How to Succeed at NaNoWriMo

NaNoWriMo — also known as National Novel Writing Month  – begins in just a few days. If you’re having butterflies in your stomach about taking on the ambitious goal of writing a 50,000-word story in 30 days, take heart. Taking a few hours to work some story elements out before you start writing will help settle your nerves.

Here are 3 tips to set yourself up for success – before the clock starts ticking.

Succeed at NaNoWriMo by having a clear idea of your novel’s vision.

The most important step before NaNoWriMo begins is to define what your book is about. I’m not talking plot or character but about something deeper: the ideas or themes you want to explore, such as a story of love and loss, or the damaging effects of keeping a secret — or a big “what if” question, such as what if someone developed a cure to end all disease? This is your vision — and it’s the most important step in writing your novel.

For more details on creating your novel’s vision, watch this video.

Get to know your characters first.

I know many of you just want to sit down, start writing, and see how your characters develop organically. That’s certainly fine – up to a point. But why not help your characters along before you set them in motion?

Ask deep-character questions like: Who is this person? What are his biggest strengths and weaknesses? What past mistakes does he regret? What is he hiding?

Develop a history for your character. This will determine the lens through which he reacts to everyone and everything that happens.

Finally, ask, “What does my character want?” This is the most crucial question, and will help determine the events in your novel.

For more help on developing deep characters, watch this video.

Map out your story structure ahead of time.

I can feel you “plotters” out there clapping – and you “pantsers” cringing. But hear me out. Having an idea of the major events in your story at the start of NaNoWriMo will help prevent you from veering off into a ditch. That doesn’t mean that when you are actually deep into the writing, you won’t change your mind. But knowing where you’re going before you start on your journey will help stave off writer’s block. And when you’ve only got one month to produce 50,000 words – you can’t afford to spend your precious writing time wondering what’s going to happen next in your story.

Here are the six key moments to include:

  1. The Current Reality. This establishes your protagonist and novel’s setting. It’s your main character in his everyday life when the story opens.
  2. The Happening. This is the event that changes the protagonist’s reality.
  3. The Choice, in which your main character makes a decision that will change his life forever.
  4. The Moment of Truth, when your character is at her lowest point. She will either rise above her problem or sink into it. Whatever your moment of truth is, make it dramatic.
  1. The Final Confrontation, where the main conflict comes to a head.
  1. The New Reality. For a story to be truly profound, your new reality must be worlds away from the Current Reality we started with.

For more help on understanding and creating your key moments, watch this video.

Remember: these tips will not only help set you up for success before you begin this awesome challenge; they can help keep you out of the weeds so you end up with a novel you can be proud of on November 30th.

Let me know how these tips works for you in the comments below.

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