If you’ve been here before, you’ve likely seen my 30 Days of Gamemastering Challenge. Another topic/event near and dear to my heart, National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo for short, deserved to get some novel writing prompts of its own. NaNo is a wild ride in which you try to write daily and complete a fifty-thousand word “novel” during the month of November.
Some of you who have done NaNo before also know that October is considered by some to be “National Novel Prep Month,” or NaNoPrepMo. The idea behind NaNoPrepMo is that diving into the deep end of writing 1,667 words per day without an outline or notes is like trying to navigate the wilderness without a map or compass. And so long as you’re not actually writing any part of your novel during October/NaNoPrepMo, you’re not “cheating.”*
These daily prompts are designed to help take you from nothing but your desire to do NaNoWriMo to a rough outline of your plot, a thumbnail of a multi-dimensional protagonist, and action plan for getting you through that thirty-day-long wild ride. Each day poses a different question related to a particular aspect of novel preparation. As you progress through the month, you’ll find that the questions are often related and build off of one another organically. Beneath each prompt I elaborate on the topic and provide you multiple ways to consider the question. This is followed by an action plan or journaling activity for that day, and oftentimes I’ve also included links to related reading material from other blogs.
I recommend you start some sort of journal or blog to record your answers and notes, whether it’s a physical notebook, a folder in Evernote or Scrivener, or a blog on WordPress or Tumblr. There are three categories of daily prompts that I’ve woven together—writing habits, your protagonist, and story and setting—so you can organize your notebook or blog with additional section dividers or tags. If you’re following along and want to share your progress on social media, use the #NaNoPrepMo31 hashtag!
Can’t wait to kickstart your NaNoWriMo prep? Download the entire series of blog posts as a free ebook in PDF, epub, and mobi formats.
Day 1: Why do you want to write 50k words in 30 days?
Day 2: What’s your one-sentence premise?
Day 3: What themes will guide your story?
Day 4: Who is your audience?
Day 5: Who is your protagonist?
Day 6: What does your protagonist want most in the world, and why?
Day 7: How will you keep track of your work?
Day 8: What does your protagonist hate most and why?
Day 9: Who, if anyone, is opposing your protagonist?
Day 10: Where will your story take place?
Day 11: Where will you write?
Day 12: Where does the protagonist begin and what sets off the chain reaction?
Day 13: How does the protagonist get involved in the plot?
Day 14: What are the essential scenes so far?
Day 15: What will you listen to while you’re writing?
Day 16: What character traits or talents will help your protagonist achieve their goals?
Day 17: What writing resources are you using?
Day 18: What kinds of people or things might help your protagonist achieve their goals?
Day 19: Will you have any writing buddies?
Day 20: What character traits or flaws will get in the way of your protagonist achieving their goals?
Day 21: Problem areas: what gets you tripped up when you write?
Day 22: What kinds of people or things might get in the way of your protagonist achieving their goals?
Day 23: When will you write?
Day 24: What does your protagonist fear most and why?
Day 25: What do you fear most about your writing or NaNoWriMo?
Day 26: What is the darkest moment when all hope is lost?
Day 27: What does your protagonist regret most and why?
Day 28: What are your NaNoWriMo contingency plans?
Day 29: Do you want to write an outline?
Day 30: Do you want to create a scene tracker?
Day 31: What’s your post-NaNoWriMo plan?
“In National Novel Writing Month, one of the fundamental rules of the game is that you must start your novel from scratch on Day One of the event. You can bring as many outlines and notes and character maps as you like, but writing any of the book’s actual prose in advance is forbidden. This rule is enforced by legions of invisible guilt-monkeys, which are unleashed every year against those who dare to break the rules.”
Baty, Chris (2010-07-01). No Plot? No Problem!: A Low-Stress, High-Velocity Guide to Writing a Novel in 30 Days (p. 28). Chronicle Books LLC. Kindle Edition.
But my recommendation would be not to worry too much about this kind of “cheating.” In theory, the whole point of NaNo is to engage in writing, so if your prep moves you to write, ride that urge as long as you can! You can still write 50k words in November and have it count. You just may want to keep those October drabbles in a separate document so you don’t mix word counts.