One of our longtime readers would like to participate in NanoWrimo. What is NanoWrimo?
NanoWrimo is a way to accomplish something most people will never do in their lifetime – to complete a novel. People do this for different reasons. Some want to try writing, others are attracted to the challenge, or want to be part of a community, or, like Erin, are doing a fun thing with their friends and family. If you are an established writer, NanoWrimo can help you break through a writing block, overcome and inner critic, or try out something new. It’s a wonderful thing.
NanoWrimo is not about publication. The participants are writing as fast as they can. It’s not about quality; it’s about quantity and speed. One of my friends used to refer to her NanoWrimo efforts as word vomit. That’s about right. Before word vomit can be published, it will most likely need a heavy rewrite.
And that’s the beauty of NanoWrimo. It’s pressure-free fun. Give yourself permission to write crap. Stop worrying if it’s good. Just go forward.
Erin’s family and friends are doing NanoWrimo and she would like to participate, but she is not sure where to start.
I’m going to try to do NaNoWriMo this year in solidarity with my (much more creative) husband and daughter. And I’m SO STUCK with what the plot can even be, much less the actual writing. I thought of writing to HA and asking them for advice but I’m pretty sure a lot of it is just either you have the gift or not, like….composers who say songs just come to them etc.Erin
The trick to writing fast is to do a lot of thinking in advance.
So we’re going to help Erin with her plot and thinking. If you would like to follow along, here is the list of questions that might be helpful if you are thinking of writing a novel with a fantastic element.
- What am I good at? What do I know a lot about?
What do you do for a living? What is your area of expertise? Do you know a lot about horses, model planes, knitting? Do you leave and breathe football or craft beer? NanoWrimo requires writing as fast as you can, so it helps if you don’t have to do research along the way.
2. What is the plot type of my novel? What kind of story do I want to write? We know that there will be a fantastic element. Now what else?
- a mystery – a crime has been committed and we don’t know who did it; the protagonist of the novel is or isn’t not a member of law enforcement
- a police procedural – a crime has been committed, we might or might not know who did it, but we need to prove it beyond the reasonable doubt; the protagonist of the novel is a member of law enforcement
- a thriller – a crime is has been committed; we know who did it; and it’s all about the psychological maneuvering and outwitting the enemy
- a romance – there is a love story and it’s all about the couple getting together and living happily ever after
- romantic elements – there might be a couple; there is definitely sexual tension between some characters, but it’s not the center of the story
- a heroic fantasy – a group of heroes is standing up to the larger force
- personal growth – a story of someone starting at rock bottom and climbing their way to dizzying heights
- a revenge fantasy – someone has been wrong and now they will deliver justice
- A survival story – someone is a victim of circumstance and is just trying to survive against overwhelming odds.
- a quest – a catastrophe will occur unless a specific goal is obtained or a mission is successful.
Rocky and Cinderella are both stories of personal growth. Star Wars and Firefly series are both heroic fantasies. Titanic and Jurassic Park are both survival stories.
Most stories combine these elements. Let’s say we have a little girl who has been kidnapped and a washed up alcoholic detective who is assigned this case. It is a police procedural, a personal growth story, and a quest.
Don’t get hung up on trying to categorize things. Look at it as more of a guide to the type of story you would like to read. If you like reading it, chances are you might like writing it.
3. What kind of magic do I like to read about? Does everyone in the world know that magic exists, do some people know, or is it a big secret and only those who use it know?
4. What kind of magic creatures do I like and why? Do I like a particular mythology or do I like making stuff up? What’s more appealing, typical urban fantasy werewolves or people cursed with shapeshifting abilities depending on what constellation they were born under?
5. How much gore and darkness do I like in my stories?
You don’t have to write down answers. Just think about it for a day or two.
Next, we’ll start working on worldbuilding.
And I love how you are helping readers achieve
Kat M. says
Oh, woot. Thank you. I’ve never done a NaNoWriMo, but I might, this year.
So excited! I’ve always been less drawn to creative writing (prefer to be a consumer of the amazing books out there – like IA books <3), but the pressure for quality is definitely a writing block for me in any form of writing. Looking forward to following along and seeing the writing/planning process broken down into steps!
Best of luck to anyone doing NanoWrimo or any other types of writing!!
*cries in grad school apps*
Best of luck on your grad school apps!! I’m crying in job apps myself :’) so I definitely feel the pain hahahaha
Oh no! You can do it!! I hope you’re able to find a workplace that makes you happy 🙂
Thank you for the well wishes!!
Lynn Thompson says
Thank you, Ilona Andrews for the educational post.
Excellent questions. I will have to ponder / think about for awhile.
