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NaNoWriMo—National Novel Writing Month

 by Carolyn Wilker |  Posted in: Articles 

stack of books

If you are a writer looking for encouragement and help with your writing, you are in the right place. For my newsletter this month, I asked fellow writers about how they handle a big challenge like a novel for NaNoWriMo.

How do you handle such a challenge?

Those who signed up for NaNoWriMo—National Novel Writing Month—will be approximately half way through their writing project now, if all goes well. I thought it was a good time to pose this question to fellow writers how they tackle a big project such as a novel for this challenge:

Do you write an outline first, and write from that? Or are you a pantser? One who figures things out along the way, seeing what the characters do and where they take you?

These are their answers.

Carol Elaine Harrison replied that she has “a brief outline with the timeline for the book and some things that need to be included, but nothing too detailed.”

“I’ve taken part twice,” writes Donna Mann, “and each time I’ve had an outline of action-consequence identifying (in real time) resulting emotion.”

“I’ve written probably 6-8 novels during assorted NaNo years,” says Valerie Comer. She said that she writes them the same as any other book she works on by doing as much work in advance on setting, character and theme. Then she jumps in and writes.  She’s written “about 55 books this way, 45 of them published.”

Suzuko Martha Shigemitsu replied, “When I signed up for NaNoWriMo, I used it as an opportunity to expand my already existing plot or idea and worked from there. I was able to complete two novels doing this. I even used it as an opportunity to write a novel in a foreign language (Japanese). It was a good experience.”

Not everyone who joins in the November challenge writes a novel. Blog posts, memoir and short stories are possibilities.

Lynne Collier responded that she wrote the bulk of her memoir for NaNo last year. She wrote creative nonfiction. “It’s entirely up to writers if they want to do something different. The goal is 50,000 words of anything. This year I’m writing four shorter stories instead of one big one. Part of a series. She mentioned that rough drafts for blog posts are another option. You’ll be called a NaNoRebel.”

Lynne added: “I’ve tried both approaches. I’ve found I need my skeletal plot down and a rough idea of character personalities and the main characters’ names. I don’t worry about details much and find I can write more fluidly that way. I revise in January-February.”

This year I decided to take the plunge and write a middle grade novel and perhaps another short story. I’ll declare it here: I’m a pantser. I will be figuring things out along the way.

I’ve tried a novel and a poetry challenge. The idea of NaNoWriMo is to make time for creativity and to carve out time to write.

Carolyn is a writer, editor, writing instructor. and storyteller from Kitchener, Ontario, with publication credits in articles, op-eds, devotionals, poetry. She is a member of the Editors’ Association of Canada, The Word Guild, The Baden Storytellers’ Guild, the Energetics Toastmasters, Tower Poetry Society, and a Friend of CANSCAIP. She blogs at

Carolyn’s books include Sophie and the Giant Boy, her newest picture book, Discover Your Story,  Travelling LightPiece by PieceLes arbres de HarryHarry’s TreesOnce Upon a Sandbox.

She is also a contributor to anthologies including Good Grief PeopleHot Apple Cider with CinnamonWisdom of Old Souls and Grandmothers’ Necklace.

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