“For your born writer, nothing is so healing as the realization that he has come upon the right word.”
—Catherine Drinker Bowen

Readying Yourself For NaNoWriMo


Photo by Nick Veitch

Are you participating in NaNoWriMo this year? I am! I’ve participated in NaNoWriMo for five years now (I started when I was nine). For me, NaNoWriMo is on par with Christmas, and my brother has been known to say that it’s better than Thanksgiving (I completely agree). NaNoWriMo is fun, challenging, and hectic.

NaNoWriMo can also be extremely difficult. “Fifty-thousand words in a month?” I’ve heard people say. “Ha! I barely have time to do my laundry!” But if you plan ahead now, come November, it will be a cinch! NaNoWriMo has produced some of my best work, but I didn’t do that by just sitting down in my desk chair on November first. I did it by planning.

Nothing huge, but having just three things in mind helped. A lot.

1.     Have some word count boosters handy

If you’re going to write 50,000 words in a month, you’re most likely going to get stuck at some point. Writer’s block is something writers handle all the time, but when you’re on a deadline, you can’t really afford to lose any time staring at a screen.

Having some word count boosters handy can be a really great way to add a few hundred words and/or get your creative juices flowing. This can be as simple as adding a new character or having your main character realizing that it was all a dream. Or it can be as complicated as adding a plot twist or a new point of view (maybe from your antagonist or your supporting character’s point of view—the choice is up to you!).

Remember you can always go back and edit or cut these things out once NaNoWriMo’s over. You don’t have to keep everything you write!

2.     Get a group of friends to participate with you 

Facing NaNoWriMo is tough enough, but trying to attempt it alone is flat-out scary. Find some friends—a cartel, if you will—to participate with you so you can brainstorm about ideas, get together and write, or just so you can call each other up and vent about flat characters or a clichéd plot.

These friends don’t necessarily have to be people you know in real life, either (though that’s always nice). If none of your real life friends will brave the unknown with you, start poking around on the NaNoWriMo forums for someone who has interests similar to yours, or type up a quick blog post asking if anyone is participating this year.

I’ve met some of my best blogging friends through NaNoWriMo. One of my favorite bloggers is now my critique partner and a regular e-mail friend. Go dig around and see what you can find!

3.     Plot your novel

Flightless Birds Plot MapYeah, yeah, I know that plotting might not be everyone’s thing (hey, it’s not my thing), but trust me, having a general idea of what’s going to happen in your story can be a complete lifesaver. This is something I’ve learned in the past year or so, and now there’s no going back.

None of my plotting maps are very complicated; in fact, they’re all very general. But they work. Here’s a picture of mine for my NaNoWriMo dystopian book.

How do you gear up for NaNoWriMo? 


Make a plot map for your NaNoWriMo novel. Then, if you’d like to, post your map in the comments. It doesn’t have to be a picture, but if you’d like to, go ahead.

Be sure to leave your fellow writers a comment!

About The Magic Violinist

The Magic Violinist is a young author who writes mostly fantasy stories. She loves to play with her dog and spend time with her family. Oh, and she's homeschooled. You can visit her blog at themagicviolinist.blogspot.com. You can also follow The Magic Violinist on Twitter (@Magic_Violinist).

  • Benjamin Paul Clifton

    I’m totally new to all the writing things that go around in the world. I always just wrote for a specific person; I wrote stories to woo audiences of one. Therefore, I have no idea how NaNoWriMo works. I suppose I could read about it by googling, but I’d love to read about it from people who have experience with it.

    • themagicviolinist

      You’ve come to the right place, then. 🙂 NaNoWriMo is really easy to understand: write 50,000 words in the month of November. And it doesn’t necessarily have to be a novel, either. Some of my friends are going to write a book of short stories that add up to 50,000 words, others poetry. Good luck to you! 🙂

      • writerrobynlarue

        One of my friends is using NaNoWriMo to work on her Master’s Thesis. 🙂

        • themagicviolinist

          Hey, that’s great! 🙂 NaNo is a wonderful time to get anything writing-related done.

      • Benjamin Paul Clifton

        Oh geez. That makes me nervous. I want to do it, but I don’t want to. I want to try. I dunno. So conflicting!

