6 Ways to Plan 50,000 Words

November will be here before you know it, along with an opportunity to hunker down and write the first draft of something new and exciting.  And there’s still time to plan for success in reaching a 50,000 word goal within thirty days.  Yes, I’m talking about the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) challenge.

Does the very thought of creating 50,000 words in that short time period make you break out in hives?  Well, it’s nothing to dread, if you begin thinking and planning today.

1.  Plan a concept.

Choose a concept that will hold your interest through thirty days of non-stop writing.  After all, if you’re not interested in your story, you’re not going to finish it.  Pull out that bulging folder with all your notes on story ideas.  Now’s the time to browse through those ideas, searching for the one that gives you delicious tingles of creative energy.  Make sure your concept is solid enough and specific enough that you can create a plot around it.

Weak concept: A vampire story.

Strong concept: A vampire is elected President of the United States.

2.  Plan the characters that will inhabit the story. 

Think about what makes the characters tick.  What part do they play in moving the plot forward?  Think about each character’s values and background.  Try to understand their motives before you begin writing their story.  Do you want your readers to have empathy for the characters, or to hate them?  Why?

Weak characters:  Have no goals, no mission in life.  Never change their beliefs, their attitudes, or their motivation.

Strong characters:  Have a desire, a want, a need for something, driving them to act and react to what’s happening around them.  Learn and grow, or deteriorate, as a result of their experiences.

3.  Plan a theme that appeals to your target audience. 

What drives your characters into action or reaction?  Is it forgiveness, or revenge?  Love or hate?  Whatever it is, know how it shapes the lives of your characters.

Weak theme:  There are no conflicts or challenges, the characters remain static within a perfect life.  No decisions have to be made, no effort has to be applied as the characters float through life – and the reader doesn’t care, because he lost interest after the first chapter.

Strong theme:  Characters are faced with life-changing decisions which reshape their lives as they face the challenges presented in the plot.  Their lives are not pretty or perfect, but real and visceral.

4.  Plan a structure for the story.  

Lay out your plot points and verify that they create complete story arcs.  Sketch out subplots, making sure they move the main plot forward, and that you can bring them to a successful resolution.

Weak structure:  Lack of crisis/conflict, revelation/response, resolution.

Strong structure:  Unfolding plot in a solid arc, surprises and tension that keeps reader reading late into the night.

5.  Plan your writing time.

Approaching a thirty-day writing challenge without planning your time commitment is like showing up to pitch a major league game with your arm in a cast.  Why make it hard(er) on yourself?  Create your writing schedule with intention.  If that means it has to be the first thing on your schedule every day, then write it in ink on your planner.  Holding your writing time sacred plays an immense part in successfully completing your word count.   Tell your family and friends you will be devoting your time to writing during November.  Enlist their help in staying with your schedule.

Fifty-thousand words in thirty days requires 1, 667 words per day.  Focus on your daily slice of the total, instead of allowing yourself to be overwhelmed with doubt.  Eat your elephant one bite at a time.

Weak schedule:  Whatever time is left in your day – after your job, your family time, your chores, your favorite television shows, and fun with your friends.

Strong schedule:  A specific time set aside for writing each day, carved in stone (or ink) in your daily planner.

6.  Plan your celebration.

If you follow the previous steps before November 1st, you’ll be miles ahead in completing your novel on time.  So go ahead and plan how you will celebrate when you’re done.  Send invitations before the beginning of NaNoWriMo, letting family and friends know a party will be your reward for completing your first draft, and their reward for supporting you.  Enjoy your triumph.

Weak celebration:  Sleeping all day on December 1st, and not telling anyone that you wrote 50,000 words in thirty days.

Strong celebration:  Treating yourself to something that makes you happy.  Sharing time with family and friends, thanking them for their support while you were glued to your keyboard.


How do you prepare for NaNoWriMo?  Share some of the motivational tools you’ve employed to help you reach your writing goals.

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