Getting ready for NaNoWriMo

NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month, is a yearly writing challenge created by Chris Baty. The goal is to write 50,000 words of a first draft in a month, which amounts to 1667 words a day. It is an insane challenge, that I’ve eyed for a few years now (I used it for my PhD in 2018 and I turned it into a write-everyday-challenge last year). 2021 is the year I dive in.

I have a novel project I’ve been working on for a couple of months now, and I’d like to prepare it as much as possible so that I can write it in November. There are lots of resources online, including:

  • a 50+-page PDF on the NaNoWriMo website (click)

  • an October planner created by Eva Deverell (click)

Among the ideas listed in these resources, here are some points you may want to consider for your project and what they’ve implied for mine:


I’ve gathered together some plot ideas during the summer, and discovered that for the first time in my short writing life, I needed to focus on the rules of magic before developing my characters further than the basic outline I had for them. My story revolves around a magical ability that is well-known, but there is one unexplained consequence triggering my main character’s arc, and I need to know more about that before I know how she will react to it. Spoiler: it’s all about baking. Hence the picture.


Another point that has made me think for a couple of weeks is the ideal reader. You don’t write middle-grade books like YA books or adult books. At first I thought I’d write a middle-grade adventure (targeting 8-12-year-olds), but I realised I needed my main character to have finished school when the story opens, so she’d be 17-18 years old, which makes her the protagonist of a YA novel. And a YA novel comes with other expectations which I don’t necessarily have to follow, but need to keep in mind.


After that, it’s been about writing a synopsis to know where I’m headed before putting the first story-words on paper. To do that, I took inspiration from basic novel outlines. My first idea was to have a story in two parts, each with its own structure: my first part would follow Eva Deverell’s one-page plot (click here to find out more) and the other one would be inspired by a movie synopsis that would work well for me story with a few twists. I happily drafted my synopsis in an hour and kept thinking about it for a month and a half afterwards, thinking on the one hand that I was really happy with it and on the other hand that it was a bit flimsy.

Character motivation

Fast-forward to mid-October, and with NaNoWriMo approaching, I need to make sure my synopsis feels right. During a brainstorming session with a friend, it turns out it doesn’t and I throw away half of it because it lacks tension and stakes. The story is just unfurling quietly, telling about two young adults trying to shine light on a mystery, but there isn’t a lot more going on, whereas I want my story to feel exciting and fun. So I’m not exactly back to square one, but now my quest has a different objective: what is my main character’s goal and what is her motivation?

Asking these questions made me realise that solving the mystery wasn’t the goal, it was a means to reach the real goal. Which makes a big difference. And now that I know what my character is aiming for, my story will be a lot stronger. I’m not sure yet about the synopsis, far from it, but my hopes is that it’ll be easier to tweak now that I have a better idea of the one whose story I’m telling.

Other points to consider

  • Genre: are you writing a cozy space opera? Steampunk romance? Fantasy thriller?

  • Setting: how does the setting impact your characters? Are there some world-specific elements that can bring tension and create obstacles?

  • Character names: I read somewhere that a character’s name wasn’t often chosen by the characters themselves, but most often by their parents / the persons overseeing their upbringing. That might be a thing to keep in mind.

  • Character evolution: I realised recently that the situation I’d created for my main character at the beginning was in fact how she should end up at the end, which led to me wondering how she’d get from here to there.

A list of exciting scenes: remember to have fun! What are some cool ideas that spring from everything you’