Thoughts on preparing for Nanowrimo from participant LadyofPangaea

Hi there. I’m Jen, a fellow blogger and a friend of Dianna. I’m here because she asked me to do a guest blog on preparing for the awesome madness that is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo or NaNo as I will be referring to it from here on out). So, here it is!

NaNo is a cauldron of opposing forces. It is thrilling yet daunting; exciting yet terrifying; liberating yet maddening. It is all of these things and more, and it is for this reason, it is important that you leave the starting gate prepared. It is impossible to be prepared for everything, and I am not here to tell you it is going to be easy; I’m just here to tell you what I have experienced.

First off, you need an idea. It doesn’t have to be a good idea, but you need something to start with. Let this idea simmer for a bit and allow all the flavours to seep out. Allow it to flourish and take you to the places it needs to go to stay alive. Get to know this idea, because this idea is going to (hopefully) stay with you for 30 days (or more). Next you need a main character. Like I stated with the idea, it doesn’t have to be a good main character at first, just a starting point. A name will do. So will a gender. Let this character speak to you, let him or her take you to their brightest and darkest places; let them tell you what their story is. And you need to listen to this person, because, like your idea, this character is going to be with you for a whole month (or longer should you choose to continue past November). I find it easier to write when I let my characters guide me because they know their world better than I do; after all, they live in that world. That being said, it’s a good thing to start with what you know. Even big-time writers do it. Stephen King sets many of his novels in Bangor, Maine. Why? Bangor is a city he knows well – or at least he should since he lives there. There is nothing wrong with placing your novel in your hometown or a neighbouring city. Is there a city you visit frequently? Place your novel there. This same reasoning can go for your characters, too. Does your main character have an older brother? What about an older sister? Do you? Then feel free to base that older sibling on your own. There is nothing wrong with it. And once the novel has been started, thrust your character into a situation they don’t want to be in. Does your character always have to be in control? Throw him into a situation where he doesn’t have it anymore. Is your character a follower? Toss her into a situation where she has to become a leader. Most importantly, have fun with your main character; again, you’re with them for a month.

Okay, so now you’ve established your idea, your character and, hopefully, your setting. Now, you need a plot. This is the time to brainstorm and jot down everything that comes to your head. Everything. Even if it seems really silly or stupid, because in writing, there is no such thing as a stupid idea. Why? Because that so called, “stupid idea” could be the idea that sells your story. Once you have brainstormed the heck out your idea, it’s time to make sense of it all. Take as much time as you need on this; after all you are writing this story, and you have to like what you’re writing. As long as you like what you’re putting down on paper, you’re set. Don’t worry about what everyone else thinks.

Everyone else. Ah, this brings me to a very important part of partaking in NaNo: finding people to support your quest. This can be harder than it seems. But, don’t let that scare you, because within your home region you will find hundreds of people who are just as insane as you are and taking on this remarkable challenge. For me, the Toronto Region has been my saving grace. My mom doesn’t quite understand the whole idea of NaNo, so I cling to my group of local writers. They are the people who cheer me on and congratulate me on an updated word count; and they are the people, to whom, I return the favour. Don’t be afraid to bounce your ideas off of someone else; a lot of good can come out of that. J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S Lewis bounced ideas off of each other all the time, and they more than likely influenced each other in their writing. To me, that’s awesome. And once NaNo officially starts, attend some local write-in sessions and physically surround yourself with your fellow writers. If that doesn’t work for you, that’s okay. We all have our own ways of writing; what works for one doesn’t always work for another.

Oh, and there’s one more thing. THIS IS NOT A COMPETITION. This is probably the most important thing to remember going in to and coming out of this. Last year was my first NaNo, and I did not hit 50,000 words. In fact, I missed it by a landslide. I only managed to squeak out 18,000 words, but it was 18,000 more words than I’d had a month ago. NaNo is not about winning or losing. No. NaNo is simply about writing. It’s about getting your wonderful story from the file folders in your brain onto the page. If you make it to 50,000, awesome! If you don’t make it to 50,000, awesome! You will still have more words than you did the previous month and you have done something amazing. You have told a story. It may not be finished, but you are telling a story. You’re telling your story. And that is the most important part of NaNo. Storytelling.

So, what this all boils down to is a few basic points.

1) Surround yourself with supportive people whether those people are home based or internet based. Any and all help you receive will be very helpful.
2) Return the support you have been given from your fellow writers. They need it just as much as you do.
3) There is no such thing as a stupid idea.
4) Your main character is going to be your best friend for 30 days. Have fun with them.
5) Your characters know the world they are in better than you do. Let them direct you.
6) Start with what you know and go on from there.
7) NaNoWriMo is not a competition. It is merely a challenge to write. The only person you are competing against is yourself.
8) You are writing your story on your terms. Your story is important.

To those who have decided to participate:
Congratulations on your winning idea, and good luck! To those of you who are still contemplating partaking: The choice is yours to make and I hope my experience will help in your mission should you choose to accept it.

To everyone: Keep writing and have fun!

Bio: I am an aspiring writer and hail from Toronto. I have been telling stories since I was five and writing since I was eight. Writing is my escape from the chaotic world we live in. In November 2008 I started a Trilogy simply titled: Pangaea. I am hoping to publish it in the next few years. When I am not working on my Trilogy, I am working retail in a local mall. I recently started blogging about anything and everything that inspires me. You can check it out here:

You can also check out my NaNo profile here: