Lyla Campbell

Only 295 days until NaNoWriMo begins. If the three letters W, T and F just popped into your head let me lead you into the light. NaNoWriMo = National Novel Writing Month. In short you have 30 days, to pump out a complete story arc with no fewer than 50,000 words completly from scratch (for those out there of the geek persuasion like me, that averages out to 1,666.7 words per day). If you're one of those one-day-novelists, a.k.a. people who say "one day I will write a novel." This is the challenge for you! It's the kick in the pants you've been waiting for to turn out that novel that's been clattering around in your head for the last few years.

The value of this experience was explained most brilliantly in one of the weekly NaNo pep-talk emails I received during Nov of '08: Michelangelo didn't produce the David out of thin air. He began with a rough hewn block of marble. The (very) rough draft produced during NaNo is your block of marble. From that you can chip and polish and buff until it's perfected. Until you're idea is out of your head and on paper, you can't work with it. The intangible must be made tangible. And that's what NaNo does.

I can hear all of you collectively asking yourselves at this very moment. "Um, Lyla...why are you mentioning this in January?" Because, you can never start planning too early for NaNo. But at the same time you can come up with an idea on the 5th of November, sign up late and cross the finish line with 51,346 words. I speak from experience since I've taken both the planning road and the road of procrastination. Either way you go, copious amounts of caffeine will be consumed. (It is a wise idea to buy stock in Red Bull before Nov. 1 and then sell again before the end of the month...just sayin')


Step one in NaNo prep is coming up with an idea. If you don't have a new idea waiting in the wings of your head, here are some great ways to get one to float to the surface:


  • Look through magazines at the photo spreads and artistic ads. A picture is worth a thousand words...and possibly might breed a plot bunny.

  • Keep a dream diary. Take 10 min in the morning to record you mind's journey from the night before. Then, let these stranger than fiction images inspire your next novel.

  • This one is very unconventional, but very effective. Use an online tarot card website to generate a reading. The cards represent types of people (these can inspire characters) and events. The combination of cards will show a "snapshot" of a story line, you can roll on with a plot from there.

  • Look through writing prompt websites like this one: http://www.creativewritingprompts.com/

  • People watch. Coffee shops, the mall, the park these are all great places to observe the rest of the population. Just don't go to far and get slapped with a restraining order. Observe from a polite distance.

I could continue on, and on, and on with witty repartee tyring to convince you to NaNo in November. But it comes down to this: DO NANOWRIMO! Even if you don't make it across the 50k finish line, you've got your block of marble in hand. And if you can do that, you've truly accomplished something.

To sign up for this epic endeavor and learn more, visit their website http://www.nanowrimo.org/

In the epic words of Yul Brynner: "So let it be written. So let it be done." ...Go forth and NaNo!

So, will you be joining me in November?

4 Responses
  1. Valerie K Says:

    Thanks! It's never too early to start :)
    Seriously, the idea generating ideas are good any time of year. I try to have a half dozen likely candidates by the time November rolls around.


  2. Absolutely! I'm there for Nano.

    Love the marble analogy.

    ~ Corra

    from the desk of a writer


  3. Corra and Valerie, I'm so glad to hear you're both WriMos too! I'll be doing a big series on prepping for NaNo in October.

    Have you finished any of your NaNo manuscripts so far?


  4. rachsu Says:

    this sounds pretty fun, actually.
    not sure if it will work out with the good ol' internship - but i'll tentatively say yes!


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