NaNoWriMo is just over a month away. Do you know what that means? That’s right, it’s time to panic! What are you going to write about? When will you have time to write? How do words even work anymore? Why do I do this to myself every year? Where did that flash drive full of ideas go? Who will feed me when I am buried deep in my writing? These are just a few of the things to figure out in order to get ready for NaNoWriMo.
For those who aren’t aware NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month. It is a writing challenge held every November to write 50,000 words in 30 days. That breaks down to writing 1667 words each day. This basically equates to writing a novel in one month. To find out more details and sign up to be a participant, check out the NaNoWriMo site.
I have been doing NaNoWriMo for over 7 years and of those, I have been successful at hitting the end word goal 4 times. It should have been 5 times, but I wasn’t able to confirm my word count one year due to internet issues. For the past two months, I have made it my goal to get ready for NaNoWriMo ahead of time. As I work on this, I figured it would be a good idea to share how I get ready for this writing marathon. Perhaps it will help those newer participants.
Get ready for NaNoWriMo
Pick your story
This is your first step. Well, I suppose if you want to get picky, signing up would be the first step, but let’s not split hairs here. Committing to writing a story means you should probably know what you are writing about ahead of time. What genre will it be? Who are your main characters? What is the main plotline? These are all things to consider when picking your story. You will be asked to choose what genre you are writing when you sign up, though this can be changed at a later date.
Perhaps you have a story idea jotted down somewhere. This is a great opportunity to finally sit down the flesh out that idea and turn it into something. Although the idea of NaNoWriMo is to start from scratch, I know many people who use the month to finish partially written ideas – this is likely what I will be doing this year.
Where will you write
It is best if you set up a dedicated area where you can do your writing. Now is the time to decide exactly where this space will be. Make sure this spot doesn’t have too many distractions around it. Take some time to make this place comfortable and inspiring. Set up a vision board of notes and images that will inspire your writing. Make sure you pick out this spot ahead of time. The last thing you want to do is to be busy clearing a desk off on the first day of NaNoWriMo when you could be writing.
When will you write
Do you work best in the morning, afternoon, or evening? This will determine when the best time for you to write is. I work best at night, so I sit down after dinner and let the words flow. There are times when I don’t get a single word down until after 8 pm and then in less than an hour I have spit out 2000 or more words. Knowing when you will write, and especially when you do your best writing, is a major key to reaching that word count goal.
A big part of NaNoWriMo is keeping track of the important aspects of your story. You don’t want to forget your main character’s eye color halfway through your story – trust me, I have done this before. This is why it is a good idea to keep a notebook or two nearby so you can jot these things down. Of course, this also means having pens on hand. You can also go digital with your notes, however, I personally prefer to put pen to paper when I need to keep track of important details. To make details easier to spot amid your frantic writer scrawlings, use colored pens, dedicating a certain pen color to an idea, character, or plot aspect.
Go internet free
But how will I look things up without Google? Trust me, I understand. However, the internet can be a major distraction. It is so easy to take a moment to look up something, then you are checking your emails, replying to posts on Twitter, and the next thing you know, you haven’t written a single word towards your novel in a few hours. If you truly need to look something up, make a note of it somewhere and then do some research once you have hit your daily word goal. Better yet, use your time now to do any research that may be necessary for your story.
The last thing you want to happen is to lose all of your hard work. My biggest suggestion is to save and save often. If you just wrote several paragraphs, then take a moment and hit that save button. But saving isn’t enough. You want to have a backup. Two backups are even better. That way if you misplace a flash drive you have a second one you can turn to. I always save my work to two different flash drives. Saving to the cloud is also a good option, however, remember that in the event of an internet outage, you will not be able to access your work. So if you are going to save to the cloud, have your secondary backup on a flash drive. This means that no matter what you can always get to your work. Also, ever ever leave your computer without saving. Even if it’s just to go grab a glass of water, be sure to hit that save button first and then go do something.
One of the best parts of NaNoWriMo is the writing sprints. Writing sprints are challenges held on Twitter where you write as many words as you can in a certain amount of time. In the end, you report your word count and then there is a short break. You can do as many sprints as you want. They are a great way to boost your word count, especially on days when you are struggling. I prefer sprints that are 30 minutes long, but some sprints can be as short as 5 minutes. If you want to give these a try, then follow NaNoWordSprints on Twitter. I know, I said earlier to go internet-free, but you don’t have to constantly be doing sprints. Do them every now and then, otherwise, turn that net off!
Snacks and drinks
When you are in the zone of writing, you likely won’t think much about eating or drinking. However, it’s important to stay on top of these things. This is why it’s a good idea to plan ahead for these. A NaNoWriMo survival kit helps keep these items in one spot. The week before NaNoWriMo starts, go buy a bunch of snacks – make sure at least some of them are healthy. I like to keep snacks in my desk drawer for easy access. This way, I can simply pull something out while I am in the writing groove. Have lots of fruit and vegetables in the fridge for healthy alternatives. As far as meals go, slow cookers are your friend for the month, or you could cook some things ahead and toss them in the freezer, like vegetable lasagna, for easy meals along the way.
Remember to take breaks
This is so important. It’s easy to get sucked into writing and forget to get up every so often. If you are prone to such things, then the best thing is to set a timer. When it goes off, you have to save and get up for a few minutes. Taking that short break can really refresh your mind. It will also help to cut down on things like eye strain.
Tell your friends and family
Let those in your life know that you are going to participate in this challenge. They will need to know when it’s your writing time so that you can work uninterrupted. Having them cook dinners while you write is also helpful. If you want, and they are willing, they can act as sounding boards for your ideas, helping you get past writing blocks.
Pantster or Planner?
I know what you are thinking. What the heck is a pantster? Well, it’s basically someone who writes by the seat of their pants. They don’t plan ahead. Instead, they sit down at the computer and write whatever comes to them and forms a story as they go. Meanwhile, a planner is the one who does as much legwork ahead of time. They know all of their character’s names and attributes, they have chapters worked out, and perhaps have even gone as far as drawing a map of the world they are writing about. Figuring out if you are a pantster or a planner will make your entire NaNoWriMo experience go smoother. I am a bit of both, I like to plan things out but sometimes I just let the words take over and let my fingers decide the course of action. There is nothing wrong with embracing one or the other of these methods. Or, you could be like me and use both methods as needed.
Ignore your inner editor
Technically, this is more important once NaNoWriMo starts, but it’s good to start thinking about this ahead of time. This one can be hard, but it’s so important to ignore those typos when you are writing. If you stop to fix every spelling and grammatical error as you go, then you won’t get very far. The point of this challenge is to get 50,000 words written, not to have a perfectly edited masterpiece. After all, this is a rough draft you are creating. There will be a time when you are done writing and that’s when you can take the time to edit your work and polish it into a masterpiece.
Have you participated in NaNoWriMo before? Do you plan on doing so this year?