My Twisted Writer Brain…

15 Writing Alternatives to the Traditional NaNoWriMo

As per Wikipedia, Na=National No=Novel Wri=Writing Mo=Month or NaNoWriMo (often shortened to NaNo) is a month long challenge that began in 1999 by writer Chris Bay. That first year saw twenty-one participants in the San Francisco Bay area of the U.S.A. The idea is to write every day an average of 1667 words per day for the entire month of November and end up with 30×1667 or 50,010 words which is a short novel.

NaNo soon took on a life of its own and is now a very popular annual worldwide writing endeavor for the month of November.

The first time I participated in NaNo I got about five days in and gave up. I didn’t beat myself up, but I realized I wasn’t ready. I honed my craft and learned a bit more about where I wanted to go and then a few years later participated again and completed the first draft of a novel.

I never officially signed up for NaNo though.

What I did was post my numbers daily on my FaceBook page. For example, I’d post 2700/1710=4410. This represents my total so far (2700) added to my daily count (1710) to give the current word count (4410). The next day would read something like 4410/2200=6610.

I only put the numbers and it took a couple of days before people started to ask what they meant. It became my accountability to write *something* toward that manuscript every single day.

There were days when life interfered but I always wrote at least a sentence and adjusted the numbers. NaNo for me meant writing daily on the same project. There were days that I’d write 4000 and then other days, ten words. It didn’t matter. The commitment–to myself–was being fulfilled.

NaNoWriMo has become so popular that it pops up everywhere. Some groups organize themselves to meet and write together while others officially submit to the NaNo site for word count verification. NaNo isn’t meant to intimidate, it’s meant as an inspiration to write every day and have a first draft by the end of the month.

Lately, I’ve seen many people getting stressed out about the idea of participating. They’ve decided that the official NaNoWriMo is too complicated and intimidating. The nice thing is that you can set your own rules for the month and still accomplish the same goal–heck if you don’t want to do it November change it to February.

You’re the boss.

Fifteen ways to make NaNo your own.

  1. Instead of writing 1667 words a day for 30 days–write 300 words every single day for a total of 9,000 words which is the length of a novelette.
  2. Do a 100 word flash fiction every day. Flash fiction is typically under 1000 words but is tricky because you have to get a full story in there. Since its short keep it to one character that can help in the development.
  3. Write a poem daily. That’s a great challenge.
  4. Every day for the entire month of November write an affirmation for yourself. Post it where you can see it. Repeat them all daily for the entire month. (or longer).
  5. Write a short story every single day for the month–this could be 1500 or 5000 words. Follow the structure of character, setting, conflict, theme, and resolution. You could develop a whole arsenal to rewrite, perfect, and enter into contests. A short short (as per Writer’s Digest max 1500 words) is also best to keep to one character because there isn’t enough room to explore more. Longer stories though can expand on relationships and characters. In a short story there’s not a lot of room for purple prose as every word counts.
  6. Write 600 words every day to create a Novella. Those beautiful short novellas that draw us into a character’s world and encapsulate the story arc and tension in a much shorter offering.
  7. Who needs a novel when you can do a Haiku everyday? The Japanese non-rhyming three lined poem of five, seven, five syllables respectively.
  8. Chose a different topic to write on everyday–do an expose with facts, details, objectives etc. This could be invaluable research.
  9. Everyday for November 2109 write a complete sentence that engages at least two senses that show what is happening in the world. Utilize each sense individually and together. This is a valuable exercise in show don’t tell.
  10. Write a vignette or scene for your current work in progress. This could be a few lines or it could be 800 words. Your choice. Close your eyes and describe a short scene that occurs somewhere in your story. It doesn’t matter if it’s out of sequence. These scenes may vary everyday from characters, setting, events, and/or interactions. What an exciting way to explore your work.
  11. Do a blog entry every single day for the month of November. Choose a topic and write something different about it everyday. Challenge yourself with POV, tense, gender, setting.
  12. Get going on your first Twitterature experience. This is a story that would involve the 280 characters allowed on one tweet to evolve a story over the 30 days. Could be a real challenge.
  13. For each day in November do a fifteen minute free write. Choose a different word, topic, or prompt everyday or have a friend or spouse give you one everyday. Then just write–no editing or thinking–see what surfaces.
  14. Complete 30 How-To Articles about everything and anything. They can be short and sweet like “How to enjoy the Best Morning Coffee” or something more elaborate like “How To Fix Your Car so it Never Fails Again.” In December, look them over and see if you can submit some to ezines, etc.
  15. Preform a different writing exercise every single day of November. Do a query letter, write a synopsis or your WIP, come up with a Tag Line, rewrite a chapter, do a free write, record a family story, write a children’s story…The list is endless and yours alone.

We are limited only by our imaginations. Go make November your own and perhaps start your own tradition. The chart below from Wikipedia and can act as a guide for your writing. No one said that the NO in NaNo couldn’t mean Novella or Novelette. Just have some fun with it all.

ClassificationWord count
Novel40,000 words or over
Novella17,500 to 39,999 words
Novelette7,500 to 17,499 words
Short storyunder 7,500 words

8 thoughts on “15 Writing Alternatives to the Traditional NaNoWriMo”

  1. Great suggestions. I’ve decided to challenge myself by changing the way I journal every day. Starting yesterday! I also like the Writers’s Digest Poem-A-Day challenge, although last year I didn’t actually finish until mid-December.

    1. You always impress me how you come up with fresh stuff all the time. I may try the poem a day this year. Seems more realistic right now. Good luck and Happy NaNo….xo

  2. Great ideas! I’ve done some of these a couple times 🙂 Nice for those of us who aren’t passionate about novel-writing to have options. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Great ideas! I might still march along my NaNo route as I like the accountability. I do like your idea of posting numbers on your FB page, though…

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