Creativity's Workshop

Taming and Training Your Creativity to Write Abundantly

Oops, I Started NaNo WriMo Without a Plan


Four kids jumping into a pool holding hands

Image credit: Microsoft Clip Art

So, you all know how Jessica’s been dutifully telling everyone she wasn’t going to participate in NaNo WriMo this November? Well, when November 1st came around, force of habit kicked in and somehow she found herself opening a new document and just pouring 2,000 words onto the page.

She was surprised.

I was surprised!

But it was fantastic. By word 1,542 I had woken up to what she was doing and created the most brilliant idea (if I do say so myself, which I do, so there).

We went from averaging half a sentence per day (and the sentence was complete and utter bilge I tell you), to knocking out 2,000 words a day. Just like that. It was wonderful.


Because we didn’t feel like we had to fulfill any particular requirements. We just had to throw words at the page until we reached 2,000 and then we could do the same tomorrow.

But there’s a snag. Because we didn’t realise we were going to NaNo WriMo this year, we did no preparation. None. Zip. Nada. *Insert sound of air rushing through ear holes.*

So how do you go from having absolutely no idea what you’re gonna write about to pounding out 50,000 words?

Naturally, we have suggestions on the subject.

Start Chasing Wild Horses

Recently Jessica came across a post by Raewyn Hewitt in which she likened writing first drafts to chasing wild horses.

This is a brilliant description of a first draft. You’re chasing the idea and trying to scope out its edges. That’s all a first draft is for.

If you don’t know what your story is about, then this is the time to find out. Just open up your words and chase horses until you catch one. Often, it’s only one thought or one sentence from your first draft which is all you take across to your next draft.

So make that the goal. 30 days. 50,000 words. One good sentence.

Describe the World from Your Protagonist’s POV

If you have no idea what your world is like and what kind of people live there, grab yourself a protagonist and get them to describe the world to you. See things through their eyes, and search for the history, people, experiences, customs and quirks of the world.

In this way you find out about your world and your protagonist at the same time.

Interview Your Characters

If you don’t know much about your characters (Jessica started out not even knowing her main character’s name!) then put your characters in an interview situation and start asking them questions.

Any questions – easy, hard, random, obscure. You might be very surprised at their answers.

Don’t stress about how accurate the answers are or about getting to the absolute heart of what that character feels. People twist the truth or evade answers and your characters probably will too. Just let the words flow and see where they take you.

Change Elements at Random

This is a first draft. It’s free and it’s written only for you.

So feel free to switch points of view whenever you feel like it (especially if you’re getting sick of your current point of view). Switch time periods. Switch genres. Switch tenses (e.g. instead of ‘he said he would fling a mango at me,’ try ‘he says he’s going to fling a mango at me’).

If you’re blocked for words, use the opportunity to change things around and find another angle to write from.

This is fun! This is exciting! And this is what writing is all about. Fling your words happily and freely at your canvas and see what happens.

Remember. 30 days. 50,000 words. One good sentence. Not necessarily a great sentence, just a good sentence. And take it from there.

How’s your novel coming along so far? Do share.


3 thoughts on “Oops, I Started NaNo WriMo Without a Plan

  1. Yay – I’m so glad you liked the wild horse analogy. I’m chasing my own through NaNo too and my planning was also pretty non-existent this year. Actually changed novels on day 3 so original plan not very helpful.

    Excited for you though. A whole new book baby is born!

  2. Your analogy captures it perfectly! Thanks so much for sharing it with the world.

    Changing novels on day 3. Wow. I look forward to seeing how it goes. 🙂

  3. Creativity, that Jessica is a writing machine–she just doesn’t realize it! I’m constantly in awe of how much she pumps out and it’s good stuff, too. I had to lower my standards from 2,000 words per day to 1,000 because I got stalled but I’m back at it again, and as you say, most importantly, I’m having fun!

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