To Nano or Not

In November each year NaNoWriMo (National National Novel Writing Month) begins, with Flash Nano (Flash Fiction) also running for short writers of short fiction.

National Novel Writing Month formed in 1999 and began as a challenge between friends in the US to write 50,000 words of a novel in thirty days. It’s not a complete novel but it’s a start. Now, every year hundreds of thousands of writers sign up. NaNoWriMo supports writing fluency and education through various writing programs, and many novels have been formed through NaNoWriMo and been traditionally published – Sara Gruen’s Water for Elephants, Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus, Hugh Howey’s Wool, Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl, Jason Hough’s The Darwin Elevator, and Marissa Meyer’s Cinder.

Although I have mixed feelings and reservations about the concept (some say you can’t write a good book in a month, and that’s possibly true), but it’s also a good incentive, and it forces you to carve out time. For me, that’s often late at night or in snatched moments on rainy days. We’re all really busy, even with intermittent and partial or full lockdown. For those of you who read this in years to come, I’m talking about Covid-19. It was not a pretty time.

Here are some tips to get you started from Reedsy:

  • Find a story you absolutely love.
  • Understand what people like to read.
  • Come up with strong characters.
  • Write a single-sentence story concept before you start.
  • Consider writing a chapter-by-chapter outline.
  • Or plot only your most important scenes.
  • Research and “build the world” of your novel.

If you prefer to write short fiction, Nancy Stohlman runs the flash fiction nano, where the challenge is to write 30 flash pieces in 30 says. This is anything up to 1000 words, but can be much shorter.

SkyLightRain has some helpful tips on writing short fiction:

1. Form a vision of the story you’ll be aiming to tell, with the beginning already shaped in your mind. If possible, do the same for the ending. Having an idea of the finale you’re working towards will mean you’re far less likely to veer off track!

2. Spend some time considering your characters – working out who they are, how they think, what their goals are, how they might help or hinder each other.

3. Know your setting. This is one of my favourites, particularly if it offers a valid excuse to meander in a much loved wilderness or similar.

4. Pick out a few dramatic moments your plot will cover and brainstorm them, then set them aside. Whenever your enthusiasm wanes over the intensive NaNoWriMo period, treat yourself by delving into one of those to reinvigorate your writing energy.

5. Finally, make sure you have plenty of sustenance to hand. For me, the essentials are coffee and chocolate. What are yours?

Photo credit: Bell Beth Cooper

I write both flash fiction and novels and am seriously considering both, even though I really don’t have the time. If you sign up for either, or both, good luck and and leave a message in the comments to let us know how you get on. Sometimes, having a deadline really helps.

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