        • themagicviolinist

          Don’t be nervous! I know it seems really intimidating, but once you start you’re realize there’s nothing to be afraid of. Think of it like a giant dog. Big dogs can looks scary (especially if they’re something like a rottweiler), but once to get to know them, they’re generally very sweet. And what have you got to lose if you try? 😉

  • writerrobynlarue

    NaNo buddies help a lot. 🙂 This is also my fifth year and I still get excited every October. My daughter is participating with me this year. Really looking forward to that. 🙂

    • themagicviolinist

      That’s great! 🙂 I just turned thirteen this year, so now I can be on the adult program with my parents, too! Good luck to you and your daughter!

  • Wow….you’re…like…only 14? Kudos to you! You’re well on your way. Keep it up!

    And you’re right. Plotting before writing does make for higher word counts. A lot of people don’t like to plot, but even just spending some time “thinking” about what you’re going to write before sit down to write will help.

    Thanks for the post!


    • themagicviolinist

      Thank you! 🙂

      Yes, I’m constantly thinking about my books, no matter what I’m doing. (In fact, my friends have seen me walk into things before because I’ve been so deep in thought). I’ve started making plot maps for everything now!

      • FYI – don’t think “walking into things” will stop when get older. In fact, the frequency increases.

        What do you use for plot-mapping?

        • themagicviolinist

          Oh, I don’t think so either. A lot of my friends are younger than me, and I am WAY clumsier than they are. But they’re nice to me. They don’t laugh. 😉

          It depends. Sometimes I use a scrap of paper, other times I type it up, and if I’m feeling really creative I’ll use Paint or some other program to make it fancy and print it out. I’m pretty sure there are some plot-mapping programs out there, but I haven’t found any yet. 🙂

          • I’ve been spending lots of time recently playing around with different software packages that do this. Most are either too limiting, or too wide open. I ended up creating a spreadsheet in Excel to do it…. had to design it to map the plotlines/themelines within 10 individual short stories/episodes, and then map a few plotlines/themelines across all 10 short stories/episodes so they come together as a novel as well. The ultimate plotting challenge….

            So keep doing what you’re doing! Experiment and make the tools work for you. Don’t sacrifice your process so it fits into one particular tool…

  • I’m participating this year! I don’t think that 50,000 words in a month is difficult. I recently outlined a novel and wrote the first draft (50,000 words) in 10 days, so doing this over a month is going to be simple. Plus, I’m already planning the book, so that doesn’t count in the month. I just find time to do it even though I’m going to school full-time and working, too. The thing is that you don’t have to edit anything in that month; it’s just about writing!

    You know, I thought I was a really young author. (I just turned 20.) I think it’s great that you’re writing so young. I tried writing fiction when I was your age, but I never finished anything. You should consider publishing the books you’ve written already. Also, do you have a Twitter account? I didn’t see a link on your blog.

    • themagicviolinist

      Wow, 50,000 words in ten days?! Color me impressed! 🙂

      Aww, thank you. 🙂 No, I don’t have a Twitter account (yet). My mom and dad think I should wait until I’m sixteen to get on any social media (besides blogs, of course). Sorry!

      • You should try to convince them otherwise for the sake of your blog and writing. It could help you get more followers.

        • themagicviolinist

          That’s what I keep hearing. 🙂 I’ll talk to them about it again sometime. They said we could reevaluate the situation on every one of my birthdays until I’m sixteen.

  • Sefton

    This will be my 12th Nano. I’ve written a ton of (crazy but fun fan) fiction this year – nearly 400,000 words. For the first time I don’t feel as if 1600 words a day is a big deal. I work full time and have a young family so believe me I do not have a lot of ‘spare’ time. Yet I still do it. Five minutes in the bathroom (smartphones are a boon!), every time the kettle is boiling, every time I am waiting for anything… it all adds up. And if I write when everyone else is asleep I gain at least an hour.

    I don’t watch TV though – maybe an hour per day. I think that’s my biggest time gain.

    And do get the spreadsheet which tells you how many words you should have completed by any given date. It keeps me on track every year. And lastly, I agree that buddies are a big help.
    Good luck to all!

