NaNoWriMo Prep: Where To Begin?

Every year millions of people around the world sit down and write together in November. National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) has been an international event for a long time with writers participating globally, but the name sticks. Most writers know the abbreviation of NaNoWriMo and new words like NaNo-novel came to live.

It’s halfway through September and November will be here sooner than you think. If you’re a planner, you might want to start thinking about participating in NaNoWriMo or not. I will be joining my fellow writers again. I know some others of my writing group will try as well, although a few others will pass because of the overwhelming 50.000 word count.

I’m not your conventional NaNo-participant though and my advice will differ from the official NaNo-mentality. I’m sharing this with you, because everyone is different and I want to show you that you can take the rules and adjust them to make them fit to how you work.

A few questions to get you started

Let’s start with the easy ones. If you answer these with ‘no’, you can probably stop reading the rest of this article.

Do you want to participate?
Do you have time to participate or can you make time to write?

The first one is obvious. NaNoWriMo is about commitment. You set a goal, write 50.000 words in one month, which is high, but not unattainable. Are you ready for this commitment?

The second question has to do with sacrifice. I do not believe people are generally bored, sitting around all day doing nothing. There is always school, day job, night job, hobbies, family, and you’ll have to take time from all those things to make time for writing. I strongly suggest not sacrificing your sleep. Are you willing to miss your favourite tv show (record it, and watch it later) or skip an evening of gaming?

Once you’ve decided to participate, sign up at the NaNoWriMo website. You can’t announce your project yet, but take the time to get to know the site, find some friends and read through some of the old inspirational blogs.

Picking your project

Now that you’ve decided to participate, it’s time to pick your project. What are you going to write? All writers I know have multiple projects. Projects they’re currently working on, stories they want to do, or which are in the process of outlining. But how do you pick your project?

For writers just starting out, I have this question:

Do you have a story?

Is there a story you want to write? If so, write a summary down now and make it your project. Think of a working title, write it on a piece of paper and post on your wall or on your monitor, so you’ll be remembering your story every day.

If you have multiple projects, consider which project could use those words. Novels are recommended, but I don’t see a problem in using this time to write a collection of short stories, or a series of blog posts. I’m a rebel and I know my workstyle. I’m not very productive when I just focus on one project, so I make sure I have one bigger project and a few smaller side projects.

Create a schedule

While it’s easy to say “Write 1667 words per day”, that might not work for everyone. People have day jobs, family, Thanksgiving celebration or other obligations. Sometimes there just aren’t enough hours to write those words every day.

I think it’s okay if you don’t, but if you still want to get those 50.000 words at the end of November, you’ll have some catching up to do. I know that I’ll have bad days health-wise and that I will probably take it easy on those days. That means I won’t write as many words. I will plan in extra time to catch up.

It’s easier to do when you know you’ll lose your writing time because of planned events. Thanksgiving, for example. You already know when it is and you might already know how much of your day you’ll lose celebrating. Can you fit in an hour of writing in the morning?

Tell your family and friends

Even when you live alone, tell them you’re taking part in NaNoWriMo. They might understand why you can’t go out on saturday, or that you’ll be joining them later. Your family, especially when you’re living with them, will want to know what you’re doing behind the computer every day, maybe even at ungodly hours early in the morning or late at night.

These people are also your support group. Have at least one person who checks up on you and your writing. This person will hold you accountable if you fail. This person is allowed to kick your butt back on the chair and make you write. Pick this person carefully. He or she might be your worst nightmare during this month.

These are the first three steps in your preparation for NaNoWriMo. If you’re a pantser, your prep will probably stop here, but the plotters are far from done. Next month I’m taking a closer look at how to prepare your story for NaNoWriMo. I already talked about how I went from a pantser to a plotter, but I haven’t talked about how I’ve done my outline for my next NaNo-project.

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