By: Emily Lawrence

Founded in 1999, the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is a worldwide event where authors everywhere work to write a minimum of 2,000 words between November 1st and 30th, leaving them with a first draft that is over 50,000 words (or at least the first 50,000 words of your first draft!).  It’s free to join. You can go to their website ( and create an account, where you will announce your project, find local participating writers, hear pep talks from those who have come before, and join Camp NaNoWriMo were you can track your writing progress starting in the month of July.

There are a few keys to doing well in NaNoWriMo.

First, write a story you’re passionate about, or at the very least enjoy. You’ll have a harder time coming up with 2,000 words a day if you’re not interested in what your own subject matter! I’m going to write Story #2 in my superhero trilogy. The first book is still in draft three, but why not push ahead and see what happens in book two? This story is the one I’m in love with the most.

Second, participate in Preptober (which, ironically, begins in September). The course outline for 2020 appears as follows:

  1. Develop a Story Idea (September 13 – 19)
  2. Create Complex Characters (September 20 – 26)
  3. Construct a Detailed Plot or Outline (September 27 – October 3)
  4. Build a Strong World (October 4 – 10)
  5. Organize Your Life for Writing! (October 11 – 17)
  6. Find and Manage Your Time (October 18 – 24)

Each section comes with a magnitude of resources, including two plot generators to get your creative juices flowing. There’s also a Google Form handout you can use. I’ve been filling it out and am wondering why this even and all of its resources for creating stories were never brought up in my creative writing classes before!

Third, don’t be afraid to write garbage. ‘Tis the mantra of every creative writing instructor I’ve had – death by a thousand cuts. I’ve written two stories, one on draft twenty-four with 155,612 words and the other, only on the second draft, with 128,786 words. I cannot express to you how utterly awful those first drafts are. The biggest issue with my first story is that I did a lot of those drafts while in middle- and then high-school. You can imagine the cringe. But if I didn’t start with garbage, I would never have been able to start really sculpting the good story hiding underneath. Playing around with garbage drafts is a lot of fun.

Fourth, do it with someone. Even if no one you know is doing it, or are even writers, you can find a writing community through the NaNoWriMo website. For many of us, we can’t really stick to something like this without a little community support and encouragement. I am doing NaNoWriMo with my husband, who is writing a story about his unique take on vampires.

And even if you can’t pump out 2,000 words every single day in November, don’t worry – there is no grand prize beyond having something to start with and we all have crazy, busy lives that like to get in the way. But, as always, what’s important is the effort you put in.

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