NaNoWriMo Begins

by limebirdkate

The idea of writing 50,000 words in 30 days can be a bit harrowing. Many writers won’t attempt the feat, while some writers start, falter, then quit. Then there are those who survive the beast and are considered winners.

How can you win this year’s NaNo? Is there a secret strategy? (No.) Should you plot or pants? (Depends on your style.) Do you quit your job to ensure you have enough time to write? (S’pose you could…)

Let’s clarify the goal – which is to write 50,000 words. It doesn’t have to be an amazing 50,000 words. Don’t fret about quality or grammar or run-on sentences.

If you get bogged down with whether the story is any good, you are committing NaNo suicide. Don’t worry about how to connect all the subplots, or whether all of your characters are necessary, or how long berry season lasts. After November 30th, there’ll be plenty of time to refine your novel. NaNo is not the time to do it.

I’ll admit I have a slight OCD-like tendency to revise as I write. Some people would say I’m a perfectionist. Others would say I’m detail-oriented. Whatever my ailment, I can take a long time to write, because I love to rewrite.

So, how do I stop myself from rewriting or agonizing over a scene?

Write a brief pitch stating what my story is about. This is a great tool that has helped me to focus on my ultimate goal—word number 50,000.

Here’s my lame example for this year’s NaNo:

The Captain’s Spell  – mainstream fiction/supernatural

When Meghan Lewis discovers love letters at a turn-of-the-century inn, she’s drawn into a 100-year-old mystery of intrigue, romance, and murder. Meghan is anxious to help long-lost loves reunite, but a menacing presence is determined to stop her.

It’s a very generic, loosey-goosey pitch—but it’s enough to remind me what I envisioned happening with this story. I don’t need to divulge the ending or the big secrets in the pitch, but the key words of 100-year-old, love letters, inn, murder will help keep me on task.

You’ll want to include your hero, his/her goal and stakes, and what/who is in the way. Not too much. Just enough to get you from word 1 to word 50,000.

Remember, 50,000 words is not a full-length novel. This means that you may not know the end of your book—and that’s okay because you won’t need to write that much to get to that point anyway. Or, you may know your ending, but not the middle. That’s okay too! Skip right over the scenes that your muse hasn’t developed yet and write the scenes you do know. It doesn’t have to be sequential, either! Go ahead and start with a scene that doesn’t happen until halfway through the book. It. Doesn’t. Matter.

Tape up your pitch somewhere near your work space so you can glance at it easily. Anytime you’re blocked, look at that pitch. What’s your story about? What are your characters supposed to achieve? Who or what is stopping them?

Simply pick your story up by answering those questions and continue writing. It doesn’t matter if suddenly the scene has detoured and you’re writing about something completely different. The point is to keep writing.

Check out Limebird Forums for NaNoWriMo-related threads.

Here are the usernames of myself, and the other Limebird Writers taking part:

Me: madrye
Amber: ottabelle
Beth: limebirdbeth
Cat: Cat_mercer
Dennis: dennismlane
Laura: loupy2055
Neeks: neeeks
Sophie: staticgirl
Ster: ster
Vanessa: nessajane
Lorna: gypsiewriter

What’s your NaNo story about? Share in the comments.


65 Responses to “NaNoWriMo Begins”

  1. OK, so my NaNo story is for a younger audience than last time. It’s going to be more of a children’s adventure tale! It’s called ‘The Key Of Secrets’ (this title may change). I have my main characters and a basic plot and I’m pantsing all the way! Good luck to all taking part. 🙂

    • I like your title, and I think it’s hard to stick with a title from beginning to end. I usually change mine after the first draft. I’m pantsing my story, too — aside from that little pitch that I use as a guideline. I have no idea about scenes or plot points or anything. Good luck, Beth!

    • Yay for pantsing! 😀 (I’m still smoothing out my outline!)