Sometimes I take a story I read or a movie I saw part of or a song I heard on the radio and I imagine what I would do if I was a fly on the wall while I am mowing grass or plowing field or waiting for Mother at doctors offices. What if questions ???? but I don’t write for others. Thought provoking questions. Thank you.
Good luck to them on this challenge! It sounds exciting and daunting. I wonder if they will have a period of silence once the challenge is complete, after having written so much in a short period of time. ☺
And this is awesome that you all are reaching out to help them! I love the positive attitude of this blog!
Heather Langston says
Whoot! It is awesome that you support your fans and encourage participation in NaNoWriMo! I’ve been participating for several years now and I learn something new every time. I’ve evolved from writing on the fly to actually spending the month prior planning my story-and then my main character ends up going completely off the rails. But that’s totally all right! NaNo is all about enjoying the experience. I’m planning a follow up book to the one I wrote last year- as long as I finish editing the first one this month (yes, I procrastinate). Good luck to anyone participating!!If you’re looking for a writing buddy, I’m Firebear369! on the NaNoWriMo page.
I sent you an invitation. My name is Fan of Kate!
Linzi D says
I’ve sent you an invite too, I’m LinziD over there too 🙂
Patricia Schlorke says
Word vomit is spot on. 🙂
Reminds me of the days of dissertation writing while finishing up my coursework and being a teaching assistant. The requirement of my dissertation was just a basic framework like it had to be in public health and heavy on the department you’re in at the time. Otherwise, it was up the person writing it and his or her dissertation advisor.
Gaëlle from France says
You would have been such an amazing teacher !! You have a way to explain things that everything becomes so clear … I’m the exact opposite, I complicate everything and nobody understands a thing. I will leave the writing to the gifted ones, and will continue to keep stories in my head for when I can’t fall asleep…
Great advice as usual from HA <3 Happy Monday!
NaNo can be a great thing and I've done it a couple times, but just be careful to look after yourself during it.
I like Chris Brecheen's blog post about it: http://www.chrisbrecheen.com/2012/10/nanowrimo-good-bad-and-really-really_1.html
Debbie B says
To soften the barf quotient, I looked up average words in sentence, and result at top of page offered up average number of words in a paragraph. Did a calculation of 50,000 words to 30 days,and then entered say 7 for hours; 238, because 1667(rounded) seemed so daunting. That cranking out 238 words an hour, seems more doable. Not that I’m diminishing anyone’s work, just trying to lessen the task for a person so overwhelmed.
238 seems like a lot of words to me. ????Nice of you to make it a smaller number.
238 words is just under 1 page typed (about 250-300 words).
A page an hour’s not so bad. ????
Erin D says
This is amazing. I’m so grateful to this community and, of course, Ilona and Gordon for this help. Mod R reached out to me on Ilona’s side with some questions and answering those really helped with the world building. It’s amazing how much detail i now know about the world my characters inhabit. I guess that will come in the next post! Someone said above that Ilona would be a great teacher and i suspect that is true.
I am not a writer but I love this post & look forward to the next installment.
Lee Anne says
Thank you …very informative and interesting!
I really like this post. I’ve always thought of myself as a reader, not a writer (except when it comes to work, when I smash out reports, but that’s non-fiction, mostly…). However you communicate the basics so clearly, it almost inspires even me to pick up a pen!
+1 Same on all points!
Love this! A workshop with House Andrews! I’ve never written more than an essay (of varying lengths) because I get so caught up in the details I get lost, see only the flaws and illogical passages, and throw in the towel. I think I’ll eavesdrop on this and maybe dabble a bit again. Thanks for the tutorial.
Moderator R says
Slight tangent, but can confirm, a workshop with House A is an awesome experience! I attended the virtual one they did in 2019 with Arizona State U and I consult the notes I took all the time. If you ever get the chance and they do one again, try to sign up 🙂
Thanks for the share! I’ll be regretting my friend who writes as as hobby to this post!
Donna A says
I always see nanowrimo being talked about but don’t know much about it other than people write alot in November.
I saw someone mention a pen-name and a website in the comments, is that how it’s done then? A sort of mega collection of people pooling journal entries each day that you can all look at? What about if people just write random stuff, like a poem one day, a bit of stream of consciousness the next or a mish mash of sentences instead of sequential storytelling? Or even factual observations? You know what, I’ve intrigued myself, I’m going to Google ????
Thanks! What an interesting concept!
“people cursed with shapeshifting abilities depending on what constellation they were born under”
This reminds me of “The Witch and the Bull” on Webtoon, a man gets cursed and transform into a bull, he’s a Taurus, and the witche’s magic has to do with constellations.
AND the art is beautiful!
It’s such a pretty series!!
Meagan P says
I love you.
Thank you Erin for reaching out (something I would never do or have the courage to do) and thank you HA for the timely post! It couldn’t have come at a better time.