    • themagicviolinist

      Wow, your 12th NaNo? That’s some serious dedication. 🙂

      Ah, yes. TV is the ultimate time suck for a lot of people.

      This is the first year where I’ll be attempting to write 50,000 words for NaNo, so I can finally use one of those spreadsheets! 🙂 So excited!

  • Vivian

    I was told years ago that all you had to do was type letters of the alphabet or nonsensical words until a story revealed itself; that you couldn’t plan in advance (how was anyone to know?) and you’d better be prepared to write most of waking time and reduce your sleeping time. Your comments are refreshing and challenges me to go ahead and enter. Thanks!

    • themagicviolinist

      Glad I can help! 🙂 The best advice I can give you is to do what works for you. These tips I write are just guidelines, ideas of what you CAN do. Not everything I say will work for everybody. Good luck to you! 🙂

  • Emma Marie

    I am so pumped for Nano! This is going to be my fourth year, I think. I’ve never finished yet, but I’ve been outlining, plotting (or perhaps scheming is a better word?) and falling in love with my characters like never before. I’m pretty sure this is the year!
    Anyway, I don’t have my notes with me, and have just begun work on my novel, so everything is a bit fuzzy still, but here’s a brief plot map… thing.

    Beginning: Silas murders the king. (Or did he? Hmm…. 😉
    Inciting moment: The RF is reunited as well as they can be. Epidemic outbreak. Silas found a dragon. Beginning of a revolution
    Climax: Not sure about this one yet
    Falling Action: Ah, the falling action. I think I might cry when I write this scene.
    Resolution: Oh, the end is just the beginning of something new…

    Yeah, I still have a lot more plotting and planning to do.

    • themagicviolinist

      That’s great! 😀 Don’t you just love that feeling where you can’t seem to get enough of your book? That’s always the best for me. But then I can never seem to END my book because I don’t want it to end.

      Can I read your book? 😉 Kings, murders, dragons, and a revolution? Count me in!

      • Emma Marie

        Would you like to be writing buddies on Nano? I’d love to read your novel, too!

        • themagicviolinist

          Sure! 😀 You can find me by searching “sportakate”. What’s your username?

          • Emma Marie

            Awesome! it’s just “Emma Marie”

  • MichiganKim

    I’m excited to be participating in my first NaNo this year. I’ve never written fiction before either, can you believe it? I must be crazy. But I figured it would be fun to just jump into something with both feet for a change.
    Until a week ago I was tossing around two ideas. Then I got a sudden inspiration for a third. Now I need to choose one and get my plot outline done quickly. I’m very curious to see how this goes!

    • themagicviolinist

      Yay! 😀 First time NaNoers always seem to have the most fun. Good luck to you!

  • Hey Magic, are you sure you’re only 14? 🙂

    Well, you are certainly an inspiration. Last year I won my first Nanowrimo. I had planned on writing one story, but some research material that I was waiting only arrived towards the end of November, so on November 1 I just sat at the keyboard and began typing with absolutely no preparations before hand. I took off from a short story I’d written, and just continued from there to write another 50K…

    Two things that worked for me:

    a. I divided the month into weeks and days, figuring on a weekly and a daily goal. I made them both slightly higher than necessary, to take into account possible setbacks, e.g. November is 30 days, but figured 4 weeks (leaving 2 days spare) and 6 day weeks (leaving one free day). 50k divided by 4 is 12.5K, but I set the weekly goal for 13.5 or 14 in the beginning, and 2.5k a day. As time went by with me keeping on schedule, I was actually able to recalculate my daily and weekly goals, and finished easily, even ending up going slightly over the 50k.

    b. If I was seriously blocked, I left the computer and headed to my kitchen to do dishes or cook. I found that doing mindless work often helped free my brain to find solutions. And some of my characters actually accompanied me there and talked to me, keeping me company while I worked. I got some of my best ideas in the kitchen… Find out what works best for you, and use it.

    Hope this helps.

    • themagicviolinist

      Great tips. 🙂 My whole family participates in NaNoWriMo, so if one of us gets stuck, we can usually count on someone else for help. Same thing with my friends! They offer endless inspiration. (We can be a crazy bunch). 😉

      • That sounds wonderful! Enjoy it.

