down my outline.

If I am a seat-of -the-pants writer, I don’t have to plot it out. But at least I need to have an idea of what is going to happen in my first scene. Say I have an idea about what I want to write. Then I might come up with some specifics to flush out that idea with a who, what, when, where and how.

Or I might have an opening line. It might be as simple as this: “Tell me a story, Grandfather.” With just that line of dialogue, I know I have two characters: a grandfather and his grandchild.

If I don’t do this Preparation gig, I will end up on the first day of November staring a blank page and going, “What am I going to write?” And that’s scary.

3.Another lesson I have learned: At the end of each writing session, or some time later that day, think about what I want to write the next day. It might be as simple as saying that the protagonist decides to take a cruise. Or he may decide he isn’t going on a cruise.

If I don’t do this, I might end up spending half my writing time trying to decide what to write. And this can lead to a case of writer’s block. Or even worse, I might be so frustrated, I quit.

To deal with this dilemma, Hemingway would end each of his writing sessions in the middle of a sentence.

Or if I don’t have a clue, I can do what I did for each of my writing sessions my first time. I began each session with a visual prompt. There’s a great blog for visual prompts called Monochromia. Each day the site posts a new group of black and whites photographs that can trigger your subconscious.

So give your creative muscles a workout. Try nanowrimo this year. I know you’ve been meaning to. Remember success doesn’t come to the talented. It comes to the persistent.

And stay tune to this blog. I will be posting seven more Surviving Nanowrimos during October.

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