From The Write Life: How to Prepare for National Novel Writing Month

How to Prepare for NaNoWriMo: Your 4-Week Success Plan
September 23, 2016 By Janice Hardy 39 Comments
Share to Facebook Share to Twitter
If you’re participating in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) this November , you’re likely gearing up to plan your novel in October. Writing 50,000 words in 30 days takes work, and starting the month prepared makes it easier to hit your goal — or even surpass it.

Since all stories are about an interesting character solving an interesting problem in an interesting way, your first step is to figure out your main character(s), the story problem, and the main goal.

In a few sentences, describe what this novel will be about. This summary will be your guide for October, and help keep you on track all through November.

Week 1 (October 1 to 7): Focus on the novel’s setup

Beginnings introduce the characters, story problem, and story world or setting to readers, and they set the stage for the rest of the novel.

A strong start will provide you with solid scene goals, giving you something to write about every day.

Things to determine:

How the protagonist is introduced

What traits do you want readers to know right away? How might you show those traits in action? What likable qualities does your protagonist have? How can you show those qualities in your opening scene or first chapter?

The problem the opening scene deals with

An opening with an interesting problem to solve gives the story drive and the characters reasons to act. What problem might your protagonist face when the novel opens?

Remember, the goal of an opening is to a.) hook readers and b.) lead the plot to the core conflict of the novel.

The inciting event

If this event did not happen, there would be no novel. It either drives your opening, or is the bridge between your opening scene and the beginning of the middle (act two).

Week 2 (October 8 to 14): Focus on how problems get solved in the middle

This middle is where the bulk of the novel unfolds as your characters work to resolve their problems and fail a lot. The number of attempts and failures will vary by the type of story, as thrillers have different expectations than romances.

Things to consider:

How the setup transitions to the middle

Everything in your beginning will lead to the middle, where the protagonist will make that all-important choice to accept responsibility for resolving the plot, and move into act two. The opening scene leads to the inciting event, which leads to this decision.

The major problem or event revealed in the middle

Adding a big shake up, problem, or reveal at the novel’s center can prevent the all-too-common boggy middle. The mid-point event creates the goal and problem the second half of the middle will have to resolve, and set up what will happen in the ending.

How the middle transitions to the ending

The protagonist has failed, feels utterly lost and hopeless, and things are at their worst. What the protagonist does here will launch the ending and lead to the climax of the novel.

Week 3 (October 15 to 21): Focus on how the novel ends

The ending is how the novel’s core conflict problem is resolved. It starts with the protagonist at her lowest point and drives her to the ultimate showdown with the antagonist.

Things to determine:

How the protagonist plans to defeat the antagonist

Although the plan may (and often does) fail, this is the goal that launches the ending and propels the protagonist to the climax. What are some of the steps that will take the protagonist from hopeless to victorious (or hopeless to defeated, if that’s how it ends)?

How the novel ends

You might not know the details at this stage, but it helps to have at least a general idea of how the core conflict of the novel is resolved.

How the protagonist is changed by the experience

In most novels, the protagonist grows and becomes a better person by the end of the novel. What changes for your protagonist? How is she better off? How is she worse off? What did she learn?

Week 4 (October 22 to 28): Focus on major turning points of the story

Flesh out whatever you need to write your novel.

If your story is character-driven, you might plan the character arc and focus more on the internal journey of your protagonist and discover the plot as you write.

If you’re a plot-driven writer, you might prefer to map out the major plot points and figure out who your characters are by how they solve those plot problems.

Whatever your process, look at the key turning points and elements you need to keep your story moving forward. I suggest aiming for three major points per act (beginning, middle and ending), but develop as many as you like to keep your plot on target.

Final Days (October 29 to 31): Write a query pitch

It might sound crazy, but I recommend writing a rough query pitch to make sure you have enough figured out to write your novel.

The query letter format is a fantastic way to verify the necessary elements of your plot and characters, and find holes before you fall into them.

NaNoWriMo is a lot of fun, and a good way to whip out a fast first draft. Plan accordingly, and you’ll be able to hit or exceed your daily word-count goals and reach your 50K.

Just Scramble Them by Ken Weiss

He called me on my cell phone.

Not many have the number,

but he has had it for years.

He asked to meet me for breakfast

at the usual time in the usual place,

but there is no fruit there,

and the coffee tastes awful.

What might he want to talk about?

He just retired. Is he bored already?

Is he selling tickets to a charity ball?

I gave his number to a friend who asked for it.

Is he upset about that?

How will I answer him? What will I say?

Can I help in any way?

Who knows? Well, here goes,

into the abyss with eggs and bacon.

Segment of on the run by Mario Salazar

Did you see the camera?

Better yet, did it see you?

When Scarecrow came back to his senses, he acted according to script. Instead of just dusting himself off and being grateful for not being able to complete his dastardly acts, he slugged several people that were trying to help him.

He also uttered threats that convinced the responding police officers that there was reason to take him in. It wasn’t difficult for a sharp detective to get Scarecrow to divulge that he had come into the VFW hall to commit a crime. He had intended to go to the kitchen area, where most of the money from the Friday seafood fest was kept. He then would have gone out the back door. For all his lack of judgment, he did not reveal that he had been armed.

When several of the witnesses were questioned, they revealed the improbable intervention by a stranger. None of the people questioned showed knowledge of the stranger. However, the police figured out that they could get some information from a security camera in the parking lot. They were also very curious as to the quick exit by the stranger.

After several hours of watching the surveillance tapes and correlating the time for the incident the police narrowed down the persons of interest to those driving three cars that had left around the right time. Of those the easiest to identify was the one with the placards on the side that read “García Web Authoring”. A simple search identified the company, its address and Paco as its sole owner.

Detective Candace Augustine decided to visit the place of record for the web business. She discovered that it was the same as the home of the owner, so she figured that the owner would be there.

Paco had just finished his daily exercise routine when he heard the bell ring. He checked the surveillance monitor in his study and saw an attractive, professional looking female at his door and an unmarked police car at the curb.

For a moment he thought to hide. Since his car was in the garage, there was no tell-tell sign of his presence in the house. However, at the last minute he decided to answer the door. He believed that his casual attitude and exercise attire would reflect well with the stranger.

Detective Augustine identified herself and asked Paco: – “Good morning I am detective Candace Augustine, are you Mr. Francisco García?”- The name spoken with a perfect accent.

“Yes, perfect accent, would you like to come in and have a cup of coffee, I just finished brewing it?

“Yes, I would love some. By the way, your English is excellent.”

At first she engaged in what appeared casual conversation. In a few minutes she found out that he came originally from Spain, was an American citizen and had worked in IT for a number of years, including some years as a merchant marine.

She then asked him: – “Could you give me a contact for your work before coming to the Beach?”

Paco gave the detective the name and information of the company for which he and the real Francisco Gallo had worked. She copied all of it in her notebook.

She finally got to the point when she inquired: – “Where you at the VFW lodge last night? Where you accompanied?”

“I was, alone but did not stay. Noticed there was some kind of a commotion and decided to skip the fried clams and beer”.

He told her that he had driven into the parking lot a few minutes past 6:30 PM and as he opened the door to come in, he noticed a person being restrained and a lot of agitation near the bar. He had decided that maybe he could forgo the fried clams and draft beer that he had gone there for and just leave. So he had gone back to his car and had gone to the Big Fish for dinner. He offered to search for the receipt if she needed confirmation. She indicated that he could do so later, just in case.

Detective Augustine finished her coffee and thanked Paco for it before she stood up, signaling her exit. Paco walked her to the door, grabbed one of his business cards and gave it to her, just as she was doing the same for him.

She then asked: – “Could you give me the name and contact info of a couple of your clients to corroborate? – She added this information to her notes.

Paco’s sixth sense went on alarm mode when the cop left. He foresaw danger in the days to come and decided to make arrangements for his next metamorphosis. He could not rely on his self-serving responses to safe-guard his secrets.

While he had kept to his script and had only revealed details of (the dead) Paco García’s life, there could be further investigation that could require DNA testing. In this area he was very vulnerable.

He still had three false sets of identity papers and decided to implement his next disappearing act.

Our next meeting

Next meeting Tuesday, September 6, 2016, 5:30 PM to 7:00 PM
Home of Mario Salazar, 19115 Roman Way, Montgomery Village
Directions: From Montgomery Village Ave., east on Centerway Drive, then right on Roman Way. Go to end and turn left. Last house on right. Park in center of court.
Please sign up on the Meetup site:

Coming up to the Next Meetup

Tuesday, Sep 6, 2016, 5:30 PM

Location details are available to members only.

8 Members Went

Please sign up, as we accept Mario’s kind invitation & abandon Stone House Grill for one meeting.1. We will have quick introductions: our names and something we are writing.2. We’ll ask our host to tell us about and read excerpts from one of his books, followed by comments from our assembled experts.3. Others can read from their writing and rece…

Check out this Meetup →

1. Quick introductions: our names and something we are writing.
2. Our host might tell us about and read excerpts from one of his books, followed by comments from our assembled experts.
3. Others can read from their writing and receive comments. Please take copies so we can read as we listen.