Polyglot NaNoWriMo and 5 Ways to Come Up with a Great Story Idea

Hands up if you’ve heard of NaNoWriMo! No? Well, simply-put, it stands for National Novel Writing Month, an event that takes place every November, where people across the globe gather to try and write 50,000 words of a novel. But, of course, we’re here because there’s a little bit of a language twist on it…

Okay, just to lay it out there: I love writing. Literally some of my earliest memories are of writing stories (I’ve still got the first one I ever wrote, about a penguin that went on holiday to Skegness!) and it’s an interest of mine that hasn’t come and gone so much as I’ve had periods where I’ve felt free to write and periods where I haven’t. And it’s not like I have some big story to tell, either – I just enjoy telling them, coming up with moments that I know will make people smile or gasp in shock or cry, even if the only person involved in this equation is me.

So, it’s no real surprise that I’ve been taking part in NaNoWriMo for a long time. I’ve not been there since the very beginning – I didn’t hear of it until 2009 – but I spent most of my teens writing and posting online, so NaNo was just a step up in terms of focusing on how much I was getting done.

NaNoWriMo is simple: 30 days. 50,000 words. That’s it. Technically, you’re supposed to work on only one project, your novel, but ‘rebels’ (i.e. people not doing that specific thing) have been around the whole time, and I find myself rebelling more often than not nowadays.

What is Polyglot NaNoWriMo?

Well, this is a challenge put forth by @sprakskatan, who has a wonderful post about it here. It follows similar rules to the Langblr NaNoWriMo proposed by tumblr user Guillem el Gat, although I think we’re just focusing on the writing part, rather than the word list part – which definitely works better for me, personally, but might come in handy for others.

Polyglot NaNoWriMo Rules - from @sprakskatan

Here’s the gist:

  • Write 200 words per day in a language that isn’t your mother tongue
  • Do this for 30 days
  • Don’t edit as you go (an important rule for every kind of NaNo)
  • That’s it!

When you’re done, you’ll have 6,000 words in whichever language you’re learning. And, of course, you can always aim higher (or lower) than that! Can you write 10,000 words in a month? 25,000? The whole 50,000?

Now, of course, we’re only three days out from the start of NaNoWriMo 2020, so if you are planning on taking part, it’s worth taking a few minutes over the next few days to think about what you might write. You don’t have to! The act of ‘pantsing’ – flying by the seat of your pants aka having no plot to speak of – is a tried and true NaNoWriMo tradition. It’s not one I ascribe to (I get stuck wayyy too easily) but it works for a lot of people.

And don’t be worried, too, if you end up writing something that you think you’ll never use again. Even if you’re writing in your first language, you might write something you hate, but at least with the Polyglot NaNoWriMo, you’ll be learning more of your target language at the same time! Win-win.

How can you come up with story ideas?

Here’s a few ways:

  1. Try a plot generator. Bonus points if you find one in your TL!
  2. Similarly, you can find lots of writing prompts on Pinterest, ranging from plot points to dialogue snippets to character descriptions.
  3. What are you watching or reading right now? Take some time to think about the characters in it and how you think the plot will go, or should go. Write it down. Congratulations, you’ve just written fanfiction (which is a great way to practise your writing while worrying less about characters and plot imo, since someone’s done a lot of the work for you)!
  4. Is there a subject that you know a lot about? Ice fishing? Knitting? Bees? Write a story that includes your knowledge! Bonus: you’ll practise words and phrases you’ll need to talk about your special interest area.
  5. Daydream. You have my full permission (don’t quote me on that) to do this for the next three days, or even through NaNo and beyond. Try thinking of ideas in the shower, or just before you fall asleep. Once you get a little nugget, you’ll be surprised how quickly other ideas start coming to you.

Of course, these are all ideas for writing fiction – which is something a lot of people genuinely find challenging even in their native language. I’m not actually planning to write fiction for Polyglot NaNoWriMo this year. So if you find that journalling prompts are helpful for you, answer those! (Again, there are so many on Pinterest!)

As for why I’m not writing fiction, well, it’s because I’m planning to write or translate a lot of it in English. Although the official NaNoWriMo target is 50,000 words, I’m aiming for 100,000 words (which I did manage to write in 35 days this September-October), finishing up my translation (German to English), writing a sequel to the 100k fanfic from September, and writing blog posts. Yep, I’m counting those – I have a lot to catch up on and so long as I’m working on my craft, no word is wasted!

So, for Polyglot NaNoWriMo, I’m aiming for 6,000 words, primarily in German, though I might sneak some Spanish or Mandarin in there too.

What am I going to write?

Well, I’m planning to write a few – maybe a series – of pop culture essays. I watch a lot of TV and films and really enjoy discussing them and I’d like to be certain I can do that in my TLs too. Plus, I figure it’s more interesting than writing about myself (!), which is why I never end up doing any of those journaling prompts.

So, if you have any opinions on pop culture you think I could talk about, drop them in the comments (or tweet me) and I’ll see what I can do. And I’ll still be doing my best to keep up with my language study, of course! The 6WC starts in November as well, after all!

Good luck with your November!

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