Gini Dietrich

Rev Up Your Engines! It’s the Start of NaNoWriMo!

By: Gini Dietrich | November 1, 2017 | 

NaNoWriMoIt’s November 1.

A Wednesday.

The day after Halloween.

Some of you may be in a candy coma.

(I am excited that I can now eat the Halloween candy instead of staring at it!)

Some of you may be looking toward U.S. Thanksgiving—which is only three weeks away.

You might think it’s a regular day.

Another hump day as we countdown to the end of the year.

But you’d be wrong.

Today is the start of National Novel Writing Month.

NaNoWriMo, as it’s called, is a program that encourages you to write 50,000 words in 30 days.

And, just in case you’re a smart aleck like me, you can’t write the same word 50,000 times (I checked).

You also can’t submit anything you’ve already written.

You have to start from scratch.

The only thing you can have done before today is write an outline and do your research.

The NaNoWriMo Rules

There are quite a few rules, so I’ll outline them below for you:

  • Write a 50,000-word (or longer!) novel, between November 1 and November 30.
  • Start from scratch. None of your own previously written prose can be included in your NaNoWriMo draft (though outlines, character sketches, and research are all fine, as are citations from other people’s works).
  • Write a novel, which is a lengthy work of fiction. If you consider the book you’re writing a novel, it’s a novel.
  • Be the sole author of your novel. Apart from those citations mentioned two bullet-points up.
  • Write more than one word repeated 50,000 times.
  • Upload your novel for word-count validation to our site between November 25 and November 30.

There are prizes, encouragement, and lots of fun associated with your work.

But you have to commit to uploading your work on the NaNoWriMo site so you can participate.

You have 30 days to write a full novel.

What if I Don’t Want to Write a Novel?

Let’s say you are not into this whole fiction thing and have no desire to write a novel.

That’s fine!

You can participate and write non-fiction…sort of.

The NaNo Rebels exist to allow a loophole in the rules.

While the 50,000+ words you write for non-fiction may not count in the overall NaNoWriMo rules, you’ll still have the start to a really good book.

Perhaps you’ve always wanted to write a business book.

Or you’re obsessed with history and want to do an autobiography.

Or you have a movie script rolling around in your head and are ready to put it on paper.

All of those things count under the NaNo Rebels rules. Make sure to submit your entry in that forum.

Having written two business books, I can speak from experience about how much easier it is to get 50,000 words down on paper that way.

Fiction is HARD.

And you can take a lesson from the guys who wrote Execute.

Their goal was to write it in one week. They did it in eight days.

It’s Not an Easy Undertaking

It’s not easy to complete this project.

I’ve now tried twice and have not finished.

Part of the problem is we have Thanksgiving thrown into the mix, so—at least in the U.S.—we miss a good week of writing.

Of course, if you don’t host the holiday or don’t travel to see family, you’d have an easier time of it.

But, for me, it’s a real challenge because we do host and I begin to prep the Sunday before.

For a week, I’m cooking instead of writing…and it’s difficult to get back in the habit that last week of the month.

Well, that and a four-year-old who doesn’t understand that writing has to be done uninterrupted.

Lessons Learned from NaNoWriMo

As I’ve traversed the NaNoWriMo contest, though, I’ve learned a few things:

  • Read fiction. A lot of fiction. And all sorts of genres…not just the stuff you normally read.
  • It’s a lot harder to write fiction than a business book, especially if you blog for work every day.
  • Practice, practice, practice. Just like blogging here every day makes me a good business author, writing fiction every day would make me a better storyteller.
  • November is a terrible month to take on a project like this. You’ll think it’s a great month because you have a few days off for Thanksgiving, but family doesn’t stop because you have to write.
  • If you write every day, you will get 50,000 words. Consider you’ll spend about eight hours a week.
  • Outline your story ahead of time. Even if you’re starting today, outline your story. Just like you can’t go to a publisher for your non-fiction without a detailed table of contents, an outline of your fiction will help the writing immensely. Decide on the simple things, such as character names and timelines first. If you participate this year, make sure you do all of that beforehand. The rule is you just can’t have started writing…but you can do everything else.
  • Making it public holds you accountable. If you want to comment here or in our Slack group, we will be happy to hold you accountable. There will be so many days you don’t want to write. Knowing we’re all behind you, cheering you on, will force you to do it.

Are You Going to Do it?

I’m sure there are lots more things, but the biggest NaNoWriMo lesson is…50,000 words does not a novel make.

It’s a great start, but—at best—it’s a really rough first draft.

Don’t let that discourage you, though!

Fifty thousand words—and a really rough draft—is better than what you have right now.

And it’s only 30 days away.

It’s not too late to join the party if you’re so inclined.

If you’re participating, let us know so we can help!

About Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro. Join the Spin Sucks   community!

