Pre-NaNoWriMo Tips

Photo credit: mpclemens on Flickr
It’s October! Or, almost anyway, as it’ll be October tomorrow. Or if you’re reading this a day beyond posting, then it is October. But I digress.

What’s so special about October, you ask? Well, of course, it’s the month before NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month, A.K.A.: Lock Self Into Writing Cave And Write Like Hell Month), also known as NaNoPrepMo, at least in my head.

As most of you know, NaNoWriMo starts on the first of November and lasts until the end of the month, in which many writers (hopefully) emerge exhausted and pale with 50,000 shiny new words written (or tan and full of energy with 50,000 new words, in which case the rest of us are jealous).

I may very well write a post later about why you should consider participating, but today I want to talk about how to best prepare for the big event.

  • Decide on an idea. This kind of goes without saying, but the sooner you think of your NaNo novel idea, the more time you’ll have to let it develop before the mad dash of November. And you’ll be writing so quickly come November, that you’ll be glad for every iota of pre-decided information you have. 

  • Start plotting. If you’re a pantser, then you’re probably going to skip this step. But if you’re even slightly open to plotting (even a very flexible, loose plot), then I highly recommend that you try plotting in advance. As a regular fast-drafter, I can tell you that the best tip I’ve ever received on fast-drafting is to know what you’re writing. Just about every time I’ve ever encountered writer’s block, it was because I didn’t know what was next, or how to connect the dots between two plot points (in which case I plotted in more detail and voila! The words returned).

    Point is, when you’re writing like a speed demon for NaNoWriMo, it’ll be much easier to keep the pace if you actually know what happens (or at least have a vague idea). Whether it’s flashcard plotting, a brief list of events or a twenty-page outline, NaNoWriMo will be so much smoother if you get your events in order before the race begins. 

  • Tell family/friends about your November plans. We writers tend to withdraw in November. We sneak away to our caves and shoot daggers (with our eyes, of course) at anyone who dares interrupt our precious writing time. Letting your friends and family know in advance about why you’re going to disappear for thirty days can help save you some aggravation and disappointed people. 

  • Connect with fellow NaNo writers. Do you have a Twitter? If you don’t, I recommend getting one and searching hashtags like #NaNoWriMo to find fellow NaNo writers. It’s early, but people are already thinking about it (like me), and you’ll be glad for the support of your fellow exhausted/excited/slightly crazed writers come November. 

  • Familiarize yourself with the website.  I’m not sure when exactly, but the website occasionally goes down before the big event to prepare the servers and give the site a fresh upgrade. That’s normal, so don’t panic when it happens.

    But until then, it doesn’t hurt to set up your account and browse through the site, just to get to know it if you don’t already.

    UPDATE: The blackout has happened and the shiny new website is up! Have fun exploring. :) 

  • Investigate distraction-free writing tools. Like Write or Die. Or Freedom. Or Write or Die. (Have I mentioned how much I love Write or Die?) They come in handy when you're trying to write quickly.

  • Mentally prepare yourself. In order to reach the goal of 50,000 words and claim your NaNoWriMo victory, you’ll need to write 1,667 words a day, assuming you write every day of the month. 1,667 words isn’t all that bad, and some days you’ll fly through them and roll right into 2 or 3k. But there are days when you’re going to be exhausted, when time is really short, when every word is fighting you, and those are the days you need to be prepared for.

    It’s ok to miss a day. It’s also ok to get stuck and write terribly and cry over your keyboard.

    Here’s what you’re not going to end up with at the end of the month: a masterpiece. You’re writing the first portion of a book (50k isn’t usually a full-length MS, although it can be depending on the category/genre) in a month. It’s going to be messy and occasionally ugly and embarrassing. And that’s totally ok.

    The point isn’t to come out of NaNoWriMo with a gleaming, beautiful draft. The point is to get the first portion of a draft finished, so that you can complete your book and then revise it later.

    You’re writing the bare bones. They aren’t going to be pretty, but they don’t need to be. 

  • Get excited. You’re going to write a book. Or a portion of one, anyway. You. A book. Yours. It’s something to be excited about, it’s something to celebrate, even if the writing is so horrendous that you cringe when you read it back. NaNoWriMo is exhausting, yes, but it’s also exciting because you’re doing something that millions of people only ever dream about—you’re writing a book, and it’s all yours.

For those who have (or are going to) participate in NaNoWriMo, what do you do to prepare? 

Twitter-sized bites: 
Considering #NaNoWriMo this year? Here are some steps you may want to take before November. (Click to tweet)  
Gearing up for this year's #NaNoWriMo? Writer @Ava_Jae shares some tips to help you prepare for the big event. (Click to tweet


Jen Donohue said...

Over the years, I've been a total Goldilocks when it came to NaNo prep. This year I prepped to early. This year I prepped too late. This year I didn't prep enough. Etc. I'm a pantser, but I like having a general idea of....something. Beginning and end. The high points. Something.

The year I failed (and I should blog about this in more depth), I had no plan, just a general "set piece". I made it to 23k and change, spent three days doing nothing, and then blasted out 22k of a completely new book. SO CLOSE, right (I would've used word count total rather than "complete novel" as my NaNo win on a technicality).

I started to prep a bit over the weekend, but when I prep "too much" is when fully formed sentences start coming into my head. To write them down for use is cheating, to not write them down is to lose them. It's a fine line.

Emily said...

This will be my second NaNoWriMo. Last year I wrote the whole 75k thing in about 24 days *cough*notbraggingatall*cough*. In October, I planned pretty much every scene, even though it didn't go to plan at all. It helps to have a thing that shows you where you're going. This year, I've had the idea rattling around for about two months, gradually taking shape, and I can't wait to start plotting! It's such an exciting time of year :)

Robin Red said...

This will be my first NaNoWriMo. The first time I even heard about it was actually the time I discovered this blog :) I'm juggling between two novel ideas for November, and I have no idea which to go with.

Robin Red said...

Not to jump onboard, but I think at the end of the day (month?), you want a novel mostly written. That's the whole hype: get everyone pumped to write 50k words and come out with a mostly written novel. If you succeed in that, I don't think anyone would point fingers and call you a cheater. Good luck with your word count this year :)

Jen Donohue said...

There are degrees of cheating ;) A single sentence here and there wouldn't be a problem, I don't think, but yeah, paragraphs, etc.

I'm just such a pantser that once I start writing the "real" words is when the water gets turned on, as it were.

Jen Donohue said...

Hey, I don't mind the encouragement!

You're correct, I want as much of a novel as I can have. I don't play word count game nonsense (though it's interesting to read on the NaNo forums), I'm writing to write a novel, not just for the 50k words.


Ava Jae said...

Wow! That's incredible, Emily! You definitely earned bragging rights on that one. :)

I agree that it helps to have some kind of guide to point you in the right direction. Even if you don't stick with it entirely (or at all), having an outline can help keep you focused and motivated while writing quickly.

Ava Jae said...

Yay NaNoWriMo! I'd say go with whichever idea you're most excited about (although that might not actually be all that helpful). But generally, excitement and passion for an idea is a good indicator. Brainstorm a little and see what happens. :)

Andi-Roo said...

These are great tips - thanks so much for the awesome list, Ava Jae! I mentioned {and linked to} this in my NaNo Prep post - hopefully it helps others as well as it helped me!


Ava Jae said...

Thanks so much, Andi! I appreciate the shout-out, and I'm glad you found the post helpful! ^_^

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