Prepping for #Nanowrimo: What You Must Know About Your Novel

Posted by on Oct 24, 2013 in NaNoWriMo, Writing | 3 comments

Prepping for #Nanowrimo: What You Must Know About Your Novel

Are you doing Nanowrimo this year?

The first year I did Nano, I discovered it one day before Nov 1st. ONE DAY.

I had less than twenty-four hours to come up with a plot, build characters, and generally do all the things that usually take me at least weeks. It was madness. Glorious madness, but still madness.

These days I prep for Nanowrimo. I plan and plot and scheme to my heart’s content before November 1st, so I have more to go on besides a quick scribble about a girl who wakes up to discover she’s kidnapped. Because sure, that idea is a great thing to have…but having an idea of where the story is going (even if this changes later) makes the process a lot easier. So what do you need before you begin?


An Idea

What’s a book without an idea, after all? Chances are, you have plenty of ideas scribbled around you, just waiting for life to be breathed into them. So, how do you choose? Pick the idea that you can map out the fastest – this is probably the idea you’re the most inspired about.

I’m also a big fan of using Nanowrimo to step outside your comfort zone. Maybe you wouldn’t spend six months writing something for a genre you’re not sure about – but thirty days? Why not? Be bold! Be brave. Cross new territory.  Not sure where to start there? Spin a basic idea you’ve had festering (or even something you’ve already written before – we’re just taking the core goal of the story here after all) and toss it into another genre. Envision Romeo and Juliet as a scifi dystopia taking place between two feuding planets.


Strong Characters

What do you hear over and over again from readers? They can ignore some errors with the writing or plot as long as the characters are strong, relatable, and likable. Any sort of weaknesses with the writing or plot can be fixed during revisions, while character weaknesses could be harder to fix during rewrites.

What makes your protagonist likable? Why will your readers relate to them? Make sure you know your characters (take a peek at our basic character worksheet to get you started, and build from there) enough to create characters with dimension.

What’s your protagonist’s flaw? What’s something that someone who meets them for the first time would be surprised by? (You may remember the breakdown of why Muse KJ is not a static character from the how to add depth to character archetypes post.)



What are the main conflicts in your novel? What’s fighting against your characters externally? What internal conflicts are giving your characters extra depth?

Your characters need both external and internal conflicts to inspire growth. Think about your own life if you need examples of this. Say Everyman wants to be a writer (motivation), but he’s working forty-hour weeks, comes home to three small children, and thus has little time to finish editing his novel.  (External conflict.)  His agent calls and says he has a chance to get the manuscript in front of Best Editor Ever despite them being closed to submissions….if edits can be completed in one week. (External Conflict.) Everyman now has doubts that he can finish in such a short time (internal conflict), but is determined to succeed to help his family financially.

Know the conflict and even if you don’t know the entireties of the plot, you at least know what’s working against your protagonist.


Motivation – Characters

Every character has to have motivation – even the small ones. As the author, you need to know why each character is behaving the way they are – and what their main purpose is.

Is the frat boy with a chip on his shoulder so cranky because he spends all night secretly studying so he can keep his academic scholarship without affecting his social life? Could the vampire with a vendetta for your protagonist be so bitter because this was her last chance to climb the social hierarchy?

What is the main thing your character is striving for? How does this motivation affect how they respond to conflict? How they respond to other people?


Motivation – Yours

How many words do you get down on an average day? With Nanowrimo, you need to achieve 1,667 words a day – or make up for it on other days. Entirely doable. But if that’s not something you’re doing now, what gives you the motivation to do it for Nanowrimo?

Dust off your highest hopes, tell KJ that she’s been listening to way too much Taylor Swift, and find what drives you to finish a book in an month. Do you just want to see what you’re capable of? Do you have a book that is dying to get written right now? Do you work best under deadlines? Whatever your motivation is, figure it out, and own it. I’ve had a book screaming at me for two months now, and it’s not listening to my “Honey, I don’t have time for you” speak. Because in November, I’m making the time for it. It’s the writer thing to do after all.

Grab some friends if you need to – feel free to start with Jo and myself  – and  get some support. Commiserate with other people who are tackling the same goal. We’re all busy people, after all. Let’s lift each other up!

writing blogs, blogs for writers, blogs for authors

Still stuck? We’ve created a course to help you out along the novel planning way – even if you don’t have an idea yet. (It could be used for prepping a non-Nano book too!) Lessons are added M,W, F until the close of the first week of Nano.
Here’s a hint: As we’re getting closer to Nano, use the promo code MUSE20 for 20% off! writing blogs, blogs for writers, blogs for authors What do you focus on the most during your Nano prepping time? What gives you the most trouble? Kristen Jett, Kristen Jett author, KristenJett, @KristenJett


  1. Great post! I’m planning on it this year too, my third (not consecutive though). The first, i just wanted to see if I could do it, to write a book at all. I had no idea what I was doing, but loved it! Subsequent years I keep trying with a plan. I hate outlining but character and plot brainstorming I can do.

    • Thanks Stephanie! I haven’t done Nano in a few years, so I wanted to make sure I was well prepared this time.

      I half outline my books – but I never stick to the outline 100%. I just like a map to show me the general journey of the story.

  2. Great Post. I’m trying again this year, my second. I didn’t do well last year.


  1. Nanowrimo: Early prep time! | katherine bogle - […] more tips on prepping for Nanowrimo, head over to Pen and Muse to get some ideas! These two lovely…

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