NaNoWriMo Prep :: Get Ready to Write Your Novel


Five years ago, I made my first attempt to write a novel during the National Novel Writing Month challenge and failed. I failed again the following year. The year that I least expected to complete the challenge, because of how busy my life had gotten, was the year I managed to win my first challenge and write a novel. 

November is National Novel Writing Month, better known as NaNoWriMo. For thirty days, NaNoWriMo writers (Wrimos) of all levels all over the world attempt to write a 50,000-word novel within 30 days. It’s a stressful yet fun month full of creativity and community. The year I won my first challenge is also the year I decided to take part in NaNoWriMo Prep 101.

NaNoWriMo Prep 101 kicks off in September and lasts six weeks. By the end of NaNoWriMo Prep, Wrimos will have what they need to get started, and hopefully finish, the NaNoWriMo Challenge.

Each week of NaNoWriMo focuses on a preparation step:

  1. Develop a Story Idea
  2. Create Complex Characters
  3. Construct a Detailed Plot or Outline
  4. Build Strong World
  5. Organize Your Life for Writing
  6. Find and Manage Your Time 

NaNoWriMo Prep was a game-changer for me! The first four steps helped me create a solid foundation for my novel writing. The writer’s block that seized me my first two years was staved off my third year by a solid story outline. The last two steps made it possible to write in between work, chasing after my two-year-old, and nursing my newborn. 

Along with NaNoWriMo Prep 101, another valuable resource was the Wrimo community. Columbia has an active and diverse Wrimo community known as the Cola WriMos. Prior to the pandemic, they held monthly in-person meetings, workshops, and meetups during NaNoWriMo. Currently, they host both online and in-person events. Their Facebook group keeps members up-to-date on events and stays active sharing tips, articles, and funny memes.

My first two attempts at NaNoWriMo were solo affairs. I attended the kick-off events and maybe a prep event or two. Then it would be a whole year until I reunited with fellow Wrimos. Armed with nothing but excitement and a story idea in year one, I managed to write a mere 542 words before I fell off the challenge. Year two boasted over 1,000 words before I lost momentum. Year three was the year I got more involved with Cola Wrimos. 

My winning year was the year that I not only attended the kick-off event but by the time it rolled around, I had notes and outlines. Along with the time I carved out at home, I managed to attend a few of the write-in meetings where Wrimos gather to write, motivate, and hang out. The write-ins not only provided a quieter spot to write but a space to exist as the person I am outside of my household responsibilities. Your fellow Wrimos also serve as your unofficial accountability partners as word count is a hot topic at write-ins.

On November 24, 2019, I finished the NaNoWriMo challenge with 50,281 words. It’s going on three years, and I’m starting to get the creative itch that started me on my NaNoWriMo journey. I may start a new novel this year or become a NaNo rebel and do something different this November. Either way, I know that success is in preparation.

So if writing a novel is on your bucket list, I suggest giving the National Novel Writing Month Challenge a try. Admittedly, it may seem daunting coming up with a 50,000-word novel during the holiday season when you have work, children, and never-ending loads of laundry and dishes. With preparation and a great community of local and international writers, you can realize that dream sooner than you think. 

Do you participate in National Novel Writing Month? Share your experience in the comments!

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Shacoya is a devoted wife, mother of an Âûsome son (‘16) and vivacious daughter (‘19), and caretaker of her loving mother. Columbia became her home after surviving sunburn and mosquito bites to meet and fall in love with her husband while they were working at the Riverbanks Zoo gift shop. Her love of writing began when she won the Young Author’s Award in the fourth grade and culminated in her writing a 50,000+ word novel in 30 days for the annual National Novel Writing Month challenge, NaNoWriMo, in 2019. Along with writing, Shacoya also enjoys the art of fake 'n bakin’ (making premade ingredients taste like homemade), developing the skill of actually using the pins on her Pinterest boards, fangirling Richland Library, window shopping on Etsy, and learning about ways to be a better human being.


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