How to Prepare for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo)

November is known by most literati as National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo for short. How it works: Start writing a 50,000-word novel on November 1 and finish by midnight on November 30th. (For in-depth details go to the I’ve participated in the event twice. First, let me share these three important takeaways from my experience.

1. It was unbelievably fun.
2. Being that productive gave me the shot of adrenaline I needed to write more.
3. I was terribly unprepared both times and ended up with 50,000 words of useless material.

OK, so “useless” may be a bit harsh, but when looking back at my past attempts I realized that if I had just done some planning and preparation, not only would I have been able to complete more words, they would have been the making of a publishable story. I bring this up because I believe that 1) You should TOTALLY try NaNoWriMo if you haven’t before—you won’t regret it and it will be one of the best writing decisions you make this year, and 2) spend the next few days preparing yourself to write a story that’s not only good, but has the structure to be great.

The key to preparing yourself for the challenge is to ask yourself these questions (which were once suggested to me by @JaneFriedman):

What’s going to happen in the story?
What does the character want?
What will the turning points be?

If you can nail these down, you will set yourself up in a much better position to write something meaningful and (potentially) publishable.

To help you further we’ve set up a page filled with resources to help you prepare for the event, and you can check them all out here: Gear Up for NaNoWriMo

If you are looking for suggestions, I highly recommend the Novel in a Month Premium collection (if there are any left). If not, definitely check out Write-A-Thon and Write Your Novel in 30 Days.


Good luck to all of you who take the leap and participate. I’d love to hear about your experiences and progress in the comments below. Unfortunately I have to sit it out this year, but the good news is I will be participating in Movember again–but more on that later. *insert smiley face*


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30 thoughts on “How to Prepare for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo)

  1. Kyandasu

    I wish NaNoWriMo was in a different month, like the summer or even September or January, instead at the end of the semester when I’m super busy with papers and projects and tests, as well as a couple birthdays and my anniversary. I just don’t have the time to write a novel in November. Maybe I’ll start my own writing month in a different time of the year, or just wait until I graduate college to start doing it in November.

    1. WriteNowCoach

      You can do a writing marathon whenever you want. I wrote my book Write-A-Thon to help people do writing marathons all year long. And, if you do a little googling, you will probably find out that someone has declared September or January a write-something-in-a-month month. Go for it!

  2. WriteNowCoach

    A few other things I would suggest:
    *Put together a story Bible–everything you need for the book about character, setting and plot either in a notebook or in a document. Having this with you at all times will make it easier for you to write daily and keep continuity.
    *Always stop writing each day in the middle of the action. That way you will never have to start on a blank page.
    *If you get stuck, write backstory. You may not use it in the end, but it does add words and gives you information about the characters that will enrich your story!

    I am blogging about preparing for NaNo and will blog all through the event at!

  3. cathydianeb

    Hi brian thanks for th great article and information! i am a planer so this helps me. this is my first nano and im looking forward to it. im also a beginning writer and it will help me with practice and determination. my problem wil be the not polishing and revising -i am a perfctionist of sorts- i do more rewrites than actual writing! but i set my goal to just knockout those 50,000 words and make them as good as possible and to just finish Hopefully wiht a good story to later polish up and publish. sorry you dont get to nano wiht us this year . thanks for the tips.

  4. akcotham

    This will be my 9th year in NaNo. One of the things that helps tremendously, if it’s available to you, is your home region! Go find it on the NaNo website and see if there are write-ins in your area. Be with other writers. Drink way too much coffee. Do word wars (“write as fast as you can for X minutes”) & word games (“use these 5 words somewhere in your scene.”) Exchange cheesy prizes. Kill each other off (in your stories, of course.) This is my cue to give a shout-out to the strong and wild Sacramento NaNo community–I wouldn’t have made it nine years without ’em.

    Good luck, everybody!

    P.S. Contractions are NOT your friend. Aren’t = one word. Are not = two words. See? 😛

  5. TC Avey

    I’m interested. I have a question, does the finished project have to be completely edited and polished? I might be able to do the 50,000 words, but I’m pretty sure there is no way I will have it edited. There is bound to be grammar errors, misspelled words and who knows what else. So should I even try?

  6. Kath

    Hi Brian! I can now put a face with the wonderful, kind person behind the email. Aren’t you adorable?? 🙂 Too bad you don’t get to Nano this year. I am soooooooooooo stoked!! I cannot WAIT! My best mate and make a week-long slumber party of it for the first week. Last year I only made it to 38,000 words cos I was an idiot who lived on chocolate and Dr. Pepper and my resistance went down so low I caught the flu the third week of November! My doctor laughed hysterically when I told her of my stupidity, haha! So this year I’m planning A LOT better. We’re planning our meals (especially Crock Pot things) and they are healthy, and we are meeting up with some people our region at a coffee house to write together and enjoy each other’s company. It’s such a blast. I recommend Nano highly, too. It’s an annual celebration around here. My hubby doesn’t write, but he gets into the spirit of things, too, and is totally supportive, helping me prepare. I spent time working up my outline, and he’s helped me plot (he’s so good!). SO excited! We’re going to have him come over to my best mate’s house and join us for dinner during our Nano bash! Good pot roasts come out of Crock Pots! xo

    1. Brian A. Klems Post author

      LOVE the idea of a week-long sleepover to kick off NaNoWriMo. That sounds like so much fun. Hope you are able to stay healthy this year and reach 50k!

      WD Online Editor
      ps-Thanks for the kind words about my photo. It made my Wednesday morning. 🙂

    2. WriteNowCoach

      I have done NaNo three times and won twice. My second try was for a nonfiction book that is mentioned above, Write-A-Thon–about how to write books fast! I love the idea of planning meals for the whole month of November ahead of time! Great solution!

      1. lgharleys

        These are great ideas. Unfortunately, I only have 5 days to plan. I’m a newbie so I just heard about this. But I have lots of “book” ideas in my head and the meal planning is a great idea to cut down on time. I wonder if I could get someone to come in and clean my house. haha!

  7. twdelano

    I’ve never heard of this, but it sounds very interesting. I’ve never written a full-length novel, only short stories and poetry. Perhaps now is the time to try it? 🙂

  8. alvaradofrazier

    I’m going to the NNWM party and started getting ready a couple of days ago by reviewing my copy of Book in a Month. It was valuable when i did my second MS and cut my time by more than half, versus writing the draft of the first MS. Today I’m doing my character sketch. @ Jason: nice article, thanks for sharing.

  9. princessmiwi

    I’m really excited, this will be my NaNoWriMo, I hope I can write those 50k words…

    Thanks for those links, they look really useful to prepare for it…


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