7 Prep Tips for NaNoWriMo Success
November 1 begins National Novel Writing Month (aka NaNoWriMo), in which both aspiring and veteran writers from around the world endeavor to write 50,000 words—or whatever their desired word target may be—in 30 days. It’s an intense, motivational marathon with a rewarding prize at the finish line—your completed novel! Just like runners must mentally prepare and physically train to build endurance for their marathons, so must you as a participant in NaNoWriMo. I’ve devised seven key tips to guide you toward your goals and ultimately prepare you for success.
1. Start plotting your story now.
Writing a novel is about more than just putting words on a page. Brainstorming and setting up the foundation of your story—themes, plot, characters, scenes, etc.—are important first steps. Planning ahead not only gives you confidence and direction when you begin but it will also help you hit your word-count targets that much faster.
Need some inspiration? Check out my character profile and world-building guide sheets to get you started.
2. Study writing techniques.
In addition to prepping your story, you must prep yourself as a writer. What storytelling structure will work best for your novel? What is your style? What are your writing strengths? What are some of the challenges you often encounter? These are all questions to be asked and hopefully answered before you’re in the throes of NaNoWriMo.
Sometimes, however, you don’t realize that you need more guidance in crafting the story you want until you’ve already started writing it. Hitting creative roadblocks in your journey is totally normal. Right now, it’s more about having the resources already in place for when you are faced with challenges. This way you won’t waste precious time or energy.
One book I recently purchased with insightful tips is Write Your Novel in a Month: How to Complete a First Draft in 30 Days and What to Do Next by Jeff Gerke. You can also check out the “Writer’s Corner” page on my website, which lists other publishing websites and writing resources.
3. Create a writing schedule.
Meeting your target word count in only 30 days can be an intimidating feat. The key to keeping your cool and not becoming overwhelmed is planning how many words you want to write each day in your writing sessions. Do the math and break it down into smaller chunks. This will give you a better idea of how to pace yourself from week to week.
It helps to figure out your best writing times and most productive creative environment, as well. For more tips on how to do that, see my blog post “5 Ways to Find Your Most Productive Writing Space.”
4. Keep track of your progress and motivation.
In addition to creating a writing schedule, it helps to keep track of your progress and motivation in real-time. NaNoWriMo provides word-count trackers and achievement badges to celebrate your writing milestones. Writing software like Scrivener allows you to set project targets and session targets, as well.
To stay inspired, a daily writer’s motivational journal can aid in chronicling your writing journey—not just by word count but by your creative mood and personal goals. Visit my website for a free writer’s daily motivational journal download.
5. Practice avoiding distractions.
A lack of focus—or multitasking—is one of the biggest challenges to writing. Today’s digital world makes it all too easy to get distracted. A simple e-mail or social media check-in during a writing session is a rabbit hole for writers. It almost always is more than just a quick glance, which, in turn, inevitably costs you your focus and writing time.
Practicing your focus and blocking out all of the distractions around you now will make it feel more natural once you begin NaNoWriMo. For more insight about how digital distractions affect your concentration, see “The Lost Art of Concentration: Being Distracted in a Digital World” by The Guardian. It defines distracting behaviors and how to avoid them.
6. Build a network of support.
Writing is a naturally solitary process. As I mentioned above, it requires focus and discipline to get the words from your brain onto the actual page. But that doesn’t mean you have to do it alone. One of the best sources of motivation is commiserating with other writers. Sharing the experience with writer friends or joining a writing group provides a necessary network of support. It’s like having your very own band of cheerleaders to lift you up when you’re feeling down and celebrate with you when you’ve scored another goal. You’ll also be doing the same for them, and it’s that comradery that will effectively propel you toward the finish line.
7. Remember to have fun.
Speaking of the finish line, we’ve reached the last prep tip. You’ve decided to take on a mighty challenge this November and, yes, it’ll be stressful under deadline. But look on the bright side: you are finally bringing your novel to fruition! The determination to meet this goal is half the battle, and you’ve taken an important first step. How fun and exciting!
By the end, you’ll be able to hold that amazing first draft of your novel in your hands and proudly proclaim that you met and conquered your writing goal.