I’ve been leading a group of writers for National Novel Writing Month since 2004, both as the local Municipal Liaison (ML) and as a librarian at our community’s public library. Most of my resources are based on things I could make using office supplies. You are welcome to use anything here, and if you have created something that you want me to share with others here, please email it to me and include how you would like to be credited. ~Lissa
Find regional forums and updates at the Topeka region of the official National Novel Writing Month website.
Each year for our kickoff event, I print off copies of the most current versions of “What is Nanowrimo” and “How Nanowrimo Works” straight off of the www.nanowrimo.org website. I also use these two documents as my main talking points for explaining anything about National Novel Writing Month to anyone who has never tried it.
I also encourage people to follow Chris Baty’s advice from No Plot, No Problem to consider what kind of book they would enjoy writing using the “Two Magna Cartas of Novel Writing” which is basically a way to help you write the kind of book you would like to read.
- The Two Magna Cartas of Novel Writing (1 page PDF)
And several years ago I downloaded this nifty handout that presents the Month-Long Novelist Agreement and Statement of Understanding in a concise and printable format. At our kickoff event, I generally try to do a dramatic reading to get people in the mood for the adventure we are about to embark on together, followed by an optional public signing of a poster-sized version.
This is the most popular handout each year at kickoff. Our regulars who have been writing annually come to kickoff just to get their updated copy of this one. It’s a 30 days hath November handout with calendar, daily word count goal, and progress bar, ready for updating, coloring, and doodling.
- 50K in 30 days tracking chart and calendar tracking handout for 2012 (1 page PDF)
- 50K in 30 days chart and calendar tracking handout for 2013 (1 page PDF)
- 50K in 30 days chart and calendar tracking handout for 2014 (1 page PDF)
Plot ninjas to make and share
Are you stuck? Have some ninjas attack! By the time your characters fight off the ninjas, react to the surprise, clean up the mess and plot their revenge, your story will be moving again.
Plot ninjas are a general term for anything that adds an element of interest to your plot and increases your word count. The term was coined a few years back by an enthusiastic nanowrimo writer who explained that if you are stuck, have NINJAS ATTACK. By the time your characters react to the attack, fight off the ninjas, and find out why they attacked in the first place and prevent future attacks, you will have several thousand more words and you will have hopefully advanced your plot and found a way to get back on track. Luckily for those of us NOT writing stories in which there might conceivably be ninjas, a plot ninja can actually be ANYTHING that you add to your story unexpectedly that adds an element of interest to your plot and increases your word count. Sometimes, the ninjas lurk in the corners, surprising you; sometimes, you might want to call on them to help you shake up your story when you feel it’s in a rut. Choose a few of these plot ninjas in case you get stuck and need an idea to get your word count (and your novel) back on track!
Caution: plot ninjas inside (1 page PDF)
ML and Librarian tip: For an easy giveaway, print the handout, cut apart the prompts and stick them in an envelope, then tape the label on the outside. For an even easier giveaway, print the handout and roll it up with a rubberband so only the label shows!
“A picture is worth 1000 words” — Or, at least, we hope this is true in November. Print out one of these pages of colorful pictures, cut them apart and put them in an envelope. When you are stuck, draw one out at random and try to incorporate the scene you see in the picture into your story. (Try to make it last at LEAST 1000 words!)
- Pictures to inspire at least 1000 words (1 page PDF)
- More pictures that are worth 1000 words (1 page PDF)
ML and Librarian tip: If you are making these up for giveaways for your writer’s group, just put 5-6 pictures in each envelope.
Paper airplanes and “Murphy’s Laws of Combat” — When your characters are stuck in a bad situation, or worse, stuck not doing anything at all, choose one of these challenges from Murphy’s Laws of Combat to get the action started again. These are each one page PDF files. Cut each into 4 rectangles, then fold a simple paper airplane with the plot idea hidden inside. Basic paper airplane folding instructions can be found here.
- Aerial Attack display sign
- plot airplanes 1
- plot airplanes 2
- plot airplanes 3
- plot airplanes 4
- plot airplanes 5
- plot airplanes 6
- plot airplanes 7
- plot airplanes 8
- plot airplanes 9
ML and Librarian tip: If you are making these up for giveaways for your writer’s group, photocopy each page on a different colors and then when writers choose a few airplanes, they will be guaranteed different plot ideas inside.
