#NaNoWriMo prep part 1: Deciding on the Project #amwriting

National Novel Writing Month is not only about writing novels. This is a month solely dedicated to the act of writing. Even if you have no intention of “doing” NaNoWriMo, it can’t hurt to think about what you might like to write.


November’s Goal

First, we must decide on a project. Once we know what we’re writing, we can begin laying the groundwork.

Many people know they want to write something but don’t know what. The words live within us, but how do we free them? First, we have to find out what those words want to be.

Some ideas are:


  1. What genre?
  2. What is the central theme?
  3. Who are the characters, their gender, their culture?
  4. Will you “pants it” through the plot or create an outline?

Poetry collection

  1. What genre? Free verse? Or do you prefer traditionally structured poetry? Odes, Haikus, Elegies, Sonnets, Dramatic Poetry, or Narrative Poetry? In my misspent youth, I was a musician and wrote lyrics for a heavy metal band, so I tend to write lyric poetry. I have a friend who writes sci-fi poetry.
  2. What is the central theme of this collection? (The central theme in my poetry is the landscape that shaped me, i.e., the lake where I grew up, the river emerging from the south end of it, and the hills rising above it.)
  3. Will these be random poems expressing the thoughts of the moment?
  4. Will these poems be planned to express certain ideals and beliefs?

Old booksShort story collection

  1. What genre? Or will it be a mix of genres?
  2. What is the central theme that gives shape to this collection?
  3. Will you have a recurring character binding the collection together?
  4. Will a different protagonist be featured in each?
  5. Will the stories be set in one town or in many?
  6. Will you “pants it” or write little outlines? I work both ways when it comes to short stories.

You’ve noticed that I’m repeating myself—but trust me, a fiction project is easier to create if you know what genre you are writing for and can see the central theme that will bind it together.


  1. Have you read any memoirs? Do you know how the plots of successful memoirs are constructed?
  2. Your actual memories or a fictionalized account?
  3. Dare to name names or not?

Family history

  1. Are you just curious, or are you searching for an identity, trying to find a past to know who you are and where your family comes from?
  2. Research from a site such as ancestry.com or gleaned from family bibles, letters, and other collected papers? A combination of both?
  3. Photographs?
  4. Will you include interviews with older family members who may remember something about your family’s history?

Academic Papers

  1. Will this be the basis for a thesis, or is it an independent study?
  2. Will it become the basis for a textbook?
  3. Will you be required to conform to a specific format for disseminating the arc of information? (Structural editing.)
  4. Will you need to use a specific Academic Style Guide for grammar and mechanics? If so, where can you acquire it?

As we go toward November, we will delve further into plotting a novel or short story. We’ll also talk about structuring literary collections (short stories or poetry) so a reader will stay involved and finish the book.

Now is a good time to declare your intention to participate, if you are so inclined. But navigating the website at www.nanowrimo.org can be confusing. Take the opportunity to explore it ahead of time and get to know all the many tricks for using it. You’ll be more comfortable when November arrives.

Perhaps you haven’t been a participant for several years and are considering joining again. You’ll find the new website is quite different from the old site. Many features we used and loved in the past are no longer available. However, the new site includes many features you will enjoy. The following screenshots will help you find your way around the website:

First, go to www.nanowrimo.org. This is how the landing page looks:


Next, create a profile. You don’t have to get fancy unless you are bored and feeling creative. On your profile page, click the “Announce New Project” button. Open this to declare your project.

profile page

dragon_fangirl’s profile page at http://www.nanowrimo.org

  1. Give your project a name if you have one. I don’t have a working title yet, so I’m going with 30 Days of Madness and Pot Pies, my all-purpose NaNo title, when I have no idea what to call my project.
  2. Pick the genre you intend to write in.
  3. Write a few paragraphs about your intended project if you know what you plan to write. If you have nothing yet, don’t worry about it.

You can play around with your personal page a little to get used to it. I use my NaNoWriMo avatar and name as my Discord name and avatar. This is because I only use Discord for NaNoWriMo and two other large writers’ organizations. (Later in this series, we’ll discuss Discord and how numerous regions rely on it for word sprints and virtual write-ins.)

While creating your profile, write a short bio. With that done, you’re good to go. If you’re feeling really creative, add a header and make a placeholder book cover—have fun and go wild.

NaNoWriMo-Menu-IconNext, check out the community tabs. The tabs will be across the top if you are in full screen. If you have the screen minimized, the button for the dropdown menu will be in the upper right corner and will look like the blue/green and black square to the left of this paragraph.

When the button is clicked, the menu will be on the right-hand side instead of across the top.

Your regional page will look different from ours because every region has a different idea of how they present themselves. It will be there in the Community tab. Also, don’t forget to check out the national forums, which can be found on the Community tab.

You may find the information you need in one of the many forums available.

Book- onstruction-sign copyBy the time November arrives, I hope that those who want to “do NaNoWriMo” will have the tools they need and the confidence to get it done.

Many people don’t choose to participate in something that intensive but still want to write. November is dark and gloomy here in the Pacific Northwest–a good month to begin a casual writing project, but often, people don’t know how to get started.

If that is you, my goal will be to get you closer to identifying what you want to write and helping you begin that project.

Whether you participate in NaNoWriMo or not, I hope to help you take that nebulous idea and turn it into written words.


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14 responses to “#NaNoWriMo prep part 1: Deciding on the Project #amwriting

  1. A great overview, Connie! Thanks for sharing all these useful information. Have a nice week! xx Michael

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