  • kathunsworth

    To the Magic great tips I will keep and go over. I am attempting this for the first time and I have outlined each chapter. Named characters started making files on each and their back stories. Thinking hard on the HOOK at the start. Plot outlined but not concrete, decided on a snarky tone, because my hero is a fourteen year old boy. I am planning to write 2000 words a day, I timed myself and its about two hours. Having said all this it could all go pear shaped as I am a Mum first and a writer second.

    • themagicviolinist

      That’s great that you’re doing so much in depth planning. 🙂 I wish I had that sort of drive, but part of the fun to me is figuring out how everything ties together as I go.

    • katina vaselopulos

      Kath, I am so glad you are here. You have already done so much planning…How wonderful! I am so scared…probably my story will not be interesting…but I have to write something. It is a story of a soul, dying to the earthy life and going through the seasons of her life to return to …heaven…a short story I had done many years back in school.
      Themagicviolinist, Congratulations to you for your great accomplishment. I do not watch TV either but a large family and a 93 year-old mother take most of my time. Thanks for your input…great suggestions.

  • Becca

    I’m fourteen too, but this is my first NaNoWriMo. For me, it’s not so much a problem of coming up with a plot, but choosing one. I have a million unwritten stories running around in my head, like psycho children.

    • themagicviolinist

      Ha ha! 🙂 That’s always hard for me, too. Sometimes I’ll throw all of my ideas into a hat and pick one out to decide what I’ll write for NaNo. Luckily this year I’ve only had one (very vivid) idea! Good luck on your first time! 🙂

  • Debbie

    I’m getting ready for my first NaNoWriMo. I’m very excited. I’ve been developing characters, sketching out the location and writing the plot outline so i don’t get stuck. I went over my outline today and it’s almost 3000 words.

    I’m really looking forward to the challenge. I’m trying to figure out how to find buddies. Does anyone know how?

    • themagicviolinist

      Wow, it sounds like you’re all set! 🙂 I love developing characters.

      I suggest the forums. Post a few times, check out different profiles, and join a location. That’s what I’ve done, and it’s worked pretty well for me!

  • Ann Stanley

    Hi Magic, I am doing my first NaNoWriMo this year and I’ve been half ready to back out, even though this novel has been eating at my brain for a year. Your tips seem incredibly helpful. I plan to keep them on hand as the time grows closer. I’ve been planning, that’s for sure, but I like your map idea! It’s visual, and simple enough that I could tape it to the side of my computer to keep me on track. Your #1 tip is the most creative – I’ve never seen it anywhere else – and I love it! Thanks.

    • themagicviolinist

      Thanks for the nice comment, Ann! 🙂 I wish you the best of luck this November!

  • Katie Hamer

    MV, you’re an inspiration. Good luck with NaNoWriMo!

    • themagicviolinist

      Thanks, Katie! 😀

  • Victoria

    I’ve done NaNoWriMo for a couple of years now, although I’ve made up my own, more reachable goal. (Like, 25,000 words or 1,000 words a day. Just enough to stretch me, but not so much that I totally wouldn’t be able to do it!) I’m planning to do it again this year, just trying to decide if I’m going to shoot for 50,000 or not. If I do, I’ll finish my WIP! So, I’m seriously considering it …

    Thanks for the tips! I’m definitely going to map out what I’m going to get written. And I’ve never, ever thought about just adding in a random character/twist just to get the 50,000 words. Great idea for getting stuck! As for the friend … my sister is doing it as well, so we will spur each other on 🙂

    • themagicviolinist

      Sounds like you’ve got a great plan! 🙂 Kudos to you for knowing your limits!

  • Missaralee

    These are great tips MV! I did NaNoWriMo last year. It was a lot of fun and I got a really interesting first draft out of it.
    This post inspired me to sign up to do it again this year, but now I’m considering something more radical (for me): actually finishing the first drafts of two novels I’ve been writing for what seems like forever and finally revising my NaNo draft from last year.
    Sometimes doing the work means forgoing the shiny fun challenges. Wouldn’t it be amazing if on December 1st, instead of having one brand new, crazy first draft, I had devoted that time and commitment to finishing the drafts of my two neglected novels?
    I think so.
    So, I’ll be writing 50,000 words in November, but I’m going to break the rules!