  • paulakiger

    UGH. I am signed up but just wrote a brief post on Medium this morning about how I’m going to put it off this year. BUT NOW I AM ON THE MOTIVATIONAL FENCE. I think that was your intent, right?!

    • Do it!!!

      • paulakiger

        Here’s my novel: A MIDLIFE WOMAN and a millennial walk into a yoga studio. One says “wait! I need to take a picture for Instagram……” 🙂

    • heidicohen

      Paula–Do this year as a trial run. Get as far as you can. Happy writing, Heidi Cohen

      • paulakiger

        I may — I’ll need someone to come and get my house ready to sell over the next two weeks while I write though. :-/

    • Go Paula!

    • DO IT! You can do it! DO IT!

  • I’m going to do this one year. Not this year, but one year.

    • heidicohen

      Laura–Love the one year I’ll do this approach! Happy writing, Heidi Cohen

      • LOL! You mean the procrastination approach? 🙂

        • heidicohen

          Laura–I’ve been planning my Great American Novel since I was 8 years old! Happy writing, Heidi Cohen

          • Hahaha! Well, some great things just take time (lots of times) to be ready. Obviously this is the case for both of our novels!

            I’ll be first in line for yours when it comes out.

    • paulakiger

      I can’t wait to read yours, whatever year it is!

      • <3 I'm cheering you on this year!

        • paulakiger

          Thx. I’m here in the comments to officially designate myself the cheerleader for all the 2017 committed people. Not happening for me this year. #ThrowsInTowel #ForNow

    • I said the exact same thing… but many years in a row. It wasn’t last year. It’s not this year. But one year! Maybe I have to suck it up and just get it done!

      • We should pick a year and both do it. The competition will keep me going.

        • I like that! We can even have some prizes for the best and the fastest. 😀

    • November is really hard for those of us in the States. REALLY hard.

  • Good inspiration to prep for the 2018 cycle. I’m assuming that it’s okay to draft an outline beforehand?

    • You can have the outline. You just can’t start writing anything.

  • Julia Carcamo

    Maybe I should take a crack at that marketing ebook I’ve been putting off…. Hmmm….

    • That’s a great way to start, Julia!

    • Yes, you should!

      • Julia Carcamo

        I’m overwhelmed at the thought! LOL!

        • Break it into smaller parts. Start with the outline, then a table of contents, then detail under each “chapter.” Then start writing. I’ll bet you have it finished by month’s end.

  • heidicohen

    Gini–I love the idea of the non-fiction rebels (although my 8 year old self is still telling me to write a novel!) Happy writing, Heidi Cohen

  • Edward M. Bury

    Intriguing, but I’ll have to hold off for a while; I’m enrolled in a non-fiction writing workshop this semester as part of my master’s degree studies. But rest assured, there’s a novel in the future; and rest assured, the protagonist will be a sometimes cranky communicator from Chicago.

    • I’m actually surprised you’ve not done it yet. I can totally see you writing a novel.

      • Edward M. Bury

        Stay tuned. I’m still gathering insight.

  • matt picio

    “Start from scratch. None of your own previously written prose can be included in your NaNoWriMo draft” – That’s not true anymore. It can’t be included in your *word count*, but the start from scratch requirement isn’t in the official rules on the website anymore:

    “Traditionally, NaNoWriMo works best when you start a brand-new project. … That said, we welcome all writers at any stage. … Just be sure to only count words written during the month.”

  • OK, so candy coma caught my attention. 😀 I’m laughing out loud. Good thing I don’t eat candy. However, I do have to recover from the noise coma from yesterday. So many kids screaming and running around on the streets, on restaurants, at the mall. It did not help we had perfect weather, so basically no kid nor adult stayed indoors.

    I like this challenge. Though I am more of a reading than writing type of gal, I could go for a reading challenge. Hmm, I like this idea.

    • Don’t you and I already have a reading challenge for the year?

      • YAS! Guess what I am going to do on the Thanksgiving holiday. 😁

  • I have always wanted to write a novel and I have thought about “really doing” NaNoWriMo almost every year for the past decade. I’ve given it a semi-serious go a few times but never produced a complete work. This year, November is way too busy (again!) BUT you’ve inspired me to do something: I’m hereby marketing my calendar for October 1, 2018, to commit and pick a project, so that when November comes around again, I’ll be ready for it and wearing my Determined Face.

    • YEAH! And I marked my calendar to ask you about it!

  • Karen Wilson

    I’ve been hemming and hawing about whether I want to finally do NaNo this year and your post convinced me to give it a shot. I don’t have time for it, but I’m gonna see what happens. And since I decided at 10:30pm (and still hit my daily word count goal), I’m skipping the outline. But when I’m writing fiction, I tend to go with the story excavation method anyway. 🙂