Mastodon The Writing Desk: Preparing for National Novel Writing Month #NaNoWriMo #AuthorToolboxBlogHop

17 September 2018

Preparing for National Novel Writing Month #NaNoWriMo #AuthorToolboxBlogHop

Stephen King once said ‘If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. There's no way around these two things that I'm aware of, no shortcut.’

The first bit is easy. As a book reviewer, I have a healthy 'TBR' (to be read) list and several books 'on the go' at once. It’s the ‘write a lot’ bit that can cause the problem, particularly if it's an unusually mild autumn in the run up to Christmas. 

National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) might be the answer for anyone who wants to learn how to write a lot (every day) while being part of a fun community who share an interest in creative writing.

On November 1st, NaNoWriMo participants begin working towards the goal of writing a 50,000-words of a novel by 11:59 PM on November 30. The organisers say ‘valuing enthusiasm, determination and a deadline, NaNoWriMo is for anyone who has ever thought fleetingly about writing a novel.’ (See )


I've made things a little harder by choosing historical fiction as my genre, so I start researching in September, sorting out timelines, making notes and gathering references. I like to visit actual locations for inspiration, and to track down original documents and sources - all of which takes time.

I also create a good outline before November. I use a simple Excel spreadsheet to track word count and notes on dates etc. for each chapter. I aim for twenty-five chapters of about four-thousand words, to arrive at a first draft for editing of around 100,000 words. 'Nano' can take me half way there in a month - but I like to know where I'm heading.

Although some writers like to 'wing it' and allow for creativity during November, I find it useful to make key writing decisions, such as choice of point of view, voice, where and when it will start - before I write a word. 

Writing Time

I can imagine some of you are saying you simply don't have the time - and I do understand. My children have long since left home, and I'm able to be a full time writer now, but things were very different when I 'won' my first NaNoWriMo (in 2011).

I’m not a 'night owl' when it comes to writing. I'm what they call a ‘lark,’ which means I wake early, my head full of ideas for plot and characters, so I write as much as I can first thing, then have the rest of the day to reach my target. 

I've learned  NOT to try to finish my 50,000 words on the 30th, as it's important to have space to catch up if you need it. I therefore aim to exceed my target by about a hundred words each day until I'm a full day ahead.

Now, as they say, the hard work starts.... Happy writing!

Tony Riches

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Do you have some great tips on #NaNoWriMo you would like to share? Please feel free to comment

The #AuthorToolboxBlogHop is a monthly event on the topic of resources and learning for authors. Feel free to hop around to the various blogs and see what you learn! The rules and sign-up form are below the list of hop participants. All authors at all stages of their careers are welcome to join in.


  1. Good post, Tony. I'm exactly where you are--children launched, my time's my own (the work I do is from the house). This post is really helpful to me. I'm just thinking about Book 3 in a trilogy I'm writing with no idea how to do that. You've provided guidance.

  2. I usually worry so much during the first part of nanowrimo or camp nanowrimo, because I want to get ahead for when I inevitably fall behind one or two days. Once I get ahead, I stop worrying so much. Great post!


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