    • Victoria

      I think that would be just as much of an accomplishment! I’ve never done a ‘real’ NaNo … I’ve always made up my own challenges. To me, it’s just a month to get something done over and above what I would normally do. So I’m going to push for 50,000 on my WIP 🙂

    • themagicviolinist

      Yes, I think having two finished novels would be way better than just one. 😉 A lot of my friends end up finishing works in progress in November. Good luck to you!

  • Pingback: » The OutRamp Guide to Writing: Episode #2 - The OutRamp()

  • Dave Johnson

    Good ideas, all, and unfortunately, none of which I have entered into the fray of NaNo armed with in past years. I’ll take this one to heart. Great article.

    • themagicviolinist

      Thanks, Dave! 😀

  • Shelina Valmond

    I love your posts as always Magic!
    I gear up each year by going through ideas I’ve had to put on the back burner for the year due to other commitments and then like you I do a little plot mapping to decide if I want to move forward with it. If I do I put it into my Scrivener program and save it under NaNoWriMo[year] and then when November 1st starts I’m ready to go with my little idea and get down to the business of writing.

    • themagicviolinist

      Scrivener looks like an amazing program. 🙂 I love cool visuals like that. I recently just got a Pinterest account and have been obsessed with finding the perfect actors/actresses to cast for my characters! 🙂

  • Victoria James

    I’ll be doing NaNoWriMo this year for the first time! I can’t wait. I will be a rebel, because I’m going to use it as a push for the novel I’m writing at the moment (@James Hall, I’m sure you’ll be glad to hear this), but hopefully I can get it done! I’ll be getting my laptop fixed this week so I can take it to work and write during my breaks and everything. All this while also trying to finish off all the planning for my wedding in December, argh!

    • themagicviolinist

      I see a lot of rebels in this group. 😉 Good for you for using NaNoWriMo as that push, though!

  • Pingback: Monday Must-Reads [10/21/13] - YESENIA VARGAS()

  • Jem

    I would love to participate this year as I’ve always missed the boat on this one. The only thing stopping me this year is my full-time job. I’m in the office 9-5.30 and spend 3 hours a day on standing-room only public transport and 4 hours a week in driving lessons. I’ve also got a business trip 11-15th. Do I realistically have enough time? (spare me the ‘if you really want to, you’ll make time’ – I want to, I just don’t want to have to do a shoddy job because I’m rushing it or to not finish!)

    • themagicviolinist

      It really depends on the person. Some people struggle to write just two-hundred words in ten minutes while others breeze through a few thousand in an hour. It all depends on the person and their writing style. I suggest trying, even though you have little time. The worst that can happen is that you don’t meet your goal. But even if you don’t, you’ll still have written something, right?

  • Lisa Buie-Collard

    Great post. Just decided to do Nano, so perfect timing for me! Thank you, and “Magic,” you’re a great “little” (LOL) writer! Keep it up!

    • themagicviolinist

      Thanks, Lisa! 😀 Good luck!

  • Pingback: Diving Into NaNoWriMo, Cutting Out Excuses, and A Pile of Links to Help You Write Consistently | kristin nador writes anywhere()

  • Pingback: Top Picks Thursday 10-24-2013 | The Author Chronicles()

  • Pingback: 10 Great Writing Tips (Not Just for NaNoWriMo) | Cate Macabe()

  • Pingback: Readying Yourself For #NaNoWriMo: Links, Resources & Articles()

  • Pingback: A Number of New Beginnings()

  • Margaret Terry

    Your excitement for nanowrimo is so infectious, I decided to sign up! Although I am a published author, this is my first attempt to write so much in so little time – I’ve been thinking about this for weeks and weeks because I need a goal for the outline of a novel that has been speaking to me for five years. I typically write non fiction, so this is my first attempt at a novel…my name is storycatcher60. Will follow you with great enthusiasm….come on November!

    • themagicviolinist

      Oh, so glad you’re attempting this challenge! 😀 I’ve just added you as a buddy. Good luck!

  • Pingback: » The OutRamp Writer’s Wroundup Newsletter #1: October 13 – 19, 2013 - The OutRamp()