I am excited to see the next installment of this! I have done NaNo a couple of times. I have edited and printed myself a bound copy of each story, and although they would all require massive re-writes before I would share them with anyone else (they live in a hidden section of one of my bookcases for this reason), the printed versions serve as a nice souvenir for myself. I have a hard time getting a full plot down on paper, so my printed copies remind me that I CAN finish the story. Even if it’s utter crap, the whole storyline is there.
Yay! This was fun! Thank you! My friend and I have considered trying NaNoWriMo the last few years, but never have. Maybe this year! 😉
Do it! If you’ve been thinking about it for years then it’s clearly something that intrigues you. Might as well give it a try!
Andrea Seal says
Thank you for this! You are such a wonderful fount of knowledge.
Good luck to Erin and her family on this project! I love how early you are starting to get everyone prepped. I always forget about it and most places don’t mention it until Nov. 1.
Inktober is also a cool month long project. I usually end up as a spectator for these type of things.
Other Barbara says
When I first saw Star Wars, I thought it was a version of the Arthur legend, except he managed to save his future by not having sex with his (unknown to him) sister.
The hidden child of the king. The secret instructor. The triumphant battle.
Maybe there are only a few human stories, and we could label each element onto sets of dice and roll out a plot.
Good luck to all the writers for this project!! ????????????️????
Cheering from the sidelines!!
The first Elric novel (which was also chronologically last) was written over a weekend after a messy breakup. drugs and alcohol may have been involved.
This is awesome. I write field reports and project descriptions so the content tends to build itself based on what the building has to say. To me, the walls talk and buildings dance (you just can’t see it). I got into IA through the Innkeeper series – probably because of the house ????. i couldn’t imagine writing a novel – i don’t think I’d be able to keep track. I’m a start in the middle and go back to the beginning and end type of gal.
If you enjoy sentient buildings, Robin D. Owens has a series that not only has houses that are sentient, but magic and talking animals, mostly cats, on a colonized planet called Celta.
I’m so pumped to think through this! I haven’t been really tempted to do NaNoWriMo before, but after doing some earlier this year, maybe it would be fun!
How wonderful you are to help with this! It’s so amazing to see writing broken down into steps like this. Any thoughts about the framework around a story that is post HEA and about the cozy aspects of life? For example, I would love stories about Kate, Curran, and Conlan after the fight with Neig. Is it possible to do the world building to draw people in without first putting the characters through massive challenges? I would love more stories by any author with engaging characters and worlds without life and death preludes. Or post challenges and day to day life.
Melisa M. says
You guys are so wonderful to your fans! I am so excited to follow all the posts about this!!!! I’ve always wanted to write something for fun. Thank you!
I love NaNoWriMo. And yes, every project of mine has required a massive overhaul (some are still on the way, way, way, way back burner of priorities). But it’s so much fun because you get to start with a complete clean slate, and all you need are a few “What if…?” questions to get you started.
Daydreaming is key!
Amy R says
House Andrews your advice is, as always, amazing and welcome. If you ever choose to write a novel writing how-to guide I will definitely be buying it!
Huge +1 to this!
Thank you, House Andrews, that helps a lot!
Looking forward the next blogs.
Eeeeeeeks!!! I’ll watch on for this one and consider for next year ????????????
This looks like a wonderful thing that I never knew existed. Go all wonderful authors-to-be! *brings out pom poms and starts cheering!*
Jessie Caldwell says
These are really great questions to get us started! I always start NaNoWriMo with the best intentions… and then never get past 3k words or so. Hopefully one year I’ll get there!
Sorry to go off topic, and I hate to appear clueless (but unfortunately I am in this regard), but I have a quick question concerning the weaponry in your novels: I’m currently re-reading Sapphire Flames, and I don’t know if I’m the only one, but I often find it frustrating trying to read the names and descriptions of weaponry, mostly guns, as I’m not familiar with them. I just wanted to ask how I should read phrases dealing with weaponry? Example: Get in there before she puts a .50 round between his eyes.(a 50 round, a point 50 round, a 50 caliber round?) ; Smith & Wesson 460XVR revolver (460XVR, what does XVR mean?) ; nine guns, including a BFR (BFR, what does it mean?), etc.
Moderator R says
I googled these for you ????:
XVR stands for Xtreme Velocity Revolver.
BFR is Big Frame Revolver.
A .50 round is referred to as “a fifty round” by most.
Search engines are a treasure trove for this info but I know reader types who just skip over the technical details in fight scenes and substitute with “big guns are had by all” hehe. Ofc there are also those who live for it.
I hope this helps ????
I definitely used a different word for that “F” when I read through ????
Thank you, Mod R!
