This is the year: last-minute NaNoWriMo Prep

NaNoWriMo is almost here!! Who else is super excited??? 

For those who’ve been distracted for the past 20 years, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month, in which writers are challenged to write a 50K-word novel draft within the month of November. 

I’m almost done with my first novel Hibiscii, which I’m fairly happy about, but since I miss that freshness of a blank document, full of new possibilities, I decided to get on the NaNo train and start my new Black Orchid project, even though I didn’t have much time to prepare.

So, fellow writer who decided this isn’t the year because you didn’t have time to prep, fear not. I’ve got you covered with this last-minute NaNoWriMo Novel Prep. It’s more like a quick structure helper, that will allow you to brainstorm ideas into what you want to do within that little time we have until November.

I started doing NaNoWrimo two years ago and I confess: I’ve never hit the 50K before. In the first year I wrote a prequel for my current novel and hit 20K, which was great, considering I was doing my Masters and barely had any  free time. Last year I couldn’t focus that much, as I had other projects and, since I was quite displeased with my novel Hibiscii, I used NaNoWriMo to give it a makeover. Both years combined made it close to 50K-ish. 

Looking back, I know exactly what went wrong: I set insanely ambitious goals and had a hard time keeping up with them. This year I’m trying a different approach. I’m using  three tools to generate a topic and start writing quickly, as well as to keep up with it: Focus, Beneficial Pressure and Qualitative Goals. Let me show you how.

NanoWriMo Writemosphere

Three years ago I went to London for two weeks to attend a Screenwriting Course at London Film Academy. It was incredibly insightful, what I learned helped enrich my writing and totally changed my perspective on Cinema. I saw it for the first time an academic subject (before that I just a humble regular consumer).

In one of the first sessions, our instructor, cheerful writer/actress Kay Stonham gave us a task: grab a random photo and write a story in half an hour. Not the entire story, just the answer to four questions. By answering them, we obtain the foundations to any story. That exercise was so useful: first, it gave me a sense of purpose (Focus) and the little time I had, made my brain work faster (Beneficial Pressure).


Get a picture of someone. Idk, a model, actor, whatever works for you. If you don’t know what to pick, check my Pinterest album “Character Bank”.

Grab the prettiest notebook you can find and answer the following questions:

Who is he/she?

What does he/she want?

Why can’t he/she get?

What needs to be done?

Set a timer for 30 min and jot down everything. Repeat that for other characters if you need. Don’t worry if you can’t come up with a brilliant idea right away, just make a list of all the ideas that pop up, crappy ones included, so you can make space for the good ones.

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After giving the characters a bit of thought, think of the best possible settings for that story to happen. Jot down everything, then procede to part II of this exercise.

Describe your plot in one sentence.

Describe your plot in 3 paragraphs.

When you get to this point, you’re able to write down all the main important points of your story. Now you have an outline too! [Scrivener is great for outlining! Try it for free for 30 days!]

There is only one thing left: having an idea of how to get to the finish line. 

In previous years I’d just divide the 50K words by 30 days, which made it a 1667 word daily goal. I don’t like how by missing one day, I just kept piling up word goals to a point where I could only but accept defeat. That’s why I’m changing to qualitative goals, for example:  in this session, scene x or y have to happen; the gentleman is rescued; the heroine saves the day. it doesnt matter what  the scene is. It’s just as important to set appropriate times. I’ll have to write for at least 10 minutes every day.

Another  aspect is social support. Look for a NaNoWriMo group in your town (and/or online) and join them. It feels great to be able to share the ride with people who know exactly what you’re going through. Plus, as a group it’s easier to stay motivated and make new friends!

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I’ll stress the double quotes up there in the subtitle. Because if you’re taking writing seriously, you can’t just wait around for inspiration to magically show up. YOU are the one who needs to show up to write. Of course there are things that ignite inspiration, like specific music or places. Try surrounding yourself with those things (what are yours? Let me know bellow).  I’m inspired by the sound of rain, cozy chairs and blankets, black coffee.

Writemsosphere quote

I make hundreds of playlists (my favourite for writing sessions are Audiomachine and Two Steps from Hell). Also, keep writing prompts nearby so you always have something to write about. 

Alright, I hope this guide was useful to you. Let me know how is your NaNo Prep!

Happy Writing!

PS: I’ll keep you posted on my NaNoWriMo page! 🙂

PPS: Follow me on Instagram for tips and prompts

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Marti Silvestre

Marti Silvestre

aka Marti McWrite

▸ Narrative Explorer
▸ Literary and Gaming Analyst

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