Person wearing a gold sweater and typing on a laptop | 12 Steps to Prepare for NaNoWriMo

It’s that time of year again–it’s almost November! As we head into October and pre-NaNoWriMo season, you might be thinking about joining in on this year’s writing fun.

(Or, if you’re reading this in spring or summer, you might be thinking about Camp NaNo!)

NaNoWriMo can be fun, but it can also be a little daunting. 50,000 words in a month? Where do you begin? That’s where October comes in. It’s perfect prep time and has even been dubbed Preptober by the NaNo community.

If you’ve decided NaNoWriMo is something you’re interested in, let’s go over 12 steps you can take to prepare for the event.

Getting Organized

1. Set your NaNoWriMo goal

NaNoWriMo’s typical goal is to write 50,000 words in the month of November. However, you might fall under the category of NaNo Rebel, in which case, you might be editing an old project, continuing one you’ve already started, or writing something that’s not a novel.

Decide what you want to work on in November.

2. Create a NaNoWriMo space, whether that’s digital or a notebook

Even if you’re a pantser, you’ll want a dedicated space to keep your notes and drafts. You might want to use a writer’s notebook, or maybe you like to keep everything digital. If you’re like me, you might do both.

3. Join the NaNoWriMo website and announce your novel

If you don’t already have a profile on NaNo’s official website, be sure to set one up. If you do, great! Time to announce your NaNoWriMo project.

You can also announce your project on social media, tell your email list, and invite your writer friends to sign up.

If you want to sign up for a home region, you can do that on NaNo’s website too. This will give you a place to connect with other writers in your community. Because of Covid-19 in 2020, though, most writing events will probably be virtual. Still, virtual communities are wonderful for inspiration and connection!

4. Set up your approximate schedule

If you join the NaNoWriMo website, they’ll automatically calculate how many words you need to write each day to stay on track and win the event.

That’s how many writers work, but if you know you’ve got plans and appointments some days, consider re-working the schedule to fit your own life.

In 2019, I knew I was traveling to Quebec for a long weekend, so I took those days off of my NaNo calendar. I reworked the math to figure out how many words I had to write per day if I took that time off. Because I love scheduling my time, that strategy worked.

Do what works for you!

Want to read about my full 2019 NaNoWriMo experience? You can read more about it in this blog post.

Prep Your Project

Whether you’re a pantser or a plotter, you should do at least a little prep to make the most of your writing time in November:

5. Decide whether or not you want to outline

This choice is entirely up to you and depends on your writing process. There’s no right or wrong way to outline, nor do you have to outline at all! Just make sure you know what your prep method will be.

Even if you don’t want to plot the entire novel out, you could create a list of scenes you know you want or need to include in the story. 

6. Choose your basic premise

Whether you want to outline or not, you should know your general story idea before November. If you already have an idea, great! If not, start brainstorming. 

If you aren’t sure what to write about, look on Pinterest for interesting images or prompts for inspiration, or you can use an online generator for a story starter. The Internet is full of potential story ideas and imagination kickstarters.

7. Make other writing decisions (POV, verb tense, etc.)

What else should you know before you start drafting in November? You’ll want to decide:

  • What point of view(s) you’ll write from, including which character(s) and if you’re using third or first person perspective
  • If you’re doing limited or omniscient perspective
  • If you’re writing in past or present tense
  • What genre you’re writing in (if you haven’t already!)

8. Start outlining your characters

Just like with the plot, you don’t have to outline everything. But, it’s good to know the story you’re working with, and that includes your characters. 

Jot down as many notes as you want about them.

9. Make notes to help you get started

As October goes by, you’ll probably find yourself thinking of interesting plot twists, tropes you want to use, and even dialogue for certain scenes.

Write down all of your ideas in your NaNo folder! These tidbits will come in handy when you’re in the middle of drafting.

10. Create a contingency plan

In my NaNoWriMo experience, the first week or two is high energy. You’re jazzed and ready to write! But you might hit a slump.

While you have time in October, put together your contingency plan. Make several playlists that fit the mood of your novel or certain scenes. Create moodboards to jog your imagination. You might even keep a list of writing prompts so you have inspiration if you run into a wall.

Final Steps

11. Build your NaNoWriMo Survival Kit

This sounds dramatic, yes, but plenty of writers create NaNoWriMo survival kits for themselves! What might that include? Anything to make your writing life easier during the event.

You’ll need that special NaNo space–digital or paper–mentioned earlier in this post. You might also want to buy an extra pen or two, declutter your desk, and stock up on your favorite snacks.

When I participated in NaNoWriMo last year, I found myself making tea more than usual. This year, I’ll definitely grab an extra box of my favorite blend before November starts. I also realized I loved burning candles while I write, so I’m going to pick up my favorite apple candle too.

Whatever gets you in a creative mood can go in your survival kit. Embrace your process.

12. Prep your life

Writing 50,000 words in a month is no easy task! Most of us are writing around the edges of our day. And while there’s nothing wrong with that, you can take a few steps in October to make life easier in November:

  1. Tell your friends and family about NaNoWriMo. Even if they aren’t writers, let them know this event is important to you and that you’ll be spending your free time writing. Set boundaries to let them know when you’ll be writing so you have fewer distractions. They can also celebrate your wins with you!
  2. Clean your living and writing spaces. While you should definitely still do your chores during NaNoWriMo, start November with a clean slate. I’m particular about my writing space, but I still do a pre-NaNo tidy.
  3. If you cook, plan out your meals. Where I live in the United States, November is on the chilly side. I’m also the chef in the house, so I like to plan meals that are both hearty and quick. You can use a crock pot or slow cooker for both easy prep and easy clean-up, or meal prep on your afternoon off so the rest of the week is easy.

Don’t forget to have fun!

At the end of the day, NaNoWrimo is simply a fun writing event! While it’s exhilarating to partake in the challenge, don’t stress yourself out too much. Real life–like your day job, your family and friends, and the tidiness of your space–is still important.

But with a little prep in October, you can set yourself up for success during NaNoWriMo.

Want to read about my full 2019 NaNoWriMo experience? You can read more about it in this blog post.

12 Steps to Prepare for NaNoWriMo | Between the Lines Editorial