Too Early for NaNo?


Isn’t August a little early to start talking about the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo or affectionately, NaNo)? There are three whole months before the event begins November 1. Actually, no, not if you are serious about writing 50,000 + words. In fact, you may be a little late depending on your project. Here’s why.


Of course, you have to come up with an idea. If I don’t have something already in mind, I go to the “The Well,” a file of story ideas. Throughout the course of writing and reading something might capture my fancy for a story.  A rough  Angel of Death

plot line immediately develops and this is recorded as a document, being sure to put down enough information to recall what the thought was months, even years later. SoM5metimes that note is one paragraph, but usually ends as a page or more in length, and includes the plot and some characters, even photo prompts. I Waited for You


Having grasped the idea, a number of things begin to peculate.

1. I mentally begin to develop the plot, recording details. An outline, if you will.

2. Characters begin to form who can tell the story.

3. An appropriate setting comes to mind.

17th C8 & 9This is why it is important to begin now. As characters are fleshed out with all their strengths and weaknesses, those things could (and probably will) effect achieving resolution of the final goal. So can the setting. To begin a successful novel, these things need some time to be worked on. Yes, RESEARCH.

Think of a story as creating a vase. Here, in the American Southwest, the Pueblo, Navajo, and Hopi people are known for their pottery. The artist has an idea of what they wish to make as they collect the needed clay, filter it, add water, and begin creating the form. The last thing is to place it in a fire to harden the product.


An author starts with an idea, collects and prepares all the information needed, sits down and begins giving their story form. Once the first draft is done, they expose it to the fires of editing.

The reason so many people fail to complete a 50,000 novel (and that is pretty minimal) is that they start the whole process on day one of the event. No planning, no research, and halfway into the story they become stuck.

I have been writing for over fifty-six years, so this planning process is habit. During several of these events I drafted two novels in 24-days. (I push the finish date because of the Thanksgiving holidays when I am traveling to be with family and recuperating from all the celebrating. I like food.) Accomplishing that goal was really very easy as all the pre-planning had been done with a mental picture of the course of action.

This year (2016) will be my biggest challenge, drafting what most likely can be called a saga that will easily exceed 70,000 words—the story of a young man (14), orphaned, post-Civil War, who sets out from Missouri with his mule and dog to find a brother who left home to fight the war in Texas. Boy, Mule, Dog - coverPlanning and research for this actually started in late 2014. An historically based story, research has taken me through countless websites, into museums and libraries, and to locations from Texas to Arizona visiting historical sites and observing the physical layout of the country. (Familiarity with Missouri is the result of having grown up and traveled extensively in that part of the country). Historical events of the time (1868-1872), weather (sunrise/set, moon phases, weather patterns at specific times of the year–temperatures, wind, storms), and terrain have shaped and added twists to the plot. Characters have been fleshed out with all their strengths, weaknesses, quirks, and flaws to further shape the plot using many of the techniques presented in previous posts to this site.

There has been sufficient time to think about how to approach this story, so that when I sit down November 1 and begin writing, all I have to do is refer to my notes (outline) and put words into sentences, and 3-5,000 words/day will be no problem. (Besides, those around me have learned to keep their distance when this event starts).

So, no, Dorothy, August is not too early to begin work on your NaNo novel.

Shield-Nano-Blue-Brown-RGB-HiResNaNoWriMo Facts

(The following is from their website –

National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) (or as many participants affectionately refer to it – NaNo) believes stories matter. The event began in 1999, and in 2005, National Novel Writing Month became a 501(c)(3) nonprofit.

National Novel Writing Month believes in the transformational power of creativity. We provide the structure, community, and encouragement to help people find their voices, achieve creative goals, and build new worlds—on and off the page.

National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to creative writing. 

On November 1, participants begin working towards the goal of writing a 50,000-word novel by 11:59 PM on November 30.

In 2015: 431,626 participants, including 80,137 students and educators in the Young Writers Program.

NaNoWriMo’s programs now include National Novel Writing Month in November, Camp NaNoWriMothe Young Writers ProgramCome Write In, and the “Now What?” Months.

The Young Writers Program promotes writing fluency, creative education, and the sheer joy of novel-writing in K-12 classrooms. We provide free classroom kits, writing workbooks, Common Core-aligned curricula, and virtual class management tools to more than 2,000 educators from Dubai to Boston.

Images courtesy of National Novel Writing Month.”

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