Preparing for NaNoWriMo

The NaNoWriMo website has all these great tips for NaNo prep, so I thought I’d share a few of my own. As someone who has successfully completed NaNo three times now, these are some of the things I do to get ready. Of course, they may not necessarily apply to you. Everyone writes in a different way. Still, they’ve worked pretty well for me!

1. Set aside a time of day to write during November- Juggling writing with work/school/kids/etc can be tricky, so you really need to make it a priority by setting aside a specific time of day to write. Since the earliest I typically need to be out of the house is 9AM, I get most of my writing done in the morning. Of course, we don’t live in an ideal world. There are times when you’re not going to be able to write when you want to, so you’ll have to shoe-horn it is somehow, but try to write at the same time on most days. Making writing a habit will be a lot easier this way.

2. Make People Aware of Your Quest- I’m not saying you need to tell everyone in your workplace that you’re writing a novel, but telling your significant other, best friend, mom etc. is a good idea. For one thing, they’ll be prepared for when you’re suddenly a little less social during the month of November. Also, having someone encouraging you, or checking in on your progress, is a great way to keep you focused. Even better, get someone to do NaNo with you. Much like exercising with a buddy is a the perfect way to keep you motivated when you otherwise would have fallen off the horse, having a friend writing with you is a great help.

3. In order to complete 50,000 words in 30 days, it’s necessary to write 1667 daily. You should be writing 1800 at minimum– Because let’s be honest, are you going to get any writing done on Thanksgiving? Even if you don’t celebrate it (NaNo is international after all), life is complicated and you’re probably going to miss a day or two of writing. The best way to handle this is by getting a little ahead every day. That way, when you do get to that day when you’re working tons of OT, you have a huge test to prepare for, or Black Friday shopping comes a calling, you don’t have to worry about falling behind. If you can manage to write 2000 words a day, even better.

4. If you’re a discovery writer/pantser, take a page from the outliners/plotters and prepare a little– I’m a discovery writer. I typically go into a novel knowing how I want it to begin, how I want it to end, and a handful of key moments to get me to that end. I find outlining to be incredibly restrictive and useless, as I’m always changing my mind about where the story is meant to go. At the same time, I recognize that going in with a little preparation is a great help. Coming up with character names, for example, is very time consuming for me, so I like to go into the story with a list of the primary characters and what their names probably will be. It’s also not a bad idea to get a little worldbulding done. Where does your novel take place? What time of year is it? If you’re writing fantasy, what role does magic play? If you’re a discovery writer, you’ll learn a lot about your world during your writing and revisions, but going in with some ideas is going to make things run a lot smoother. It’s also a good to have a firm idea what’s going to happen in the first few scenes. Nothing’s more intimidating than sitting down to an empty page and having no idea of where to start. It’s better to do some planning ahead so you first day of writing is spent actually writing instead of just staring at the screen.

6. Track your progress the old school way- The NaNo website keeps track of your daily word count on a handy chart. Still, I’ve always found it helpful to have a non digital representative of my writing progress, ideally on the wall or fridge so it’s right in my face every day. The first two years I made my own little chart with the thirty days of the month listed out on the left hand side of the page. Whenever I crossed a 1,000 word threshold, I gave myself a star (yes, the little stickers you’d get in elementary school). So if I wrote 2,000 words on day one, I would get two stars. Last year, I switched over to a new format. I took a calendar and split each day into two with a vertical line. On the top half, I would put my word count for the day. On the bottom half was my total. On the days I would miss, I would mark the calendar with a big X. This way worked equally well as the first one. You might find yourself okay with just keeping track online, but I need something in the physical world, where everyone can see. It helps keep me honest.

7. Really clean your apartment/house during the last week of October- Because let’s be honest, how well are you going to keep up with these things during November?

So those are my ideas! What are some ways you get ready for NaNoWriMo so you can start off on the right foot?

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4 thoughts on “Preparing for NaNoWriMo

  1. Great tips! I’m not participating, but I like the way you think, which can apply to any sort of major writing deadline one sets for oneself!

    • Good point. I’ve always felt that NaNoWriMo was good practice for becoming a more serious writer. I actually use some of these practices (such as writing at the same time every day) in my normal writing life.

  2. Pingback: 5 Things You’ll Need to Win NaNoWriMo | Picking Up the Pen

  3. Pingback: Welcome to NaNoWriMo | Picking Up the Pen

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