Plot bunnies can be the brief ideas that start off great stories. Plot bunnies can be little ideas that pop into your head and won’t go away. Just like real bunnies, they might raid your story, or gnaw at your brain, and they will definintely multiply. These are each one page PDF files. Cut each into 6 squares along the lines and fold to hide the plot idea inside. Each page Basic origami rabbit instructions can be found here.
ML and Librarian tip: If you are making these up for giveaways for your writer’s group, photocopy each page on a different colors, then cut along the lines to make squares for folding. When writers each choose a few plot bunnies, they will be guaranteed different plot ideas inside.
The M&M’s plot ninjas are meant to be used in conjunction with a bag of M&Ms. It turns ordinary chocolate into “Novel-Saving, Word-Count Boosting, Character-Reinvigorating, Plot-Restoring, Colorfully Delicious Candies which melt into your plot, not in your hand.”
Novel M&Ms writing prompts (1 page PDF, cut apart to make three)
ML and Librarian tip: This is useful as a give-away if you find the fun-sized colorful chocolate on sale after Halloween, or you can ask people to provide their own, of course. This works well at a write-in event, too!
Sign in sheets for events
For librarians and MLs: Getting to know people whom you may only meet in person once a year can be tricky, especially when you generally interact with them using usernames. And not everyone wants to give out their contact information, even if they are at the public event. These sign-in sheets let people share as much as they want, directly with the group organizer, as well as indicate their planned involvement in the group. I’ve always found them to be very useful.
- sign-in sheets for writing events (1 page PDF, cut apart to make 4 sheets)
Lock Up Your Internal Editor
A tongue-in-cheek solemn annual tradition at the Topeka Kickoff party is the ceremonial locking-up of each writers’ internal editor. With a blank index card and an envelope, you too can participate. Here’s what to do.
- Imagine that voice in your head that says things like “Your writing is stale. Rewrite this passage right now.” and “Look at all those typos. Better stop and proofread.” and “That’s not historically accurate; you should spend the afternoon researching.” That’s your internal editor. Most of the year, everyone is very happy that your internal editor is there to help you improve your writing to make it clear, concise, inspiring and awesome. But not in November.
- Draw a picture, sketch a representation or write a brief description of your internal editor on the blank card. Then politely say goodbye, and symbolically lock up your internal editor and seal the envelope. For the month of November, you want to write, create, imagine, let the words flow on to the page without hesitation. Not every word you write will be worth saving later, but every word you write in November will get you one word closer to reaching the 50,000 word finish line.
- If you are a perfectionist, or if you can’t be trusted, give your internal editor to a friend to hold for you until December 1. You can open your envelope and release your internal editor once you hit 50,000 words (Or on a limited basis, for essay tests and memos to your supervisor.)
Download this 2 page worksheet from the Young Writers Program that explains Putting Away Your Inner Editor in more detail.
Stickers! Lots of Stickers!
These are all formatted to print on the small return address labels 1.75 x 0.5″, 80 per page (Avery 5167)
- Be nice to me small return address label 80 per page (pink)
- Be nice to me small return address label 80 per page (blue)
- Ask me about my word count small return label 80 per page (blue and red)
- Ask me about my word count small return label 80 per page (yellow and blue)
- I’m writing 50K small return address labels 80 per sheet (rainbow)
- 500 word snack reward small return address label 80 per page orange
- 1000 word snack reward small return address label 80 per page green
- 1667 snack reward small return address label 80 per page (yellow and blue)
These are all formatted to print on standard address labels 1 x 2 5/8″, 30 per page (Avery 5160)
TGIO Winner gifts
Librarian/ML tip: On the www.nanowrimo.org website, participants have a progress bar in November to show their ever-increasing word counts. And when they reach 50,000 words, that progress bar has generally turned the coveted shade of purple that means the writer is now basking in the warm glow of their winner’s certificate while wrapping up their plot at a leisurely pace. For a fun and easy TGIO party gift, wrap leftover Halloween candy in purple paper to create real-life purple winner bars!
Prewriting and other October events
In Topeka, one of our former ML’s created a wonderful resources for writers who want to spend the month of October preparing to write a novel. She compiled her recommendations and thoughts into 30 Days of PreWriting by D. L. Rose [Kindle Edition].