A couple years ago we had a short-lived weekly topic challenge. The goal was to pick an interesting topic and try to ask new questions about it (along with our other activity on the site). With NaNoWriMo coming up, we'd like to do this again with a particular focus on questions that are particularly helpful for people doing NaNo. All of the usual questions about plotting, style, dialogue, character development, and so on are still relevant, of course (a novel needs all that), but let's think about what additional, special challenges are posed by the NaNo format and also ask about those. Those might be questions about pacing, tools, or even those other things I listed. You who have done NaNo, please tell the rest of us what your major concerns are.

Here's how it'll work:

  • Post answers to this question suggesting topics (or tags, if you think particular tags are NaNo-relevant). One proposal per answer please. Optionally, explain why this fits with NaNo -- perhaps drawing on your experience of NaNos past.

  • Vote up the answers you like.

  • Each week from "soon" through NaNo, we'll pick a topic from the answers here and announce the challenge in a new post (which will be tagged ). During that week, try to ask new questions about that topic. We'll collect links on meta for posterity.

What do you win? A better Internet, help for yourself and your friends doing NaNo, and bragging rights.

  • 4
    I want to mention that most of the stuff you mentioned are irrelevant for NaNo. If you care about plotting, pacing, character development, you do not have enough time to write. It's only one month, mostly beginner writers who write after/before work. The hard part is getting 50000 words. Thinking about plotting simultaneously will blow their time (if not their minds ;)) Commented Oct 5, 2014 at 19:29
  • 1
    Thanks @JohnSmithers; that's helpful. I've never done NaNo (nor is my main focus on writing novels). So what kinds of topics are relevant to them? What might somebody doing NaNo need a quick, high-quality, Writers.SE answer to? Commented Oct 5, 2014 at 19:37

3 Answers 3


How to not plot,

or, Avoiding plot holes without planning

As mentioned in a comment by John Smithers, any planning that is more than superficial will cause failure during NaNoWriMo. Last NaNo, I spent 20 days trying to plan my novel – without writing a single word! –, then finally abandoned that project and just barfed up 50267 words in the remaining ten days. Never had so much fun. And the outcome, while riddled with plot holes, is exciting and satisfying.

So what I would like to see are quesions about how we can deal with the demands of coherence, suspensful story archs, and satisfying ends, while writing without (much) planning.

(Of course some NaNo participants plan and outline ahead of November, but lets assume the most honest and pristine form of the contest.)

I think this is interesting beyond NaNoWriMo, as many, and especially novice, writers, enjoy no-outline exploration writing, and could profit from methods that would help them counter the lack of planning and avoid the frustration of writer's block that comes from trying to force logic closure on free association that is completely stringent on an emotional level.

  • Perhaps along similar lines, "How does one get a sense of how long a story is likely to be based only on the initial idea?" Obviously, one can expand any idea to arbitrary length, but the difficulty and fun (and quality of the result) will differ. (I suspect such might be too opinion-based and too broad, but it might be possible to carve out a decent question from that topic.)
    – user5232
    Commented Oct 9, 2014 at 0:13

How to figure out how much time I need

This is the first thing I do with NaNo newbies and it's usually the easiest way to convince early writers that they can be successful at writing 1,667 words per day.

It can also be helpful to other writers who might not have experience scheduling and managing writing time, or inspiring to those who have always just written when the muse spoke to them.


"Pushing Through", Skipping Scenes and Nonlinear Writing

How to not get stuck on single scenes, or even single words. Techniques for skipping around in the narrative and still maintaining a coherent voice. How to pick up a scene that's half-written smoothly. How to push past anything that's slowing you down and keep writing, writing, writing.

Basically a specific instance of "shutting up the inner editor".

This is often helpful in general, which is why I think it's a good and useful subject. However, it's particularly relevant during NaNo because even experienced writers can get stuck on some small (or not so small) detail and end up stewing over it for an unlimited amount of time. Every example I listed above is something that I struggled with at least once over the last fifteen or so years.

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