      • I’m sure you’ll do fine, Mayumi. Sometimes those outlines write themselves without you even realizing it (pantsing in disguise) 😉

  2. Thanks for the tips, I just started mine today and was getting a bit worried about whether I should have run with a better idea or not. Just have to remind myself that I’m doing this for practice and discipline and to see what happens with the story!
    Great post.

    • Hi Jess, I know what you mean, about being worried over a story idea. However, I believe that all ideas can work. It’s just a matter of how we develop it into a story. And it’s good that you know this doesn’t need to be outstanding right off the bat. If you can get yourself to write every day — and enjoy doing it — then you know you have what it takes to be an author. Good luck.

  3. This is my first time. I’m not a novel writer, I’m doing it to settle an argument. I have a vague idea of the story and I have my opening line. I thought I’d see where it leads.

    I know I am an embarrassment to all you serious writers. I can only promise to finish. 🙂

  4. I’m trying my hand at romance this year *gulp* I must be mad lol

    Good luck!


  5. I’m doing a sci-fi. It will be astronomical. Goldilocks may need to rethink what’s comfortable. (Haven’t decided yet!)
    I might get started – lost 20 hours already. And I might go and buddy some people!
    Good luck!

    • Haha, I know what you mean, Richard. I briefly thought about starting at midnight just to make sure I got some writing in. But I quickly squashed that idea. I got a little bit of writing in this morning, and hopefully I’ll get some in later today and I’ll make the 1667 daily word count.

      Good luck to you, too!

  6. Don’t forget me please, I’m “neeeks” on the nano site. Mine book (big silly grin) is tentatively going to be called, “Sweet Georgia Sunshine” and is about a divorced, middle-aged woman who goes back to her hometown for vacation and then just can’t bring herself to get on the plane to come home. The story will be about how she comes to grip with who she is and how she finds her way back to the sweet Georgia sunshine of home.

    Good luck everyone!

  7. Great idea about the pitch. And I like yours!

    Mine’s a sci-fi adventure this year; the synopsis is on my NaNo author page, but it’s basically:
    About to enter conscripted service in the Imperium, Lelia decides she’s had enough, and makes an escape with three of her friends. Of course, the Imperium won’t let them go so easily, and soon they’ve got a Hunter on their tail….
    Not nearly as punchy as it should be, but I’m pantsing as I go, this year. 🙂

    Good luck to you – and everyone, Limebird writers and readers!

    • Yours sounds really interesting, Mayumi. I wouldn’t be surprised if you’re able to hone your synopsis over the next few weeks as your story develops. I managed a little writing today, and already I see how I can tighten my pitch/synopsis. Good luck to you, too!

  8. I think one of the things that will keep me going over the month, in terms of shutting up my internal editor, is to know that even if at the end of the month I end up with something competely worthless, that no amount of editing or rewriting will fix, I have only invested one month in it. One month is nothing in terms of novel writing, some people spend years writing a novel which they end up doing nothing with! If I manage the word count then at the very least I will have proved to myself that I have it in me to write volume, alongside all my other responsibilities with my job and the kids etc. and that’s kind of the purpose of NaNo isn’t it.

    I’m deliberately trying to take myself out of my comfort zone with my NaNo – I’m doing a mafia story! I hate violence and I avoid writing about it, so doing it this way, where I really don’t have time to think about how comfortable I am with the subject matter, I think will be a good exercise for me. We shall see…

    • Excellent point, Vanessa – that’s exactly what NaNo is about. Great that you’re tackling a new genre for you, too! All of these ideas sound so fresh and interesting. I can’t wait to see how they turn out for everyone! 😀

    • That’s a good bit of advice, Vanessa. Maybe if we take it less seriously, it won’t stress us out as much.

      Ooh, mafia. Now that sounds very exciting! Good luck.

  9. That’s a great pitch! I can’t wait to read it now, so get to it! 🙂 I did Nano a couple years ago and I’m about to query the novel that came out of it. I’m jealous though – hopefully I’ll be able to participate in the craziness next year.

