• What is NaNoWriMo? NaNoWriMo – or National Novel Writing Month – is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to creative writing. On November 1, participants begin working towards the goal of writing a 50,000-word novel by 11:59 PM on November 30. (x)
  • Why should I participate in NaNoWriMo? First and foremost because it’s fun! Maybe you’ve considered writing a novel in the past, but have never gotten around to it, or perhaps you have a fantastic idea or a great character but aren’t quite sure what to do with them. Here’s your chance! Grab it with both hands and hold on tight because this writing ride is a whirlwind.
  • During October and November the official forums come alive with thousands of writers brimming with amazing thoughts and insights, and there is a real sense of creative community. What better chance would you have to vent and brainstorm and cultivate your collection of ideas?
  • NaNoWriMo values enthusiasm, determination, and a deadline, and is for anyone who has ever thought about writing a novel. (x)

So you’ve decided you’re going to do it — you’re going to participate, you’re going to try your very best to write those 50,000 words… what next? How do you prepare for such a challenge? Well, here are some handy tips and links to guide you on your way:


  • Every novel begins with an idea, even something as simple as a single word. Try jotting down a few. Soon you’ll start to notice common reoccurrences in the types of words you choose.
  • Peruse places like Tumblr, DeviantArt and Pinterest. Find things that catch your eye and save them.
  • Go out into the world, or lose yourself in a fictional one. Take notice of details, quirks, everything that’s layered together to create a rich environment. Pull inspiration from what you see or read and translate it into something all your own.
  • Suzanne Collins was switching back and forth between Survivor and the news when she thought of the Hunger Games, J.K Rowling was on a train when Harry Potter and his story wandered into her head — it’s amazing how inspiration can just pop out of nowhere when given the chance. Let yourself daydream, and ponder and research to your heart’s content.
  • Get a large piece of paper and pretend like you’re in grade five all over again — write your number 1 idea in the center and branch off from it with other thoughts, plot points, characters, details et cetera.
  • Alternatively you could buy a bunch of post-it notes in varying colours and clear a space where you can stick them. Assign a colour for each of the following: plot points, characters, relationships, details, conflicts, resolutions. You could also use coloured card or plain paper + coloured pens/pencils.
  • Spend a day or two focusing solely on your main character. Get to know them. Ask yourself how they would react to certain situations, what they like, what they dislike, why they do or don’t. Give them flaws, quirks, a layered personality.

Here are some handy links that may also help:


Say you’ve just spent ages following the advice above, but now you’ve found yourself with more than one great idea, how do you choose? Ask yourself:

  • What sparks the most excitement?
  • What interests you more?
  • If both your ideas were turned into fully fleshed out novels and you saw them on a shelf in a store, which would you be more likely to want to read?
  • Which one would you be the most upset about not getting the chance to write?


There is no one single, set way to outline your novel. It’s also important to remember that planning is not for everyone; some people like to fly by the seat of their pants and simply go with whatever happens and that’s perfectly okay. But without at least a very basic outline, particularly during NaNoWriMo, you may find yourself incredibly stuck and unsure about a). what happens next or b). how to write yourself out of the situation you’ve found yourself in, which could lead to you falling behind or missing days’ worth of valuable writing time while you try and figure out what to do. How do I go about outlining, you ask? Here are some great links that will help you do so with ease:


So you’ve thought of your idea, you created your characters and have an outline. But you’re writing a novel about elves in a mystical place that doesn’t even exist, or a futuristic world where supernatural creatures and technology have taken over, or perhaps something entirely in the past, and you have no idea how to make it all believable. The NaNoWriMo forums are a fanastic place for your genre and detail needs:

If there isn’t already a thread that pertains to your specific needs don’t be afraid to make one! You should definitely also:

  • Go to the library and source books that contain the knowledge you need. Don’t be afraid to ask a librarian for their help.
  • Use Google, which seems like a rather simple answer but there is so much information out there just waiting to be found.
  • Write down the facts that you discover and need and be sure to jot down how they are relevant to your novel.


Your novel is one thing, you are another (though certainly the two get tangled together). 

  • Look at what you have planned during November and figure out which days you might find it difficult to find free time due to prior commitments and find a place to slot writing in, even if it means you end up writing during breakfast.
  • Become acquainted with the official forums and spend some time in the nanowrimo tag here on Tumblr. Get to know your fellow writers!
  • Find someone (preferably someone also participating in NaNoWriMo) who you can rant to, share ideas with; someone who you can ask to check in on you and see how you’re going with your writing goal of the day and vice versa.


  • Avoid the temptation of going back and re-reading and editing your work, this is supposed to be a first draft and first drafts are unavoidably messy.
  • Take care of yourself. Try and eat properly, get some exercise (during NaNoWriMo that walk to the fridge for writer’s fuel totally counts), hang out with your friends and family, enjoy life.
  • Remember that NaNoWriMo is supposed to be fun, don’t pressure yourself too much.
  • If you’re having trouble reaching the daily word count goal, split it into chunks: write 500 words here, 500 there, another 667 at another point in the day.
  • If you find yourself running out of motivation here are some great (if I do say so myself) tips.
  • Read some inspirational quotes to keep you going (or get you started).


If you’re not too busy getting inspired, brainstorming, planning or any of that good stuff why not give Inktype’s NaNoWriMo preparation challenge a go? 

About C.A. Jacobs

Just another crazy person, masquerading as a writer.
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