Getting Ready For NaNoWriMo

Getting ready for NaNoWriMo.

If you’ve participated in NaNoWriMo before or you’ve signed up for this year, you’ve probably received an introductory email by now. Are you feeling excited about the prospect of writing 50,000 words in a month? Daunted?

Whatever the emotion, it’s time to prepare for the writing marathon that is NaNoWriMo.

Start now.

Starting work on your NaNoWriMo novel before November isn’t cheating. If you want to achieve novel success, now is the time to plan your story. November 1st is not the time to sit in front of your computer and try to develop a story idea. You’ll want to hit a certain word count per day, so you’d better hit the ground typing.

Thinking is a very important part of writing. Some might say that it’s the least appreciated but most important part of the process. November is the time for tap-tap-tapping. October is the month for thinking ahead.

We know that it’s an exciting time, but the election is nearly over! Turn off the TV. If something cataclysmic happens, your friends will tell you about it.

Whatever happens, NaNoWriMo will go on. If you’re thinking of being part of it, we want to help you.

Pantsers: Outline.

If you like to make stories up as you go along, our advice is that you take a more balanced approach when tackling NaNoWriMo. When you have an outline of any length, you know where you’re going and how far along the path you are. Both of these things become essential when you’re trying to write 50,000 words in 30 days. Knowing what you’re going to write every time you sit at your computer is going to help you, especially if you’re feeling fatigued in the final days of the month.

With an outline, you’ll be able to give your story a neat story arc. You’ll be less at risk of falling short of 50k or having to overshoot your word count goal to tie up your story.

Seaters: Inspire yourself. Write sketches of your characters.

If you like to plan your stories in advance, keep yourself excited and inspired by getting more familiar with your characters. Try writing character sketches. Put them in situations to see how they react. You might even try pretending to be one of your characters next time you are in town.

Describe in detail the scene where your story takes place.

A problem with many stories is that they seem to float, as if the action could have taken place in any location and it wouldn’t have made any difference to the story. This can happen easily when the story is written quickly.

Use some of your preparation to time to make sure that your story is anchored to clear settings. Think of Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights or Stephen King’s The Shining, where the setting is as important as the characters themselves.

Plan for the inevitable interruption.

Achieving 50,000 words in 30 days means writing around 1,650 words per day.

Whether you feel horror staring at these figures or it seems a manageable goal, you also need to work in time that you will spend dealing with interruptions.

  • “Mummy? Daddy? I don’t feel so … bleurgh!” One evening lost.
  • Surprise! Visitors from out of town are on a road trip and they’ve got nowhere else to stay. You know, because you asked. One weekend lost.
  • You turn on your machine and are greeted by a blue screen. Three days lost.

Planning to write the minimum per day is asking for trouble! Round up to 1750 – 2000 words and you’ll be able to withstand a few interruptions to your writing regime. If you know that you can do a few extra hundred words at weekends, go for it, from the beginning. Don’t leave it until the last few days to try to make up a 30k backlog. This is unlikely to be fun for you as a writer and, despite your best intentions, you’re probably not going to be much fun to be around.

Get the most out of NaNoWriMo by putting the most in, from the very start.

And you really can start (planning) now.