Monday, October 31, 2016

Choose Your Own NaNoWriMo

By Stephanie Scott

Happy All Nano’s Eve!

You mean All Hallow’s Eve?

Nope. It’s the eve of National Novel Writing Month, aka NaNoWriMo! All NANO’s Eve!

By now, if you’re already planning to jump into writing a 50k draft during the month of November, chances are you’ve read half a dozen blog posts with tips and ideas for how to succeed. You know, those helpful plotting charts, outline a chapter-a-day and pre-plan your meals to stock your freezer posts.

This post is not one of those posts.

This post is a challenge to flip your conventional approach, abandon your insecurities, and a plea to go for broke! Which is the exact spirit of National Novel Writing Month. Aka thirty days of literary abandon.

It's time to Choose Your Own NaNoWriMo!

Here are your starting options:

Step 1:

I’M A PLOTTER (Go to Step 2)
I’M A PANTSTER (Go to Step 3)

Step 2:

Congratulations! You’re likely the type of person who buys a nice planner and actually uses it. I bet your sock drawer is organized, too. Your challenge as a plotter is to FORGET YOUR OUTLINE. You’ve done the prep work, now let your story take over! If you’ve never strayed from an outline, never fear—it will still be there in December when you revise. If you’ve never let a character take your story in a new direction, silence that inner editor and see where the story takes you. If you stick to your plan entirely, you could be missing out on untapped stories lying dormant in your brainpiece. RESPECT THE SUBCONSCIOUS BRAINPIECE. (Now go to Step 6)

Step 3:

Congratulations! You were MADE for NaNoWriMo. Outline -- what’s that? Hit a dry patch? Add a gun! (What?) Okay, so you write by the seat of your pants. Here’s your challenge. Before you crack open your writing program, jot down 4 things that need to happen in your next chapter or what your character needs to experience to deepen his or her story arc. Do this on a blank piece of actual paper. Using a pen. With your hands. Yes, it’s awkward holding pens these days when all we do is text and type, but I promise, you are tapping a different part of your brainpiece (we talked about respecting brainpieces in step 2, btw). Take ten whole minutes to do this task even if you want to claw your eyes out to get to that pants-o-rific manuscript. I may have perhaps tricked you into light plotting, but November is all about trying new things! (Now go to Step 6)

Step 4:

Writing by the seat of your pants is a way some writers complete their drafts. We’re nice to them because they’re special. Plotters need to know where the story is going ahead of time and often are very eager to share those details with anyone who will listen. The important part here is that any of these options is okay and no single drafting method is better than another. Also, writers of all ilk love discussing their methods with anyone who will listen. (Go to Step 5)

Step 5:

Congratulations! You can choose any method to write your story that you want. Challenge yourself to write a little bit every day, even if it’s under your target word count. The NaNoWriMo website has a handy word count tracker. If you’re intimidated by stats, challenge yourself to log your word count every day until it becomes habit. If you love stats, go a full week without looking at that graph. It’s distracting you. You need to be writing. FIFTY THOUSAND WORDS, HELLO! (Go to Step 6)

Step 6:


We all needed that. (Go to Step 7)

Step 7:

Nano is what you make of it. Why not use this challenge to try a method you’ve never done with drafting. Maybe this is your first book and everything is new. The spirit of Nano is welcoming—anyone can do this. Anyone CAN do this. It’s up to you whether you clock in, pants or not, and write the words.

Who all is ready for Nano tomorrow? Leave your response and Nano username in the comments!


  1. I am normally a pantser. Something horrible has happened to me. I have three completed character sketches, and the outline of a plot (it even goes past the midpoint!).

    I have wandered into the land of the plotters...

    sleighmonroe on the NaNoWriMo site.

  2. I'm a plotter, but I have a feeling the kittens will take over by mid day tomorrow. NaNo: hicks.diana