Writing a novel is difficult, but not impossible. Just ask Sara Blackman, who has over a decade of experience competing in National Novel Writing Month.

Better known as NaNoWriMo, the competition challenges writers to complete 50,000 words of a story during the month of November.

"Every year, people drop out because their story isn't going according to plan or because they don't have any idea what comes next," Blackman said.

To encourage more people to sign up and finish the challenge, Blackman is hosting sessions to give writers the tools they need to plan and create the main plot of a story.

"Plot Storming" will take place from 4 to 6 p.m. Oct. 13 and 27 at the Moundridge Public Library, 220 S. Christian Ave., and from 10 a.m. to noon Oct. 21 at the McPherson Public Library, 214 W. Marlin St.

"I am hoping that these meetings will encourage those who might be interested in NaNoWriMo, or simply in writing a novel at all, but are intimidated by a lack of structure to their ideas," Blackman said. "I am in the process of recruiting other writers to share their experience in finding stories and their resources."

What causes many writers to stop working is a focus on making the story perfect. They can be blocked by imperfections that crop up, especially if they do not know where their story is going.

"These can be valid concerns, but there are ways around them," Blackman said. "Your first draft is going to be a mess. You don't have to stop writing because it's not going well."

Blackman thinks talking about the basics of plot structure will aid writers in getting around that mental barrier.

"I'm hopeful that, in talking with people about plot, that they will not only find their story but realize that writing is flexible," Blackman said.

She will use her experience in writing along with other resources to point the way.

"I have a lot of websites I can point people to, and books — all different methods of finding a story," Blackman said.

Those attending "Plot Storming" can bring their story — whether it is just the germ of an idea or a rough draft.

"Basically, I'd say bring what you've got," Blackman said. "We can help them find out what the next thing is for them; what happens next in their story."

"Plot Storming" is free and open to participants of all ages.

"Plot's a pretty universal thing," Blackman said. "You have to know what is expected out of a story. My own term for it is emotional resonance. You have to find a way of connecting to your reader."

Writing provides a way for humans to make sense of the world, Blackman said, as it allows them to place characters in situations and shape their response.

"It's a way of working through things you might not otherwise be able to," Blackman said. "It's also about exploring possibilities."

Putting words together for yourself or other to read at a later date is not only creative, but can also be cathartic.

"Creation, in that sense, is also an act of faith — that something better is going to come through you writing this story," Blackman said. "Writing out a story is a belief that the future will take place, and I think that's important, too."

Blackman is the liaison for NaNoWriMo participants in Kansas who are not located in a major city. This November, municipal liaisons will coordinate hundreds of local, in-person writing events.

"I think one of the biggest things about National Novel Writing Month is the community," Blackman said. "We do have some libraries and such that are stepping up and creating write-ins, but for some people, the community online is the only community they're going to get. It's kind of a luxury to have local events."

For more information on National Novel Writing Month, visit http://nanowrimo.org.

Contact Patricia Middleton by email at pmiddleton@mcphersonsentinel.com or follow her stories on Twitter at @MacSentinel.