    • Hey Sheila,
      Congrats on being at the querying stage! And on a NaNo novel to boot. 🙂 Good luck with all of that, and hopefully we’ll see you at NaNo next year!

      Thanks for swinging by!

  10. Good luck. Quantity vs quality… It pains me to do it but it is the only way.

    • Hi Peter,

      I know what you mean. It’s hard to push through some of the junk we know we’re writing. But it helps to remember we only have to suffer with it for 30 days. 😉 Good luck to you too!

  11. I don’t participate in NaNo, but this is great advice for any writing ventures. Nice post!

    • Thanks, Carrie. Isn’t it funny how some of us get so serious over a writing challenge like this, not realizing that it’s really no different from writing a book in general. After NaNo, I might try to apply some of the lessons I’ve learned to future projects and see if I strike gold. 😉

      Thanks for commenting.

  12. I’m a grand total of 100 words in! But it’s a project that I’ve been thinking about for ages so the planning is pretty much all done.

    I may have gone a bit over the top with the planning, I’ve got 60 bullets points & I have to write 2 a day. I’m hoping it makes the word count feel a bit lower if I only have to write 800 words for each point!

    The last time I did NaNo I wrote a book so bad that I’ve never read it back & that was 5 years ago, it’s just sitting on my computer & I can’t bring myself to read it because I know it’s awful!

    • Hey Ster, I love hearing from a planner. I wanted to plan, but I couldn’t plan my life well enough to sit down and plan my book, lol. I’ll be really interested to see how the planners and the pantsers compare at the end of this month. I’m glad you’re back on the NaNo horse! 🙂

      • I think it’s only planned because I wanted to start writing it about a year ago & never got round to it! I’m about to go away for the weekend though so I think I’m going to start this year quite behind!

      • Well, Ster, I started NaNo late the first time I did it — 5 days late, and I had no idea what I was writing except for 2 words. I have faith you can pull it out! 🙂

  13. But how long does berry season last??!

    I love this post, Kate. Thank you! It sums up the majority of the points that have been covered in the last few weeks and adds even more – I love the idea of sticking a copy of your story pitch near the screen. I’m definitely going to do that. I’m also going to follow some of my own advice now and shut down Twitter and Facebook… to be recommenced in December.

    Best of luck to all with NaNoWriMo!

    • Well, lordscree, I could give you the ins and outs of berry season but it’ll have to wait until after Nov. 30th. 😉

      I’m glad you found something useful here. I have only participated in NaNo twice, and although I “won” both times, I’m not entirely sure what I did that made winning possible. I did do the pitch both times, so perhaps that’s why. Hopefully other writers who are intimidated or overwhelmed by the entire idea can see that it is possible. You just have to find out what works for you. Good luck to you, too!

  14. Been wanting to do NaNoWriMo for a couple years. Never jumped in even though I blogged about the value of it.

    • Hi Tim, sometimes it takes some warming up before writers can partake. If I overthink it too much, I’ll chicken out. I have been saying all along that I wanted to plan this one, but I never did. Part of me wonders if my subconscious prevented me from planning–because it meant thinking, which leads to overthinking, which turns me into a stress case, and then I’d come up with an excuse not to do it.

      So, here I am, pantsing yet again and I know I’ll have a mess in 30 days. But I’ll have fun doing it. 🙂

      Thanks for swinging by.

  15. Well, that sounds like a really great story idea to me! I’d open the book to read more if I saw it on a bookshelf! You all know I’m revising this month, so no new works for me this NaNo. But to those of you writing—have fun and enjoy where the ride takes you!

    • Hey JM, thanks! I’m hoping I can stick relatively close to the pitch and not detour too much. As I’m pantsing again, there is the risk of my story usurping my control. It shall be an interesting ride.

