The Lie That NaNoWriMo Has Perpetrated for 15 Years

If you’ve participated in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) before, you’ve fallen victim to the lie that NaNoWriMo has had going for a decade and a half now. Your potential novel has fallen victim to it.

Since the beginning, NaNoWriMo has prided itself as a novel-writing month. In just 30 days, you can write a 50,000-word novel.

Hundreds of thousands of writers all around the world participate every year. And the writers who cross the NaNo finish line are duped into thinking that they just wrote the draft of a novel.

This lie has been going on for far too long. It must stop.

The NaNoWriMo Lie

The lie that’s being sold to writers all over the world, is that they are, in fact, writing a novel during NaNoWriMo. Unfortunately, that’s not the case at all.

What most writers are writing during NaNoWriMo is a story.

It could be part of a story; it could be a few stories that are mushed together, in need of separation. It could simply be an exploration of a novel idea seed (or concept).

But it’s certainly not a novel.

No, novels have structure. They have purpose, a mission. They have a beginning, middle and end that all ties together in a nice little package.

NaNoWriMo churns out 50,000-words worth of notes on a story that you may want to write as a novel someday. But that day is not NaNoWriMo.

Ask a writer who has participated in NaNo what happened to the “novel” she wrote. Nine times out of 10 it’s in a drawer somewhere collecting dust. (Maybe they should change the name to NaStoWriMo–National Story Writing Month.)

That’s because there’s a lot more to writing a novel than the writing part.

How To Truly “Win” NaNoWriMo

The only way a writer can attempt NaNoWriMo and actually come out at the end of the 30 days with the draft of a novel, is if she does some serious story planning ahead of time. And that’s totally allowed, based on NaNo rules.

You’re allowed to do all the planning, character creating and note-taking that you want to before NaNo starts. The only thing you’re not allowed to do is do the actual writing.

You have to wait ’til November 1 to start on that.

If you want this to be your best NaNoWriMo ever–an epic year where you actually come out of NaNo with the draft of a novel–you must commit yourself to finding your story (and planning it!) now. So when November 1 rolls around, you know exactly what your story is about, who the hero is, what the journey entails and how everyone is getting from page one to “the end.”

Here are some story planning resources to get you started:

Don’t let the opportunity to do some major NaNo prep pass you by. Take the next few weeks of October to really dig in and plan out the story you’re going to write in November. That way you can walk away with the draft of an actual novel. Since you’re putting in all that time and effort.

Regardless of What You Write, NaNoWriMo Still Rocks

While NaNoWriMo isn’t quite what its name suggests, it’s still an awesome annual event, for three reasons:

  1. It gets you started–the hardest part of writing is getting started. NaNo is brilliant for getting you started on your writing.
  2. It creates community around writing–writing is often a lonely calling, so it’s nice that NaNo month (aka: November) brings writers together, both online and in your local community.
  3. It gets writers off their asses (or on their asses, rather) and writing–NaNo is a great motivator for finding time to write every day, and churning out a really cool story idea that you can turn into a novel.

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How do you feel about NaNo? If you’ve competed before, what did you do with the 50,000 words you wrote? 


Join the Idea to Draft Story Intensive

National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) 2013 is just around the corner. Before you know it, writers everywhere will buckle down and pump out 50,000-word novels in 30 days.

Do you want to be one of them this year?

Then you need to start thinking about your story now. Right now. So you can have a plan come November 1.

Having A Plan

When you have a plan for your novel (rather than sitting down and just writing to see what happens), you’ll come out with a much stronger draft than you will without a plan. A draft that’s a polish away from being publishable.

Approaching NaNoWriMo without a plan guarantees you’ll have to write another complete draft. That’s because you’ll still be searching for your story, instead of coming to the table November 1 with a story already found and figured out.

Plus when you have a plan, you’re so much more likely to actually finish NaNoWriMo. Without a plan, you may just quit a little while in. Where’s the fun in that?

NaNoWriMo Road Map Workshop

That’s why I’ve decided to offer the third-annual NaNoWriMo Road Map Workshop!

