National Novel Writing Month Resources

October and November 2019 Events

Fiction Writing Techniques: Outlining and Character Creation
Monday, October 14, 2019 | 6:30-8:30pm | Marvin Auditorium 101BC Adults
Hosted by the Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library, 1515 SW 10th St, Topeka KS 66604
Learn and share strategies for creating believable characters in your novel using character sheets. Plan compelling plots and scenes using outlining. Discuss techniques with other fiction writers. Get ready for National Novel Writing Month.


How to Write a Novel in 30 Days with NaNoWriMo
Monday, October 28, 2019 | 6:30-8:30pm | Marvin Auditorium Adults
Hosted by the Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library, 1515 SW 10th St, Topeka KS 66604
Write a 50,000 word rough draft in November with National Novel Writing Month. Get fun and helpful advice from former participants, plus official stickers from NaNoWriMo headquarters and other inspiring goodies that will power you through the month. Sign up at and join the Topeka region.


Fiction Writing: Come Write In

  • Sunday, November 3, 2019 | 1-5pm | Menninger Room 206 Adults
  • Sunday, November 10, 2019 | 1-5pm | Menninger Room 206 Adults
  • Sunday, November 17, 2019 | 1-5pm | Menninger Room 206 Adults
  • Sunday, November 24, 2019 | 1-5pm | Menninger Room 206 Adults

Hosted by the Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library, 1515 SW 10th St, Topeka KS 66604
NaNoWriMo participants meet to add scenes, chapters and characters to their stories, compete in word wars, and further their plots. Bring laptops for a creative and frantic writing session to increase word counts. Sign up at to write the first draft of your next novel in November.


Get involved in Topeka

The Topeka 2019 events are available on the Topeka NaNoWriMo calendar. Some events are cosponsored and held at the library. Some events are community sponsored events within the local writing community.  Find regional forums and updates at the Topeka region  of the official National Novel Writing Month website.

Novel Writing Resources

NaNoWriMo 2014 display - photo by Michael PerkinsHow do we build our writing community here in Topeka? 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 freely use and adapt anything here. If you have created something to support NaNoWriMo in libraries that you want me to share with others here, please email it to Lissa Staley and include how you would like to be credited.

Your most powerful partner is NaNoWriMo’s Come Write In program, which connects writers with their nearby libraries, bookstores, and community spaces for cozy, communal write-ins.

Basic handouts

Each year for our kickoff event, I print off copies of the most current version of “How Nanowrimo Works” straight off of the website. I also rely on that document as my main talking points for explaining anything about National Novel Writing Month to anyone who has never tried it.

I 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.

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.

Progress handout

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.

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!)

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.

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.

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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)

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 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].




Lissa Staley

Lissa Staley helps people use the library. She is a Book Evangelist, Trivia Emcee, Classics Made Modern book discussion leader, NaNoWriMo Municipal Liaison, HUSH podcaster, and frequent library customer. She loves her kids, being a librarian, living in Topeka, and helping people form connections and community. She reads a new book every few days, but recently enjoyed the audiobook of "Let's Go (So We Can Get Back): A Memoir of Recording and Discording with Wilco, Etc." by Jeff Tweedy, which a library customer recommended to her.

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