NaNoWriMo – How To Get Started

I was flattered (and humbled) to receive a message today from an old BYU friend asking about how someone new to NaNoWriMo would get started.

I thought I’d share my response here because as my BYU friend, my friend Annie and my sister have found out, once you get me started talking about writing, I just won’t shut up about it.

And if you’re a NaNoWriMo Newb (former gamer here), you may find this helpful.

It’s not too late to get started!


The best advice I’ve ever heard (and taken) is to just sit down and write or BIC HOK (Bum In Chair, Hands On Keyboard).

It’s that simple and that hard.

But of course, I have much, much more to say on the the subject – Soooo…

(2) Characters

Beyond the initial idea, I like to have character names for (at the very least) my main characters, however many of those I have.

Sometimes  I only have two characters to start with and I make up the rest as I go.

For this year’s NaNoWriMo novel, I started out knowing a lot of the characters I was going to use with a little back story for each – but it doesn’t really matter. Names and back stories will come as you write no matter how much prep you do before you start (I’ve found).

There’s no wrong way to do any of this – it’s just what works best for you, which will come with time and experience.

(3) Outlines

Some people recommend an outline of the novel’s plot, some people don’t. I’ve had success with and without an outline.

For someone who hasn’t written a long story before, I’d say write an outline – to keep yourself on track as you write. It will probably change as you go and that’s okay!

I can recommend a lecture I saw recently on YouTube from one of my favorite authors (Dan Wells) that talks about plot structure if you’re not sure where you want to go with your plot. It’s basic but profound. It gives you something to think about at the very least. However, I would not bog yourself down with How-Tos at this point – sit down and start writing.

(4) Where Should I Start?

You can start anywhere you want.

I usually start at the beginning. Dan Wells recommends starting at the END so that you know where you’re going. Again, there’s no WRONG way.

I’ll even skip around once I’ve cleared some initial hurtles at the story’s beginning (if a scene is stuck in my head and it just won’t get OUT any other way, for example).

(5) Help! I’m stuck! (Writer’s block is a thing)

If you feel like you’re stuck, move to a different scene, or a different viewpoint. OR maybe something that happens “off screen” that won’t end up in the novel but can inform you of something that’s going on in the story outside your main character’s viewpoint. Or you could write as the villian(!) to get a better idea of that character’s state of mind or whatever.

Again, there’s no wrong thing to do here.

(6) Go Easy On Yourself

Remember that your novel is not going to come out perfect the first time – or the second time – or the third time you go through it – but eventually it will or as close to perfect as you can get being the fallible human that you are.

Writing novels is not like performing music. It’s more like painting – layer on layer on layer.


For goodness’s sake,  SHARE your writing.

I sent the first three chapters of my current NaNoWriMo novel to my sister and the feedback I got was fantastic. No pats on the back, though. She absolutely ripped it to shreds and I couldn’t be happier because it’s going to be a better novel because of it.

So, fellow NaNoWriMo’s – forget about going outside (it’s COLD anyway), sit down and get to it. The world needs your novel.

Thanks for reading,



3 thoughts on “NaNoWriMo – How To Get Started

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