How to prepare for NaNoWriMo in 7 steps

National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is on the horizon. I know, I know. It’s more than a month away, but it will be upon us before we know it.

Okay, so maybe I’m a NaNo geek. Out of three attempts in the past three years, I’ve won all three. I’m surprised I won my first year, honestly. I was unprepared with little trajectory at first, which led me to learn a lot about the NaNo process. But success isn’t just found during November. Now is the time to prepare!

Let’s dive into this step-by-step. The key to success during NaNo is half how you prepare and half how determined (i.e. stubborn) you are during the month.

Step 1: Gather your ideas and choose the most exciting one.

This is the basis for your entire month. As a creative, you probably have hundreds (or at least a handful) of ideas floating around your brain. Pluck one out from the chaos inside your head and write it down. Or write a few ideas down. Then choose one. Now, don’t actually start writing. Save the writing for November, but now is the perfect time to narrow down on what you will write and who you will write about.

It’s important to be passionate about your idea, so pick a really good, juicy, exciting one. You will be spending an entire month with it, after all.

Step 2: Pick a genre and age group.

This may fluctuate and change as you write and eventually edit your project, but if you intend to write a middle grade fantasy, you’ll probably be developing a world, but definitely not using sex, swear words, or tons of violence.

Step 3: Start plotting.

You don’t need to have everything planned out, especially if you’re a Pantser, but you should have a general direction for your story so you don’t freeze up in the middle of November. What is the climax? What is the ending? The beginning? Give yourself a general or detailed structure to draw from so you can write freely and with purpose.

I promise that plotting, even a very loose structure for your story, will save you time and worry in the middle of November. Life will get in the way of your writing, especially when trying to write 1,667 words per day. So don’t give yourself another excuse to give up. Prepare by plotting.

Step 4: Draw a map.

This isn’t just for fantasy and Sci-Fi writers. Whether your MC is on a quest across a mountain range to find a lost city or riding her bike through a forest to her best friend’s house, a map is key. Instead of trying to remember what you wrote on page one, you can refer to your map and get the directions right, which means less editing in the future. This is especially important for visual learners. And you don’t have to be an artist for a map to be beneficial. There’s no need to share your artwork if you don’t want to. Learn more about maps.

Step 5: Communicate your plan with family and friends.

Whomever you live with needs to know your plans for writing a novel. Your friends, spouse, roommates, parents, and kids need to know how important this project and this time is for you. Explain that writing is one of your passions and the NaNoWriMo intensity is short-term. Hopefully whomever you live with will do a few more dishes and cook a couple extra meals for you. You can make it up to them in December.

My husband has been instrumental for my NaNo success. His support has been very helpful. From cooking and cleaning to listening to my worries about my fictional MCs. I hope your friends and family support you, too.

While you communicate with them, you don’t have to talk about your actual story idea. If you want to and feel comfortable enough to do so, go for it. But make sure you leave enough words for the page in November. Don’t spill your excitement out just yet.

Step 6: Find a writing buddy.

Accountability is key. Do you have a friend who is planning on doing NaNo? Is there someone in your writing group you can chat with about it? What about on social media? Twitter is a great place to meet writer friends. And don’t forget to follow @NaNoWriMo and @NaNoWordSprints. Word Sprints are key to winning NaNo, especially when you’re behind on your word count when life gets in the way. A little competition is good for the soul. Plus, they boost morale during a tough month.

If Twitter isn’t your thing, find me on the NaNo site. My name is Vermilion Amaryllis.

Step 7: Create a NaNoWriMo account.

Create an account or login to your account if you already have one. Announce your novel, join a forum and get excited! By setting up your account and familiarizing yourself with the website now, you’ll be ready to start logging your word count on Nov. 1.

I hope these tips excite or at least intrigue you to try NaNoWriMo. If you’re new to NaNo, don’t let the word count scare you. It’s meant to be a fun challenge.

Happy preparing!

For more NaNo tips, check these posts from @hsdeurloo: halfway advice and after NaNo.

If you liked this blog post, please buy me a cup of coffee.


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