How To Prepare For National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo)

October is half over already, which means it’s time for people across the world to start preparing for 30 solid days of writing mayhem!

Last year, I wrote about why I don’t think NaNoWriMo is the devil. Some people love it; some people hate it. But if you’re giving it a go this year, don’t be discouraged by what others say. It is totally possible to write 50,000 words in a month. Those words may not amount to a complete novel and they may not be perfect, polished, or pretty– but they’re on paper, and that’s what counts.

This is my sixth year participating in this madness, with both accomplishments and failures under my belt. There are ways to keep yourself on track… and there are ways to completely mess yourself up.

I’m going to share some techniques to help you utilize the rest of October so your NaNoWriMo adventure will be thrilling instead of stressful. Because, trust me– it can be stressful to create a 50,000 word document in one month if you’re not prepared!

  • Do some planning. You have two weeks before NaNoWriMo begins. If you devote some time each day to planning and plotting your novel, it’ll be that much easier to stay on track in November. To hit 50,000 by the end of November, you will have to write 1,666 words a day. If you miss a day or two, getting back on track may seem like an impossibility if you don’t have a clear idea of where your story is going. Talk about overwhelming! Do yourself a favor and outline now so you have a map to follow.
  • Schedule your daily writing sessions. If you don’t already have a daily writing routine, start one now. You don’t necessarily have to write 1,666 words a day, but putting yourself into a routine ahead of time will make the transition to NaNoWriMo a piece of cake. Plus, if you miss a day this month, it doesn’t affect your NaNoWriMo progress, so there’s not as much guilt as there will be in November. Commit to writing 30 0r 45 minutes a day, even if you use it to outline for your novel or plot scenes ahead of time, or simply journal.
  • Find a writing buddy. I have a friend who has consistently attempted NaNoWriMo with me for years. We brainstorm together, run ideas past one another, meet at Starbucks for writing pow-wows where we sit at our computers and write before we let ourselves chat. It totally works. We push each other to keep going, catch up on missed days, and power through to the end. Then we celebrate together! And sometimes, we fail together. But what matters is that we’re accountable to each other and provide much-needed support when the other needs it. Having a writing partner for NaNoWriMo (and beyond) can be powerful for your writing.
  • Have an end-goal in mind. Speaking from experience, it’s not enough to just have a goal to hit 50,000 words. Don’t get me wrong, that’s a great goal. But 50,000 words isn’t quite novel-length. And if that’s your only end-goal, you may never get past the NaNoWriMo part of writing your story. You might hit that word count, exhale, and realize you have no juice left to revise, rewrite, or add 30,000 more words to your masterpiece. That’s sad! However, if your end-goal is to write an 80,000 word manuscript that you’ll spend X amount of time revising before you send it to agents, that’s a much more actionable aspiration that will keep you motivated to write well beyond the end of November. Plus, it prevents your NaNoWriMo project from sliding into the murky depths of unfinished, unloved novels.
  • Make it fun. If you approach NaNoWriMo like an exercise in putting words on paper (which is exactly what it is), then you can relax and enjoy it fully. Don’t take yourself too seriously. Just write. And since it’s both an exercise and your first draft of your story, have some fun with the process. Share your progress on your blog or Facebook page. Try things you might not normally attempt in your writing. Put your characters in serious trouble and see where it takes the story. Leave your comfort zone. Reward yourself! Treat yourself to something special every Sunday if you’ve met or exceeded your word count minimum every day of the previous week. Whatever it takes to make it fun, do it. Because it should be fun if you enjoy writing!
Some other nuggets to remember:
  • If you miss one day of writing, the next day’s minimum word count becomes 3,332. And if you miss two days, you need to write 4,998 to get back on track. 
  • NaNoWriMo.org will be your home base in November. Spend time in the forums. Fill in your profile. Make friends. Support fellow writers. Be proud of yourself and what you accomplish.
  • Don’t go back and edit. Save it for December.
  • Do not stress over the words you write. Just write them. Maybe they suck, but you can’t stop and worry about that when you’re on such a tight deadline! Get to the end of the story and fix the bad parts later.
Employ some or all of these tips and have confidence as you jump into NaNoWriMo, whether it’s your first attempt of your tenth!
Are you taking part in NaNoWriMo this year? Why or why not? Share in the comments!

12 thoughts on “How To Prepare For National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo)”

  1. sooo… I think I’m going to be brave and give it a go this year. I may have veryyyyy limited fiction writing experience, but I think it will be fun and it will make feel in some way accomplished. What do you think, cheerleader?? We’ll have to plan a weekend writing date sometime in November…

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  2. I think I’ll give NaNoWriMo a try this year. I’m always coming up with ideas for fiction novels, and I’ll jot the notes down, but never give myself time to write. Lately I’ve had a novel idea that’s really been picking at my brain. Seems like as good of a time as any to just start writing. May have to adjust my guidelines a little; I’d be happy if I got 1000 words a day.

    Also, good to see you’re back from your blogging hiatus, have been missing your posts!

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    1. Aw, thanks Sarah! That’s nice of you to say🙂

      And I think it’s great you’re going to try NaNo this year. I would recommend signing up on the site, seeing if there are any writing meet-ups in your area (they can help motivate you through the month!), and do at least a rough outline ahead of time. The years I didn’t meet my word count goal were the years I went into it with no map. It’s much easier to chug along if you have an idea of where the story will go! Good luck and keep me posted!🙂

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      1. Thanks Kristin,

        I’ve already started an outline for the novel and I’m almost certain I’ll be doing some writing before Nov. 1st

        I’ve jotted down to sign up on the site this weekend. Hope I can find some writers in my area, aside from ones I’ve already recommended this to.

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