NaNoWriMo – No Never! or You Bet!

by Jackie Houchin


NaNoWriMo is short for National Novel Writing Month. You knew that, right?  But did you know that it is the largest writing event in the world?  More than 300,000 writers sign up each November for a “simple but audacious” challenge: Write 50,000 words of a novel in a month. In the twenty years of NaNoWriMo, approximately 3 million writers have taken that challenge, including many bestselling authors.

Fifty thousand words in a month means 1,667 words per day. Doesn’t sound too hard, right?  Maybe an hour and a half at the keyboard? Two at most? A mere sliver out of your day.  HA!

I’ve entered NaNoWriMo five times since 2004 and it IS a heck of a lot of writing time; my bottom got numb, my fingers stiff, everything around me was out of my mind except “The Story.”  Sadly, I only completed the challenge once with my novel “Sister Secrets.” The novel was only 2/3 done at 50,000 words, but I never finished it (let alone edited it). It sits in a dusty file in my computer. (sigh)

So, if you plan to write the 50K words in a month, you’d better allow yourself a bit more time. Many NaNo veterans suggest bumping that word count up on the weekdays, in case your weekends get crazy. And remember, in the US, we have the Thanksgiving Holiday in November. (Eek! Can Aunt Sally do the turkey this year??)

Speaking of word count, why 50K? The staff of NaNo believe that this number is challenging, but doable, even for people with full-time jobs and children. It is definitely long enough to be called a novel. That’s about the length of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby.


A NaNo novel is defined as “a lengthy work of fiction.” Any genre of novel is okay.

Nonfiction, memoir, biography, essay, unrelated short stories, music, etc. do not qualify. But, if you want to write 50,000 words in any of those categories, there is a special group for you – NaNoRebels. Join that forum and you can chat with your fellow outlaws. You can also use the NaNo site to upload your 50K words and validate your work.

Here’s how one “rebel” couple did it:  Nanotunes-NaNoWriMo-NaNoMusicals

NaNo never questions a manuscript. “This is a self-challenge” say the moderators. “The real prize is accomplishment and a big new manuscript you have at the end. Everything beyond that is icing on the cake.”


There are only a few rules.

  1. Write a 50,000 word (or longer) novel, between November 1st and 30th.
  2. Only count words written during November. None of your previously written prose can be included (although outlines, character sketches, and research are all fine). If you choose to continue a previous work, ONLY count the words you write during November.
  3. Be the sole author.
  4. Upload your novel for word-count to our site during the winning period.
  5. Write more than one word repeated 50,000 times.

NaNoWRQI Mo tumblr_pynwv9HiLJ1qd8ab4o2_640“Traditionally, NaNoWriMo works best when you start a brand-new project. It may be an arbitrary distinction, but we’ve seen that novelists do better (and have more fun) when they’re free from the constraints of existing manuscripts. Give yourself the gift of a clean slate!

“That said, we welcome all writers at any stage. Outlines, character sketches, and other planning steps are encouraged, and you’re welcome to continue an old project. Just be sure to only count words written during November toward your goal.”


So you decide to accept the month-long challenge, what kind of preparation can/should you do before NaNo begins?  Anything, from a vague idea of your story to one of the detailed outline structures found in the following blog sites.

 NaNoWriMo 6-week Prep.

  • Develop a story idea – September 9-13
  • Create Complex Characters – September 16-20
  • Construct a detailed plot or outline – September 23-27
  • Build a strong world – September 30-October 4
  • Organize your LIFE for writing – October 7-11
  • Find and manage your time – October 14-18

Writers Write – Countdown to NaNoWriMo 1 month Prep.

  • Week One – 1-8 October – Decide on your story idea, protagonist & antagonist, their names, the setting
  • Week Two – 9-16 October – Work out your plot. Give your novel title.
  • Week Three – 17-23 October – Flesh out your characters.
  • Week Four – 24-31 October – Create a timeline. Write a LIST of 60 scenes and sequels that you will include in your novel.

Angel Leigh McCoy on  AngelMcCoyBlog recommends the “How to start your novel: 5 critical questions you must answer first” article. How to start a Novel

  • The Premise – In 20 words or less, what is this novel about at its core?
  • The Stakes – If the story ended in tragedy, what would that look like?
  • The Core Conflict – What are the opposing sides?
  • The Resolution – How does the core conflict resolve?
  • The Lesson – What is the moral of your story?

There are many more places you can Google to get a head start if you plan to join NaNoWriMo this year.  I know it’s late for most of the above now, but you can do a crash course over an upcoming weekend, or lay out a simple outline to show you a direction.

NOTE: Be sure to check out the blogs above, especially Writers Write which is packed full of writing advice. The daily blog also offers writing tips, writing comics, writing quotes, and writing prompts. They have a monthly Short Story Challenge. And they offer seven extensive online writing courses (fee).  

Speaking of costs, all of NaNoWriMo’s programs (including Camp NaNoWriMo and the Young Writers Program) are FREE.  They run on donations. (tax-deductible) Whether you are writing or not, you can donate here  NaNoWriMo – Donations

You bet!

Yes, I signed up this year. But 50K words? Probably not. But if I get 5K words and finish my children’s mystery “The Bible Thief,” I will jump for joy!


Give me a Na!

Give me a No!

Give me a Wri!

Give me a Mo!



My Declaration of Accountability


NOTE: The links to NaNoWriMo may be a little slow loading right now. They changed their hosting company (Yeah I know, dumb time, right?) but they promise all will be up to snuff in the next week or so.



Author: Jackie Houchin

First, I am a believer in Jesus Christ, so my views and opinions are filtered through what God's Word says and I believe. I'm a wife, a mom, a grandma and now a great grandma. I write articles and reviews, and I dabble in short fiction. I enjoy living near the ocean, doing gardening (for beauty and food) and traveling - in other countries, if possible. My heart is for Christian missions, and I'm compiling a collections of Missionary Kids' stories to publish. (I also like kittens and cats and reading mysteries.)

