If you’re new to the writing world, November is National Novel Writing Month, known in “the biz” as NaNoWriMo. It’s where hundreds of thousands of writers commit to writing 50,000 words during the month of November.
And while I confess that I’ve never technically participated in NaNoWriMo (I write 50,000 words most months, just as part of my day job), I’m a huge supporter of the program. I love not only that it creates a much needed sense of community in an otherwise solo endeavor (writing a book is not good for one’s social life) but also that it more or less teaches people to fast-draft.
Fast draft. Aka, a writing method that involves getting the first draft of a story down as quickly as possible. No going back to edit, or spending an hour getting a particular sentence just right until you’ve typed The End.
I was actually hesitant to write a NaNoPrep post (aka, tips/hints for preparing for November), because if I’m going to be brutally honest:
There’s not much you can do to make writing 50,000 words easy.
It’s tempting to think that with the right amount of planning, the perfect outline, the perfect system, that you can make November a breeze.
Nope. Take it from someone who’s done it dozens of times, writing 50,000 words is hard every time, no matter how detailed your outline, or how clean your writing space.
“Gee, thanks for the pep talk LL …”
I say all this not to discourage you, but to encourage you. Because if, as you jump into November, you find yourself thinking, “omg, this is so hard, what am I doing wrong?!.” Nothing. You are not doing anything wrong. And you are not alone. Everyone is feeling that.
All that said though, I understand that approaching something BIG, like writing a book (or most of a book) in a single month is incredibly daunting, and it certainly doesn’t help to do everything you can to feel prepared.
So, without ado:
Five Ways to Prep for NaNoWriMo
(1) Figure out your why
As mentioned above, you’re quite likely going to hit a wall. November 1st might start out great (or not, sometimes the first day is the worst), but by the 3rd, the 5th, the 17th, most of you will seriously start to wonder why you’re putting yourself through such agonizing hell. You’ll start to wonder why you’re even doing it. And, spoiler alert, “so I can write 50,000 and finish NaNoWriMo” isn’t a terribly compelling goal when you’ve got writer’s block and want to watch TV and eat cheese.
You need a much tastier carrot to get you through those hard times. So before you write a single word, figure out why you’re doing NaNoWriMo in the first place, and summarize that reason in a sentence.
I am a badass who writes books.
It’s my dream to be a published author, and I need to finish this to get there.
I want to prove X wrong.
I want to do justice to this story that I know deserves to be told.
I’m tired of saying I will, and then never finishing.
Once you figure out your why, put it somewhere right in front of your face! Your desktop wallpaper, a sticky note, a framed 4×6 index card on your desk, etc.
(2) Prepare for writer’s block
I know that there are some days/hours/minutes when writing literally feels impossible. These times suck, but they’re a little easier to get through when you know they’re coming for you at some point. They’re even easier to stomach when you plan for some motivation to get you through!
My suggestion: gather some wise words. Check out Google or Pinterest for “inspirational writing quotes,” and find 3 that speak to you. Put those in Evernote, write them on Post-It notes, stick them in a drawer, so that when writer’s block happens, you’ve got an emergency “kick in the butt” to convince you to write just a little bit more.
Or, when it doubt, just say aloud:
“Stephen King and JK Rowling hit this wall. They pushed through, and I will too.”
(3) Treat yo’self
Pick a reward for yourself, not only for when you hit that 50,000 words at the end of the month, but for daily/weekly word count goals as well. A glass of your favorite Scotch. Your favorite Reality TV show. A Harry Potter Marathon. Chocolate. Red wine. A long walk. A bubble bath.
Learn to associate pushing through the hard part of writing with something positive! I promise, it makes such a difference if you’re planning to be a writer for the long haul.
(4) Figure out your writing system/platform before you start
I generally discourage new writers from spending a ton of time from fiddling with their Scrivner settings, or getting their font/spacing in Microsoft Word just right. None of that will make your writing any better, or any easier. It’s why I am such an advocate for Ulysses, because 100% of the focus is simply on getting the words down!
But, for NaNoWriMo, where every minute you sit down to write counts, a little foresight definitely helps. I recommend figuring out how you’ll be writing before November 1st. Get your Microsoft Word document ready to go, have that fresh pen/notebook sitting on your desk, or build out that elaborate Scriver system in October. Otherwise, you’re going to be tempted to spend November 1st picking your font, or going to Office Depot because you MUST have index cards.
Make it as easy as possible on November 1st to put words on the page by having it all ready to go before then!
(5) Reread a favorite novel
We all have one—that story that made us want to tell stories. That book where we first thought, “I could write one of these—I want to write one of these.”
Whatever that book is for you, reread it, or just part of it this last few days in October.
(note: I don’t recommend reading your favorite book, or reading anything in the genre you’re writing in while you’re actually drafting. It can be easy too easy to accidentally mimic someone else’s style!)
But reading something you love before you start a new writing project can get your inner storyteller jazzed up, and remind you why you’re doing this in the first place! For me, anything by Lisa Kleypas or Susan Elizabeth Phillips are my go-tos,