Laura Martinez says
OMG, thank you very much. I’ve been doing a lot of reading and writing, trying to figure things out. This definitely helps.
This… is exactly the kind of challenge that I need!
Lorrie Thompson says
Wow…it is so amazing that you are willing to do this! I have a friend who did NanoWrimo several years back and ended up with a published book (600 Hours of Edgar) and a writing career.
I’ve always wanted to give it a try…maybe this is the year.
This is awesome! (In the valley girl sense not the literal, although perhaps a little) I’ve wanted to do NaNoWriMo for a few years now but always get overwhelmed on where to start and how to approach it, then abandon the attempt. This framework is so helpful, I feel like I could actually do it this year.
I am longtime NaNoWriMo participant, and I wish I could finish one of my many novels! I’m terrible at endings, and 50k is a very short novel. One thing I’m using this year is the Scribe Forge World Building Blueprint, which helps you think through the kinds of questions above. I’m hoping to do some planning ahead of time, because I’m generally a pantser (I write by the seat of my pants, no planning, just writing!) Also, word sprints on NaNo twitter are very helpful — they give you a start and end and a community all writing like crazy at the same time! I started doing NaNo because of a mention on this blog, and my user name is Fan of Kate if anyone wants to friend me!
I stumbled across these ‘fantasy landscapes’ today. The images are generated by an artificial intelligence (AI) program so there’s no real-world equivalent location: https://bit.ly/fantastyscapes
I’ve bookmarked a few of them for that ‘someday’ when I actually try to write a story set in some other world.
This sounds like challenging good fun
Write what you know check
Now thing up a story…ok…
Some fantastic elements?
Its getting harder….
Moderator R says
Just to clarify here, the fantasy element is specific to helping out Erin. You can write realism or memoirs etc with NaNoWriMo ????
Graziella Li-Ship says
Love the way you break open the world of editing & publishing to make it .ore accessible (not same as easy as in emulating you & your success) but great to see thought processes & what’s involved. Used to wonder if could write a book so if quality not necessary for NaNoWriMo, one way to attempt it
Sarah P says
Thanks for posting this! I’ve signed up for nanowrimo, bought the scrivenor software, and just dithered 🙂
I wanted to do NaNo for a few years and never knew where to start. Thank you for taking this time out for your readers. We appreciate you.
I love this post! I was discouraged in a previous post that I interpreted that HA’s posture on writers (talent) is either you have it or you don’t. But this is extremely helpful and the most encouraging post on writing that I’ve seen from HA: thank you!!
Ariel Bowers says
This is awesome! I’ve always wanted to do this and now I have a way to plan. Thanks HA and the BDH.
I’ve been telling my students to not sweat writing rough drafts for years- I always tell them to look at their RD’s as word vomit- you spew it all out there on the page, and when you’re all finished, you go back and clean it up. I love that I am not the only one out there to think of this analogy;)
Any words of wisdom in terms of how to start a story? I read an article a while back about how the late great Rachel Caine caught her writing bug when a teacher gave the class a first sentence to spin off of and set them loose. Starting is always the hardest for me…the vast white blanket of nothing is a little intimidating… any tips are always amazing;) Thank you for planting the seed!
This is a beautiful way for this community to come together. Much love and good wishes for you Erin!
Shera (Book Whispers) says
Thanks for this! I’ve been flirting with the idea of NanoWrimo and those questions really got me in a new direction that I like.
Nicki Garvey says
What kind of book is Black Beauty?
Moderator R says
Black Beauty is considered a fictional animal autobiography, and is one of the first in this genre inside the wider children lit spectrum.
I hope this helps ????
Such fun to think through this with your direction. Thanks for the treat! An old roommate introduced me to NaNoWriMo, participating every year. I have zero interest in for-others writing (I am on the “if it’s not a burning passion bubbling out of my pores, so I must write! Then don’t!” side of the conversation!) but it is a treat to think through these ideas as a fun exercise!
Completely unrelated, but I don’t think there is a recent relevant post: why does Christopher, former Golden Legatus, know the formula and how to produce panacea?
so, interesting! I had never heard of NanoWrimo. Looking forward to following this
Hey, Erin – how old is your daughter? If she’s between 12 and 16, get Brave the Page – a book published by National Novel Writing Month to help kids write for NaNoWriMo. I’m going through it with sixteen kids in October, and then we’re all writing everyday in November to try and hit 50,000 words.
Your daughter can read it, get some great advice, and you can follow along. https://www.amazon.com/Brave-National-Novel-Writing-Month/dp/0451480295/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=brave+the+page&qid=1631158871&sr=8-1
Skylar perry says
This is really helpful. Thank you so much for taking the time to write this!
Not a writer but I really enjoy reading your posts about writing and the business of writing. So fascinating. Gives me a peak into another world. Thanks.