National Journal Writing Month may be a useful way to get ready for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), which was founded by Chris Baty back in 1999.

I’ve yet to participate in NaNoWriMo, but when I finally do, I will use my journal to prepare for the month-long writing project.


What Is NaNoWriMo?

For those not familiar with NaNoWriMo, it’s a popular writing project in which participants challenge themselves and one another to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. The idea is to get started writing the novel you’ve always wanted to write and not censoring yourself along the way. The more you write, the more you exercise your creative energies, and the more you learn about writing itself. Baty explains it better this way:

Writing for quantity rather than quality, I discovered, had the strange effect of bringing about both. It didn’t necessarily make a whole lot of sense to me, especially as a writer who had spent days laboring over seventy-five-word record reviews for the local paper. But the proof was incontrovertible, and everyone who finished NaNoWriMo that first year agreed: We were only able to write so well —and have such a merry time doing it — because we wrote so quickly and intensely. The roar of adrenaline drowned out the subcritical voices that tend to make creative play such work for adults.

NaNoWriMo has enabled thousands of people to write a novel, and some dedicated writers were able to get their work published. But getting published is not the point. The point is to commit to the writing goal of 50,000 words, and to allow the writing (the characters, the plot, the weirdness of not knowing where you’re headed) to flourish. By the end of the month you drink a glass of wine and you celebrate your accomplishment.

Using NaJoWriMo

If I understand it correctly, if you should plan to participate in NaJoWriMo, you are supposed to begin writing your novel starting the first day of November, with the goal of writing about 1667 words per day for the entire month. That’s huge but manageable challenge.

But before the month begins, and because NaJoWriMo starts October 1st, you might consider using your journal to think and write about your participation in the NaNoWriMo project, and maybe test out characters and plot ideas. But mostly use your journal could be used to psych yourself into actually participating the project.

Journal writing prompts for NaJoWriMo October will include reflections about creativity and the writing process. There will be a few fictional related exercises for both personal reflection and tapping into creative parts of your brain.

But are a few questions to get your started:

  • Why do I want to write a novel?
  • What fears do I have about writing the novel?
  • What has kept me from writing a novel in the past?
  • How will I find time to write the novel?
  • What will my novel be about?
  • What might I learn about myself in the course of writing the novel?

You probably won’t have much time during the month of November to both write your novel and keep up with journal writing, so using the month of October might be a great way to motivate yourself through reflective journaling about writing and creativity, which is the theme for NaJoWriMo October.

By the way, Chris Baty’s book, No Plot? No Problem!: A Low Stress,High Velocity Guide to Writing a Novel in 30 Days is a great read for preparing for the project. The provides lots of ideas for getting through the project.


Also NaNonFiWriMo

If novel writing is not your thing, there’s also National Non-Fiction Writing Month, which also starts November 1st.

NaNonFiWriMo doesn’t have a word count goal, but the challenge is to write a nonfiction book in one month. In the age of ebooks, writing and publishing a book gives you a lot of clout and credibility in your career, and who could also make some extra money along the way.

Journal writing can be used for the purposes of preparing for this nonfiction writing project as well. You could journal about possible topics for your book, the challenges you think you may face with getting started, and what steps you might take to actually get the book finished.

When I wrote my first book, Starting From Day One, I used my journal first to fight back the critic in my head that would constantly tell me the book was a waste of time and no one would buy it. I then used my journal to write about the accomplishments I was making and the challenges I was facing getting the writing done.  I ended up writing almost 80 entries in my journal about writing the book. My journal became my own personal writing coach as I completed the project.

Are You Participating? 

In many ways, the Fall is a great time to get writing done, especially before the holiday season. I hope that you will take advantage of these writing challenges to gain more confidence as a writer and to learn more about yourself along the way.

Please also share if you plan to participate in NaJoWriMo, NaNoWriMo, or NaNonFiWriMo. It will be great to read about your experiences and accomplishments in these projects.

And be sure to sign up for NaJoWriMo to receive updates for the month of October.

National Journal Writing Month