How To Prepare For NaNoWriMo

NaNoWriMo is just around the corner. Will you be participating this year?

The National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) takes place every year in November. It’s responsible for encouraging 798 162 people to write their stories and allowed for 367 913 novels to make their way into the world.

If you’re a writer who has dreamed of writing a novel, you’ve no doubt considered joining the NaNoWriMo movement at some point. You’d be crazy not to want to take advantage of this incredible community and its support as hundreds of thousands of writers embark on finally getting their stories written.

Every year I consider joining NaNoWriMo. But I’m always late to the game. I completely forget about it until November is well underway and my Twitter feed starts filling up with #NaNoWriMo updates. By then I’ve missed out on valuable writing days and I have no novel idea. Not a winning combo.

This year is different. I finally have my book idea. It’s been forming slowly since the beginning of the year, vague at first. But now I’ve started to get mental images of scenes and ideas for chapters. It’s go time!

With the decision to start writing this book in NaNoWriMo, I feel the need to begin preparing myself for the task. Other NaNoWriMo’ers are doing the same. October is #preptober in the NaNoWriMo world.

For those of you interested in taking part next month, what follows are a few considerations as you get ready to spend a month knocking out your 50 000 word manuscript.

The Idea

The most important preparation you can do right now is to decide on your novel idea. If you already have one in mind, skip ahead. If not, you should spend some time figuring out what you want to write. Two pieces of writer advice spring to mind. 

The first comes from Toni Morrison who said, “If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” Write something you’d enjoy reading.

The second comes from Dave Ursillo who said in this post that if you’re unsure what to write about you should ask yourself this question, “What have I been avoiding lately?” What you’re avoiding writing about will likely make for good reading, an idea echoed in Fitzgerald’s advice I found in NaNoWriMo Executive Director, Grant Faulkner’s tweet. 

Light Research

Once you have an idea you might want to do some light research on your topic, setting, time period, or anything specific to your idea. I say light research because you don’t want to get bogged down with details you don’t need at this point. Depending on how long you’ve had your novel idea, you could do some light research for inspiration. 

If you’ve been ruminating on your idea for a while, you may not need any further inspiration to begin writing. That’s fine, onwards! 

The keyword here is inspiration. Don’t get lost in an eternal research spiral —  just look for details and information that help you get a clearer picture of what you’re going to write.

The Outline

This is an important one for me. But it will depend on what kind of writer you are (Pantser or Plotter?) as to whether having an outline of your book beforehand is important to you. 

Typically, NaNoWriMo is about writing novels but you might be writing a memoir or a themed collection. Jot down some ideas for individual scenes, chapters, and acts of your novel. Or for your memoir or collection, think about the individual stories you’ll write and how they’ll connect.

I think the most important things to consider at this point are the parts you’ll need to make up the whole.

How much or how little planning you do is up to you. You could plan your timeline and plot events, develop your characters, elaborate the narrative arc, map out your settings, and consider elements like theme, motivation, and the evolution (or devolution) of the people in your story.

If you’ve never developed an outline before, this article is a good place to start.

Join the Community

The biggest benefit of writing your book during NaNoWriMo is the community. Get involved and meet other writers who are on the same journey as you. Get support and advice from fellow NaNoWriMo’ers. 

Don’t wait until November to join the community. Because this only happens once a year, the community is already abuzz with anticipation. This is a wonderful opportunity to turn what is ordinarily a solitary endeavour into a shared experience with likeminded people.

Head over to the NaNoWriMo website and Twitter to get involved. Best of luck!

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