      NaNo will miss you 😉

  16. You’re so right about not rewriting and editing during NaNo. Just pour it out, every day. You will develop a daily writing habit, if you don’t already have one, and that’s the most valuable thing I got out of NaNo. This will be my second NaNo, and last year’s novel gave me three story ideas. This year’s novel is one that I’ve been playing with for the past few months, so I have a sense of where I’m headed, with characters and a list of scenes. At the moment, it’s about a young blogger whose posts transform a community. Who knows what the story will be by the end of November. And that’s what makes NaNoWriMo so much fun!

    • Hi Darla,
      I’m so glad to hear that you’re participating. Isn’t it amazing what NaNo can get out of us? I love a challenge, especially ones that I can’t adjust if I want to play fair. I love the sound of your story. I can think of a number of bloggers who match that description. 🙂 Good luck.

  17. Wow, I really like your pitch! Looking forward to reading the whole thing when it’s done! I have too much editing to catch up on to participate this year, sadly, but I wish you good luck 🙂

    • Thanks, Fredrik. And I really like your confidence that I’ll finish it to that degree! It’s been fun writing it so far. That’s my main goal–to have fun. If I don’t get the 50,000 words at the end, I’ll be okay because I know I’ll finish eventually if it’s a story that resonated with me. Thanks for stoppiing by.

  18. This is the first year I’ve done NaNo without a job (LOL). I’m hoping that will actually help me finish this one, though I’m a Queen of Procrastination. I’m reviving an old outline (I have lots of them) and I’ve gotten 1094 words out… it’s a sort of chick lit -slash- paranormal mystery thing. Though I have that a starting point, I’m basically pantsing.

    • Hi mystic, well, I certainly hope you don’t have a job because of NaNo! 😉 But yes, I think the fact you have extra time on your hands will help you finish the story. I like the genre combo you have going. I see more and more of genre blending these days. I’m pantsing too. I didn’t want to, but I ran out of time to write an outline. Oh well. I think I’ll be okay regardless. Good luck!

  19. Reblogged this on The Mystic Fool and commented:
    I’m diving in, and hoping that my quirky heroine has enough to say and do this month to get me through. 50,000 words or bust!!

  20. I spent a few days agonizing over what to write about, when my husband suggested I revisit my NaNo 2010 project which I really loved. I have maybe a dependence on my husband when it comes to writing, I have to throw my ideas at him first or I start feeling insecure, and the first year I attempted NaNo i had no idea what I was going to write, and he helped me build a world and then my story just kept coming to me without a hitch! This year I’ve been bouncing non-ideas at him for a few days but just keep coming up blank when he mentioned doing a sequel to that first NaNo…and boom I’m off! (Now I just have to quickly re-read that so I can remember everyone’s names!)

    • Hi Laura,

      You must love having your own real-life muse. That’s excellent, and so neat that he can really get your creativity sparked. I love sequels, and I think NaNo is a great place to get a sequel up and going. haha, I know what you mean about the names. You definitely don’t want to start off confusing your cast members. Good luck!

  21. My novel is horror/supernatural for the young adult audience. I started it way back in February, and now I’m determined to finish it (hopefully). The title is ‘Rise of the Wicked.’ With her best friend and a smart mouthed hellhound, my character has to fight off monster mercenaries seeking revenge. I’m excited about it. 🙂

    • Hi mwashi12,
      Ah, it’s always neat to run into writers who are using NaNo as a way to continue/finish their novels. I think that’s a great idea, because the energy and motivation during this month is unmatched. I bet you get swept up into your story just as much as the rest of us who are writing new ones. Your story sounds really neat. I love ‘hellhound’. Good luck!

  22. My novel this year is Murder/mystery – and yes, it started with one or two words! Not sure I’ll complete y 2nd NaNoWriMo challenge this year, but hey, it is always fun trying! 😉

  23. Best of luck to all this year’s NaNoWriMo participants. Hang in there!

  24. Best of luck to all of you participating in this cool event. 🙂


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