On this blog every Tuesday and Friday I write about story techniques, structure, and/or publishing. Comments and questions are welcome. I also have a personal blog, Amy Deardon, on which I write about a variety of topics purely as they catch my fancy.

I've written one novel, A Lever Long Enough, that I'm honored to say has won two awards. In my life BC (before children) I was a scientist who did bench research.

My book, The Story Template: Conquer Writer's Block Using the Universal Structure of Story, is now available in both hard-copy and e-book formats. I also coach would-be novelists and screenwriters to develop their story. YOU CAN CONTACT ME at amydeardon at yahoo dot com.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

It's Almost That Time of Year: The NANO Challenge

National Novel Writing Month offers an annual challenge that is the equivalent, for writers, of running a marathon: 50,000 words in one month. This seems to be an impossible dream for some novelists, especially those who are perfectionist or otherwise have significant writing blocks. This challenge always takes place in the month of November.

When I first heard of the NANO challenge a few years ago, I was in awe of those who could do this -- or even those writers who were brave enough to register. After a few years, though, in a rebellious mood I decided I was going to conquer this. In 2010, with trepidation, I signed up. Darn it, I WOULD conquer this challenge!

I'm happy to tell you that I actually did it :-), not only in 2010 but in 2011 as well. I wrote a lot of garbage without much publishable, although I did spend lots of time developing some ideas. I'm going to go for it again, this time with a serious goal, to knock out my prequel to LEVER since it's been long enough without having finished it.

Do you want to be brave with me and try this?

Some writers doing NANO go in spurts: a few hundred words during the week, then ten thousand words over the weekend. Other writers make a great start but don't enter their daily output after the first week. I would like to suggest my own strategy that works without being totally exhausting. The secret is: slow and steady wins the race.

Here's my strategy: Write 2000 words per day for 25 days. Since there are 30 days (4 weeks, 2 days) in November, this gives you one spare day per week, plus an extra cheat day. Even garbage writing counts since there isn't time to get the prose perfect, merely to get the words down. Producing so many words per day takes, oh, two hours or less. If you get up an hour early, put in 30 minutes during your lunch hour, and write another half hour before going to bed, or other schedule that works for you, you can squeeze in this time.

Admire your word count! As a personal ceremony every morning before you start, put in the previous day's work on the NANO graph. Check out the happy comparisons to the progress line. This is a definite motivator.

Now, before November 1st, if you decide to do this you'll need to take a few days to get used to the NANO idea. Over the next few entries I'll go over some preparation work you can do to organize your novel (ideas for plot, characters etc.) so that you can run out of the gate on November 1st.

And if you decide to do NANO, make sure you buddy me. My NANO name is Amy_D. Write to me at amydeardon at yahoo dot com, to let me know so I can buddy you back. And good luck!

More soon...


  1. I'm up for the challenge. It's a good incentive to complete a rough draft.

  2. I did it twice, and I found myself in a state of burnout for the next three months. One of the books still isn't finished.

    For me, 1700 words a day is not sustainable. I do need what you say, the "off" day every so often. I can easily sustain 1200 words per day, but for some reason that extra five hundred tips me over the edge.

    This may change in the future (and I'm sure my maximum sustainable rate was higher in the past) but for now, I have to sit out NaNoWriMo because of the long-term effects.

    Having said that, I did do "The Wrong Enemy" in one solid month, but that was a rewrite, so I don't really count it as writing. LOL!