Last updated on November 21, 2017
National Novel Writing Month, known among the in crowd as NaNoWriMo or just NaNo, starts November 1. Does writing a whole book (a.k.a. 50,000 words!) in thirty days sound tempting? Does it intrigue you?
Maybe instead it overwhelms you. You like the idea of completing a book that fast but are not sure how you can get everything else done and write 1667 words a day (1667 × 30 = 50,010 words).
Fortunately, although you need to write each of those fifty thousand words in November to officially win NaNoWriMo, there are plenty of things you can do now to get ready.
1. Sign Up
Go to nanowrimo.org and create your account. Then, create your novel (oh, if it were only that easy!). Fill in your title, synopsis, and genre and add a nice cover. This makes your project real, and you can jump right in on November 1 with actual words!
2. Find Some Writing Buddies
Your tribe is everything! Accountability is everything!
Fortunately, finding your NaNoWriMo tribe is just a few clicks away.
Ask your writing friends if they are doing NaNoWriMo. You’ll be surprised at how many of them have been doing it under your nose for years! Poll your followers on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
Get these authors’ NaNoWriMo usernames and use the search bar on your NaNoWriMo dashboard to find their pages. Then, simply click Add as Buddy. Don’t forget to ask them to add you as well. You might even find local groups to meet with in person for NaNoWriMo write-ins.
The NaNoWriMo website also has community forums—a built-in tribe—and there are also plenty of NaNoWriMo groups you can join on Facebook and thousands of people tweeting about NaNoWriMo. Try searching the hashtags #NaNoWriMo2017, #nanoprep, #preptober, or simply #NaNoWriMo.
3. Write an Outline and/or Pick a Story Structure
Preparation can make or break an author during NaNoWriMo. Sure, you’re high on excitement for the first week with a new book, new characters, and so many possibilities.
Then, week 2 comes, and you’re stuck in the murky, muddy middle. This is when your preparation comes into play and keeps you going.
Your outline can be as basic or as complicated as you want, but if you have a roadmap, signs telling you at each stage where you’re going next, your chances of giving up midmonth because you’ve run out of ideas decrease dramatically!
If you’re not a big outliner, I’ll let you in on a little secret. On October 31 of last year, I decided to do NaNoWriMo for the first time. No time to outline a whole novel, right?
My solution? I picked out a well-known story structure, the hero’s journey. It covered each of the steps I would need to get my hero from her ordinary world, through her journey, and back home again.
There are other possibilities out there, including Freytag’s pyramid, save the cat, three-act story structure, and more. Be as detailed or as skeletal as you want, but sketch out enough landmarks to get you through to the end.
4. Set Up Your Book File
Once you’ve got an outline or story structure, open up Scrivener, Word, or your favorite word processor. Then, go ahead and enter your chapter or scene titles.
With the hero’s journey last year, I entered different scenes into Scrivener, such as “Call to Adventure” and “Refusal of the Call.”
Every day, when you sit down to write, your map and landmarks will already be there on the page, waiting to guide you.
As an added bonus, this makes it much easier to write out of order if that is how you roll. Write your ending first? Stuck in Act 2? Got a perfect idea for a foil at the beginning of Act 3? No problem. Skip ahead or go back. The map is still there, so you can fill in the rest later.
5. Build Your Characters
Use your favorite method to create some sheets or profiles for your main and secondary characters. Nail down their backgrounds and, most essentially, their motivations.
What do they want and what are they willing to do to get it? If you know the answer to this question, it will help you every time you get stuck wondering what happens next.
6. Build Your World
Don’t wait to name your characters, establish your settings, and draw your fantasy maps. Do it now, before NaNoWriMo. Again, the bigger the foundation you have in place under the water, the easier it will be to finish the tip of that iceberg.
7. Do Your Research
In the same vein, once you have an outline or structure in place and have ideas for your settings and characters, you’ll know what information you’re missing. So, do your research now and take notes instead of getting stuck down a research rabbit hole and falling behind on your word count in November.
Preparing for NaNoWriMo will make it easier for you to get those words in every day.
Do you prepare for NaNoWriMo or just jump in head first on November 1? If you plan, what are some of your favorite steps? Tell me in the comments! I’d love to hear about them.