Thursday, September 30, 2021

Is NaNoWriMo Right for You?

by Kathleen Neely @NeelyKneely3628

If you’re an author, you have probably heard of NaNoWriMo—National Novel Writing Month. You can visit their website at

November is designated as National Novel Writing Month. Yes, I said November, the month of Thanksgiving, the busiest travel time of the year. The time for long lines at airports and bumper-to-bumper traffic. Add to that, preparations for Christmas. It’s a time for family, falling leaves, bonfires, and homemade soup. 

I’m sure that whomever designated November for this honor was neither a writer nor a mother. Okay, now that I’ve gotten my pet peeve out of the way, I’m still a writer and NaNoWriMo is coming. 

Here’s the premise. Commit to writing 50,000 words in 30 days. If you sign up on their website, you’ll see opportunities to track peaks and valleys in your journey and earn achievement badges. More importantly, you’ll have the chance to interact with other writers, those who understand your challenges. They can inspire and motivate you. 

If you want a successful NaNoWriMo experience, plan ahead. Their website suggests that you begin planning in September. That doesn’t mean starting your word count. 

Prewriting is a timely task. 

Here are a few important elements of the prewriting stage. 
  • Inspiration: What are you going to write? Remember, this is a novel. That includes fiction and some non-fiction books. A non-fiction novel would be based on true events, but written in a story style. This can include memoirs. It does not include non-fiction such as a devotional or self-help book. 
  • Research: The need for this varies, but all novels require it. If you’re a writer of historic fiction, your research will be extensive. Your novel set in the Civil War, Holocaust, or Regency Era must be authentic to the culture. A contemporary novel still requires research. I needed to seek out some legal expertise for The Street Singer which involves a law suit, and I couldn’t have written Beauty for Ashes without the help of my friend from Puerto Rico. Research your setting. Those who live there will appreciate your accuracy. 
  • Plotting: Wherever you happen to fall on the spectrum from pantsers to plotters, some planning is necessary. Before you begin, even the pantsers should know how the story will end. You need to plan for character development. The protagonist must show some changes from the start to the finish. I like to allow details and scenes to emerge along the way. I’m not a firm plotter with a chapter-by-chapter outline. Yet I have a skeletal plan from the start. 
All of these prewriting tasks can be accomplished before the start of NaNoWriMo. It will help to make your actual writing count go quickly. The required 50,000 words can be a novel. Hemingway was known for keeping them short. But typically, publishers look for 80,000+ words. That’s okay. You have your 50,000 words which include your plotted story. When November’s over, it’s time for post-writing. I’m not sure if that’s an accurate term, because this is such an important, integral part of creating a great novel. Now’s the time to edit, edit, edit. Add sensory details. Examine emotions. Don’t add words for the sake of word count. Add them to grow your story. 

I love the idea of a National Novel Writing Month. It provides the motivation often needed. I did the math—50,000 words in 30 days means 1,667 words daily. Sigh. A feasible task in January, a challenge in November. But come November, I’ll be writing. Will you?


Kathleen Neely is a retired elementary principal, and enjoys time with family, visiting her two grandsons, traveling, and reading. 

She is the author of The Street Singer, Beauty for Ashes, The Least of These, and In Search of True North. Kathleen won second place in a short story contest through ACFW-VA for her short story “The Missing Piece” and an honorable mention for her story “The Dance”. Both were published in a Christmas anthology. Her novel, The Least of These, was awarded first place in the 2015 Fresh Voices contest through ALMOST AN AUTHOR. She has numerous devotions published through CHRISTIAN DEVOTIONS

Kathleen continues to speak to students about writing and publication processes. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers. 



  1. I've never tried NANO because of work but maybe this year...
    Great info!
    Good luck and God's blessings

  2. Morning Kathy, good to hear your voice in a different venue. I've never done a full book for NANO. Challenged myself to a couple of novellas and followed through. Would like to try it sometime but agree with you about November. Seekerville used to have one in March. The beauty of this is that the concept is transferable -- you can challenge yourself in any month, and even do it with a crit partner or other sympathetic soul. You wouldn't have the official encouragement from NANO, but it would get done. I talk a good game, have to try it myself some time...
    Kathy Bailey

  3. I’ve never tried Nanowrimo, simply because it is a busy month. But those are some great ideas fir things ti di ahead of time.