Guest Post by Jo Linsdell

Photo Jo Lindell on November Writing Challenges

Author Jo Lindell presents advice on preparing for the November Writing Challenges

Just as the calendar year winds down, three November writing challenges help writers jump-start their creativity. You can choose between NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), WNFIN (Write Nonfiction in November) aka NaNonFiWritMo (National Nonfiction Writing Month), and PiBoIdMo (Picture Book Idea Month).

 Not everyone, it turns out, is choosing just one. Guest poster Jo Linsdell, of and organizer of the annual online PromoDay event plans to do all three. She takes “plans” literally, so we’ve asked her to share how she preps to “put a jet pack” on her productivity.

 Even if you’re “just” doing one challenge, or partially participating, you can learn from her attitude and pre-challenge tactics.

I love a good challenge. I’ve never been one to do things lightly though. I have a go big attitude when it comes to setting goals for myself, and this year is no different. I’ll be taking part in, not one, but three different challenges this November. I’ll be doing NaNoWriMo, WNFIN, and PiBoIdMo.

Right now you’re probably asking yourself “Is she crazy?!” The honest answer here is probably “YES”.

As I have two small children, work part-time as a teacher, have several blogs, and have various events to attend throughout the month, it’s a huge goal to try to reach.

A 50K novel, a non-fiction book, and 30 ideas for children’s picture books, all in the one month is a LOT of work. It is doable though.

How do I know?

Simple. I’ve done it before. And yes, I collected my winner certificates 😉

Preparing for the November Writing Challenges

So how does someone prepare for such a writing frenzy?

The key is organization, and preparation.

NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month)

The first thing to do is pick and idea. In my case, the idea usually picks me—I tend to have an over-active imagination. I go with the one that I think about most. When it takes over and starts to build itself in my head, I know it’s the right one to go with.

Next I brainstorm and work out a plot outline. Nothing too detailed, but enough to give me a basic timeline of events to get me from start to finish. As I do the outline, the main characters usually already start to define themselves. They develop personalities.

The next step is writing up a quick character sheet (click for free download) for each of them. Again nothing too detailed. Part of the fun is seeing where the characters take me.

Finally, I like to create a draft cover for the novel. It makes the book seem real. Envisioning it as a final product can be very motivating.

WNFIN (Write Nonfiction in November)

The first thing to do is to pick an idea and brainstorm on it to make sure it’s enough to become a book. This is important because some ideas are better suited to being blog posts, or a short series of blog posts, than a book.

Once I’m sure I have enough material to work with, I expand my brainstorming into a rough table of contents. This way I know the structure the book will take and what I need to write in each section.

If there are any parts I need to research further I do that next. Things like looking for quotes to include also fall into this category. These are all saved to a word file called WNFIN prep on my computer. I can then hop over to it as needed during the challenge.

I use a template with includes title page and other front matter, the table of contents, and pre-formatted chapter lay out. This saves me loads of time later on and helps me see the book as a finished product as I’m writing it. That way I just have to write the book.

As I do with NaNoWriMo, I also make a draft cover for WNFIN, for the same reasons.

PiBoIdMo (Picture Book Idea Month)

I’ve participated in this challenge for several years now and each time I go over the 30 idea goal. Having two small children around is an endless font of inspiration!

The only preparation I do for this challenge is to make an idea sheet (click to download) where I’ll track the number of ideas I get throughout the month.

So what about the non-writing related prep for the November Writing Challenges?

Yes, that’s just as important. Actually, it’s even more important than the rest of it.

If you’re going to be in a writing frenzy for 30 days you need to make sure you have a plan of action.

When will you write? Can you fit in big blocks of time on some days? Or will you be doing word sprints for the whole month? I tend to have a mix of these. I try to get bigger chunks done whilst the kids are at school in the morning as this is usually when I have more free time. I then word sprint through out the day where possible..

Where will you write? Find the best place for you to take on the November Writing Challenges. I work best from my home. I try to limit these interruptions is by telling everyone I’ll be doing these challenges and warning them that if they interrupt me for silly reasons they are likely to be turned into a character in my NaNoWriMo novel and then killed off. I’m writing a thriller this year 😉

I also plan food in advance. I do a big food shop the last day of October so I’m nicely stocked up with healthy, and easy to prepare food. Supplies of tea, coffee, and hot chocolate are musts, as are chocolate bars, and fruit for snacking.

In the last days of October, I make sure all the washing and ironing is up to date, and give the house a deep clean. This makes it easier to stay on top of housework throughout the month. I also prepare a few activities for the kids to do should I need to keep them busy.

That’s it really. Get as prepared and organized as possible before the challenges start.

If you’re taking part in any of the November Writing Challenges, tweet me a shout at I’ll be doing lots of word sprints throughout the month. Maybe you can join me for some?

Jo Linsdell is an award-winning, and international best-selling author and illustrator. She is also the CEO of For more information about her and her projects, visit

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