National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is an annual event in which participants commit to writing 50,000 words during November. The rules are simple: declare your project, usually writing a new novel or a fresh rewrite of an old one, and attempt to finish it or write 50,000 words of it before the end of November. That sounds like a lot of words and a big commitment, doesn’t it? It breaks down to 1,667 words a day. But, remember, this isn’t to get a fully polished novel, it is just the first messy draft. Every sentence and paragraph do not have to be perfect. NaNoWriMo is there to motivate you to get the story down. It is a community experience with huge support. People return year after year relishing the month-long challenge to get their stories out of their heads.
October is known throughout the NaNo community as Preptober. Now is the time to plan, plot, and outline before the writing commences in November. I have put together some articles, podcasts, and YouTube videos that share great tips and advice on preparing for NaNoWriMo.
The official NaNoWriMo website is a fantastic resource and I have included their website here. You can sign up for the challenge here and follow their week-by-week advice for preparation for readiness in November. They cover topics including developing your story idea, creating complex characters, constructing a detailed plot or outline, and building a strong world. Each topic has additional resources for you to check out. There is a complete Nana Prep 101 handbook for you to download, and prepping and outlining forums to join if you so wish.
New York Book Editors advise you to start by outlining your story. Get some research out of the way now too so you don’t get distracted in November. This article suggests creating a board on Pinterest and include landscapes, houses, hairstyles, clothing, people, etc. Create a character bible too. Your characters may change as you write but at least by doing this you will have a baseline.
Having your tools ready before November, not just your laptop, notebook, and pens, but music playlists, food, and drink are important to think about too. You should plan to reward yourself with each mini-goal you meet.
Savannah Gilbo shares the ultimate guide to planning for NaNoWriMo with great links to resources. Use her 10-step NaNoWriMo planning checklist to set you up for success. Finding your story idea and testing it, choosing one global genre, uncovering the themes of your story, developing your story’s setting, writing a synopsis, and brainstorming your story’s key moments are just some of the steps. In each step, tips and advice are shared to help you prepare.
The Write Practice recommends 4 ways you can give yourself a jump start for NaNoWriMo. Get to know your characters, explore your world, plan your plot, and clear your schedule. This article shares templates and exercises to assist you in your planning.
P.S. Hoffman shares 11 steps to prepare for NaNoWriMo. He says that you need to claim a powerful reason to write a book. Make it personal, make it important. Create a simple recurring writing schedule; you’ll find that if you plan out the time, it is more likely to get done. You must let your loved ones know how important NaNoWriMo is to you and ask them to support you. Join a tribe of motivated people; support groups provide a competitive drive, inspiration to keep going, and best of all, accountability. The article’s last six steps are all about getting your book ready and shares some good tips on preparation.
This article from Self Publishing advises you to take a hard look at your calendar and figure out how you can fit in the required time to get the words down. Take into account days off. There will be times when you can’t write, when life takes over, so plan accordingly. Track your progress and reward yourself along the way. It’s important to celebrate every little benchmark.
In this episode of the She Writes podcast, Chris Baty, founder of NaNoWriMo, chats about the event and inspires writers to get involved.
Louise Claire Johnson explains the ins and outs of how NaNoWriMo works and shares her top tips on how to prepare for it.
There are 48 episodes on this How to Win at Nano podcast to keep you motivated and inspired to complete NaNoWriMo. These short episodes cover everything from screen fatigue to the 30k slump, to getting and staying motivated during the challenge. Perfect for listening to in the run-up to taking part or even during November.
8 reasons to participate in NaNoWriMo are given in this podcast, including finding a sense of community, conquering writer’s block, and learning to push past resistance.
In this episode from Author Revolution, they are gearing up for Preptober and talking about the ways you can get yourself ready to take on the challenge of NaNoWriMo.
In this video, Sarra Cannon talks about how to prepare for NaNoWriMo during Preptober. Sarra runs the Heart Breathing blog and has lots of useful resources for the writer.
As with everything to do with writing, there isn’t one rule that fits all, so take what you want from a challenge like this. If you are a short story writer, you could set yourself a challenge of writing ten short stories during the month. You could use the challenge to do something achievable for you, even if it is just to establish a more regular writing routine for yourself.
‘First drafts are all about putting sand in the sandbox; you come back to build a castle later,’ says editor Rebecca Heyman. ‘The goal of NaNoWriMo should be to collect as much sand in the box as you can. Not every grain of sand will end up being part of your masterpiece, and that’s okay. Just get it in the box, and go from there.’
If you take part in this challenge and complete it then you’ll have a new draft of a novel, and the satisfaction that you rose to the challenge. The goal here is to get inspired and to get writing. I, for one, am going to give NaNoWriMo a go. I hope this week’s column has been helpful to you. If there are any topics you would like me to cover, please get in touch.
(c) Lucy O’Callaghan