November is approaching fast, and while this month means many things to many people, to a certain section of the writing community it means it’s time to sharpen our pencils and charge our laptops for National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo. Over the course of 30 days, people who have accepted this challenge will attempt to write 50,000 words. If you have decided to give it a shot, what are the most important things to do in preparation? Well, unsurprisingly, I’ve got some thoughts!
Pick your project
While a lot of people begin a new novel in November, not everybody starts a story from scratch. You might want to use NaNo to forge ahead on a current work in progress, or reignite a stalled project. Maybe you want to start several new somethings, not just one, and work on a collection of poems or short stories. There are no rules! If you think you can write 50,000 words of it over the course of a month, it can be your NaNoWriMo project.
Plotting or pantsing? Let’s talk outlines
If you prefer to completely wing it for the month then you can skip this step, but if you think you’ll have a better shot with at least some kind of road map then now’s the time to start outlining. I’ll be writing a little about my own outlining process next week, but there are loads of great resources available online. Everyone has their own preference for level of planning detail; maybe you work best with a step-by-step guide to your plot, or maybe you prefer to dive in with only a vague idea of your end point and some of the major story beats you want to hit along the way.
Even if you don’t fancy planning, it’s worth giving at least some thought to the project you’re going to be working on over the next month.
Timing is everything
When are you going to do your writing? There’s a lot of variation in how long people take to write 1667 words, which is the number you’re going to want to hit per day on average, but you probably have a sense of how long you’ll need to get to that given typical writing conditions. It’s worth giving some consideration to when you’re actually going to fit that in. If you’re looking for some tips on making time for writing, I just so happen to have a post on that very topic!
Don’t forget, you don’t actually have to write every day either. You probably have some days where you’ve got more available time than others, and it’s totally normal to use those better days to catch up or get ahead, making up for days when you’ve got little to no available writing time. You obviously don’t have to have your writing time scheduled to the very minute, but I personally think it helps a lot if you have an idea of when your best writing times are going to be across the week so you’re ready to make the most of that.
Community is deeply important to us humans, and there’s a fantastic community around NaNoWriMo. Join up to add some writing buddies on the NaNoWriMo website, and I also recommend following NaNo Word Sprints on Twitter and joining a few of those when you can. In a sprint, everyone joining in writes as many words as they can in an established time frame – ranging from five to thirty minutes – and then people share their word counts or major plot developments at the end. Writing can be a very solitary endeavour, but challenges and activities like this help to remind you that you’re not actually doing this alone; there are thousands of other writers working towards the same goal.
NaNoWriMo is just over a week away, and this is a good time to start feeling excited for it! It’s going to feel like a slog at times, for sure, so before you get stuck in (and, at least at some point, stuck) take a moment to identify what it is about your project that really gets you fired up. You’ll want to come back to that to keep you going when you’re in the thick of it, maybe you’ve fallen a little behind, and you most definitely don’t want to write another word.
Whether you “win” at NaNoWriMo or not, it’s going to be an adventure!
Are you participating in NaNoWriMo this year?
Add me as a buddy on there, and let me know in the comments of this post what you’ll be working on! Also, have you got any tips, either for the pre-NaNo phase or for once we get started?