Are you one of tens of thousands of intrepid writers participating in NaNoWriMo? If so, know this: you’re a rock star. Writing a novel is something many people talk about doing, but few actually do it. And here you are, pulling out your keyboard to enter the challenge of completing a novel in a month!
If NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) is new to you, think CHALLENGE meets CREATIVITY. Writers all over the world set the same goal: to write 50,000 words in the month of November. That’s a boatload of words, and for many, adds up to a full novel. But whether a person reaches 50K or not, participating is a way to silence the ‘ol You can’t write a novel! jerk-voice in their head and just write. (Fun Fact: my first full-length novel was a NaNo novel.)
This challenge is a great time to experiment: try a new genre, play with ideas, and let creativity take the wheel. But don’t mishear me – giving over to creativity doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do any story planning and instead assume the muse will show up on November 1st.
In fact, the key to a successful NaNoWriMo is to use October to plan and prep!
To be ready for a full month of intense writing bursts, we should know a few things about what we’re writing, and have a plan on how to get to our 50,000 word goal.
Plan the story…
Whether you are a plotter or a pantser, it’s generally not good to start NaNoWriMo with no idea what to write about…unless you are looking to experiment, pressure-free, and won’t sweat it if you get lost or stuck, or finishing is not a big deal. But for the majority, having some direction at the start means starting off well, and it’s easier to build momentum so the words continue to flow.
Pantsers should have some idea of the type of story they want to write, and know a bit about what might happen. It can be a looser plan where characters and plot are more impressions, and who they are and what will happen in the story will be discovered as they write.
Plotters will want to do a deeper level of planning, including building characters to understand their personality, backstory, needs, goals, and more so it’s easier to write their actions and choices in the story. They’ll also want to plot or outline so they have a firmer idea of where their story will go and some of the major events that will happen. World building is also something to spend time on so it’s easier to draw readers into the character’s reality.
TIP: Whether you plot, plan, or do something in between, download the Ultimate NaNoWriMo Prep Guide below. You’ll be so glad you did.
Plan your time…
One of the biggest reasons why writers fail to finish NaNoWriMo is because life takes over and they can’t carve out enough time to write. Looking ahead to November and what might be happening in your life then can help you see what will be competing for your time. Maybe there will be some things you can handle now, or you can proactively plan for so they aren’t as disruptive. It’s also a good time to sit down with family members to explain how they can help you achieve your goal, and how that certain times they’ll need to step up because you won’t be available.
Plan your toolkit…
There are plenty of resources that can make it easier for you to know what to write, focus on the task at hand, supply you with ideas when you need them, and support you in other ways. Bookmark these babies:
NANOWRIMO: Seems obvious, I know, but there’s a ton of support right at the NaNo site, and you don’t want to miss it. So, sign up, introduce yourself on the forums, find local groups, and explore the many resources that writers all over the world recommend. (Don’t forget to recommend the ones that help you, too!)
TRELLO: This free tool is great for brainstorming. Gather together story ideas, research links, create columns for each character…Trello’s drag-and-drop cards are a great way to organize your ideas.
ONE STOP FOR WRITERS: This creativity portal is LOADED with powerful resources to help you plan characters & their arcs, world-build, create timelines, outline your story, and have non-stop ideas on tap so you always know what to write next. Start with a 2-week free trial if you like, or take advantage of this birthday discount.
TIP: While you’re at One Stop, poke around the THESAURUS to see all the way you can bring out your freshest stories ideas. The Conflict Thesaurus may become your best friend!
BRAIN FM: I purchased a lifetime license years ago and have never looked back, and why? Because it helps me focus on the task at hand. This app plays special neural phase-locking music that engages with your brain, encouraging productive writing sessions. If you’d like to try it, use my member’s code to get a free month.
FREEDOM: If social media and email pings distract you, well, you aren’t alone. An unending stream of information is a blessing and a curse, so if you want to claw back your keyboard, try this app and website blocker. (There’s a free trial).
THE NOVELIST’S TRIAGE CENTER: If you write yourself into a corner, run out of ideas, a plot hole happens, etc., visit this page. It’s packed with the many possible problems you might encounter and how to free yourself of them so the words continue to flow.
ULTIMATE NANOWRIMO PREP GUIDE: Wondering what story elements you really need to plan to be ready for November, and the other things you can do now that will set you up for a great NaNoWriMo?
Everything you need to for a successful NaNoWriMo is in this handy guide.
It’s full of actionable ideas on how to make time to write, plan as much or as little as you need, and points you to ingenious tools and resources that can help you.
Plan in October, slay it in November!
Mindy, Becca, and I have our pom-poms ready to cheer you on. You’ve got this!
Angela is a writing coach, international speaker, and bestselling author who loves to travel, teach, empower writers, and pay-it-forward. She also is a founder of One Stop For Writers, a portal to powerful, innovative tools to help writers elevate their storytelling.