Last year at this time I helped more than 22 writers create a Road Map for the novels they wanted to write during NaNoWriMo. We worked through their story milestones, characters and the scenes that needed to be there.

What they came out with were Road Maps that lead them from the beginning of their stories all the way to the end.

No more guessing. They knew exactly what to write and where to write it.

“With the Story Road Map workshop, I was able to walk through the different phases of my novel and be ready to write when November 1st rolled around. I hit the 50,000-word mark with three days to spare and ended up writing close to 60,000 words before writing THE END. If you’re looking for someone to help you put some structure to your thoughts, I would highly recommend Jennifer’s Story Road Map workshop.”–Kerry, 2011 workshop student

And now you can too, by joining my NaNoWriMo Road Map Workshop. Don’t waste your time during NaNo this year. Go in with a detailed road map that will tell you exactly what to write and when.

>> Find out more and sign up for the workshop here

Take NaNoWriMo as a serious opportunity to finally fulfill your dream of writing a novel. Come to the challenge November 1 with a plan.


Prepping For A Badass NaNoWriMo Experience

National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is around the corner (I know, I can’t believe it either). If you want to cross the 50,000-word finish line, you need to put your best foot forward.

Sure, you could just sit down on November 1 and see what happens, but that’s a total waste of your time.

Rather than waste 30 days writing a draft you’ll toss in a drawer, never to see the light of day again, why not take NaNoWriMo seriously this year? You have plenty of time.

As you may already know, I am hugely involved in getting writers ready for NaNoWriMo, and then keeping them motivated to finish. And I’ve created a three-step process for having a badass NaNoWriMo experience.

The three steps are:

  1. Plan
  2. Prep
  3. Motivate

Note: this process isn’t for the faint of heart. It’s for writers who are serious about coming out of NaNoWriMo with a 50,000-word draft that is a polish away from being publishable.

1. Plan

If you want a draft that you can actually polish up and then publish, you have to plan your NaNoWriMo story before you write it. That’s the only way you’ll come out the other side with something you can use.

Seat-of-your-pants writing will get you nothing but a full draft rewrite. And that’s a waste of your precious time.

When you plan your story ahead of time, when you know what your structure looks like and who your characters are, you will be far ahead of the game.

Best of all, planning isn’t against the NaNoWriMo rules. All it states is you can’t write any of the words beforehand, but planning is totally allowed.

Because I’m such a huge proponent of being efficient with your writing time and planning ahead, I’m running my third-annual NaNoWriMo Road Map virtual workshop.

>> Learn More About the NaNoWriMo Road Map workshop 

2. Prep

The week before NaNoWriMo, you’ll want to shift into step two of the process, which is prepping.

Prepping is not related to the story you’ll be writing, but to the actual preparation to do the writing. Prep includes:

  • Clearing your schedule–NaNoWriMo is a crazy, but fun time of year. If you’re in for the ride, you gotta be in for the ride. That means leaving your schedule open to write your 1.667 words each day during November.
  • Building a NaNoWriMo Survival Kit–there are certain things you’ll need in order to survive doing that much writing in 30 days.
  • Finishing up your plans–take the final week of the month of October to finish up your story plans. You don’t want to waste any time during November planning.
  • Getting support–if you’re going to survive NaNo, you need someone to keep you accountable (and sane) during the process. A friend, a writer’s group or even an online NaNo group can be of service in this way.

3. Motivate

After you’re prepped, the last step is to find a way to motivate yourself to stick with this challenge. Staying motivated for the whole 30 days is not an easy task. There are so many distractions and fears to try pulling you away from the writing process.

That’s why I’ve launched my fourth-annual 30 Days of NaNo Tips emails. Every day during the month of November you’ll receive an inspiring and motivational tip to help you write your word count for the day.

>> Sign Up to Receive 30 Days of NaNo Tips

With this three-step process, there’s no way you won’t have a badass NaNoWriMo experience.

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How do you prep for NaNoWriMo?