18 thoughts on “NaNoWriMo – No Never! or You Bet!”

  1. Thank you, Jackie–this is one of the best posts ever, and very helpful. I’ve been on the fence about participating for the first time, and you gave me a lot of tools to help decide. Good luck to you!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Bonnie. You are disciplined to write novel now. But this is fun. There is also a “community” that you can connect with, and even “Write-Outs” at Starbucks etc that you can participate in. For me, it’s better in my quiet office. But the buddies DO encourage you to keep going.


  2. Even if you don’t want to enter the contest, using their preparation guidelines is a great way to organize your story and set you on the road to writing a novel or short story. It lets you think about where you want to take those characters and who those characters are. That is exactly the way I teach my Anatomy of a Short Story Workshop. It’s very therapeutic. Thanks, Jackie, for alerting fellow writers to the contest.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. YOU can write novels with all this structure and deadlines, Gayle, but the NaNoWriMo challenge does help a lot of people to “finally” get a routine of writing every day. You get a little badge if you complete, but it’s not a contest, in that you get prizes. Like they said… it’s the sense of accomplishment and a big fat manuscript that is the carrot before the donkey. And hopefully NaNo writers don’t stop, like I did, but will finish what they start in November, and rewrite, edit, rewrite till they have something good.


    1. You, like the others on this blog, need no encouragement to write, write, write, but NaNo is fun to participate in. For many it’s the first time that they will write that much in such a short time.


    1. Thanks, Linda. There is a great sense of community with the NaNo participants. Maybe this post will show newbies how to get started before November 1st. Or maybe next year!


  3. Excellent info, Jackie. I never understood what NaNoWriMo was all about – i.e. why and what. Thank you, and I think this is great info for authors trying to “get-in-the-writing-groove” so they can get their manuscript going. I particularly like how you are given some rules and structures with NaNoWriMo, but whether you accomplish your goal is up to you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Exactly, Madeline. You make the goal, and you get the gumption to meet it. And along the way, your get encouragement. I forgot to mention that, but participants will get an email or two every week from well known authors to encourage them, tell them where they should be at that point, and hints to keep going. It’s like your own cheering group!


  4. More often than not, November is very busy for me. I wish they’d do this in July. But I am about to start a new novel, and these resources look great. Thanks, Jackie.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I thought the same thing, Maggie. They actually have “Camp NaNoWryMo” in April and July. It’s not as big a thing, but it might work for people with a full calendar in November. It’s a lighter version than the November event. You can set up as a group with your writer friends, or go it by yourself. You set your own word count and content. It looks like it might be fun.
      Good luck on your new novel! Stand Alone, or another in a series?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks for the info on the April/July events. I never heard about them. I’m starting my 4th Hazel Rose Book Group adventure.


  5. Kudos, Jackie. You did a spectacular job of laying out the information regarding NaNoWriMo. It’s not something I’ve ever done (or would even consider), but I know several writers who were able to flesh out a novel in that amount of time. Good luck to all who tackle this daunting project.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Just a bit from the cheering section –

    Here is a short list of things you can do to prepare yourself for NaNoWriMo, not just your writing project. Hopefully, you’ve already prepared your novel at least a little, since it is NINE DAYS TO NANO, whaaaaaat??????

    Work WITH your inner critic:

    Conventional wisdom says to silence your inner critic, but that can be hard, if not impossible, in practice. What I am going to suggest is to change the way you and your inner critic talk to each other. Instead of listening to your inner critic tell you your writing is bad, ask your inner critic what SPECIFIC thing it doesn’t like. Make a note of it, keep writing, and come back to it in editing.

    If there’s a problem with the dialogue, if this paragraph is awkward and not working, if you need to do more research, that’s all fine and can be addressed later (like December or January or whenever you’re ready to edit). Try not to get fixated. This is just a first draft, it doesn’t have to be perfect. Give yourself permission not to be perfect.

    Meal planning:

    WHAT are you eating this November? Can you cook meals ahead? If you can cook ahead, use this week to cook as much food as you can store in your fridge/freezer. Don’t just make a giant pot of soup and eat it all month, trust me, that gets boring. Try to make several meals that you can rotate.

    WHEN are you eating this November? If you’re like ML Twinkle and have a variable work schedule, you may have to adjust your eating times, but if you have a set schedule, plan when you eat.

    Habit tracker:

    Whether you’re a bullet journaller or not, a habit tracker is a great tool for taking care of yourself this November. Don’t forget to brush your teeth, take a shower periodically, drink about 8 cups of water, and pick up after yourself for ten minutes every day. Your body will thank you.

    These things DO cut into writing time, but you will thank yourself for doing these things when you don’t have any cavities, you don’t stink, you’re well-hydrated, and your living space is not wrecked come December.

    Also, if needed, employ an alarm to remind yourself about going to the bathroom. Bladder infections are not fun.

    Scheduled writing time and place:

    WHEN are you writing this year? Can you set a schedule? If possible, do it, and stick to it! If you’re having trouble deciding when to write, look at the write ins guide! You’re very welcome to join us virtually or in-person as applicable to your situation.

    WHERE are you writing this year? If you’re going virtual, you still need a space. Can you write at home? If not, maybe the library or a coffee shop would work better for you?

    Start doing these things NOW!

    Starting these things NOW means more success come November. Write some short stories and talk with your inner critic in a constructive way, start cooking your meals, tracking your habits, and spending time in your writing place at your writing time ASAP, and you will (probably) be more successful this November.

    Talk to you all soon!

    Twinkle Toes the Berserker

    Liked by 1 person

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