The month known as November is fast approaching, and with it, there come novel writers. Some have never written a novel before. Some of them have never written a novel in a month. Some are NaNo veterans, having participated in at least two NaNo events. But one thing brings them all together, and that is the power of the written word. Having participated in three NaNoWriMos and three Camp NaNos, I consider myself a NaNo veteran (even though it makes me sound older…).
I have put together a list of things that I consider useful to do in preparation for November’s writing and I hope that they may be useful to you as well.
1. Quantity over quality does not have to be true.
This is basically the idea of NaNo– write the words as fast as you can and to heck with how lousy those words are. This does not have to be true (though if you are trying purposely not to make sense or don’t care how the novel turns out, that is perfectly fine). Every time I have participated in NaNoWriMo, I have tried for quality as well as quantity. I have friends who have done the same. We came out of November with usable material (yes, we still had to edit. Everyone has to edit.).
2. Decide what book you want to write.
If you aren’t writing the novel that purposely doesn’t make sense, it is a good idea to have at least an inkling of what you might like to write. At least a few little things to get you started. What genre? What audience is the book meant for? Who is your main character(s)? Don’t worry if you don’t know everything, just make sure you have a starting place at least.
3. Set your wordcount goal.
Officially, NaNo’s wordcount goal is 50, 000 words (and you can’t actually change that unless you are on the young writer’s site). But maybe you are intimidated by that many or haven’t written that many words in your life (I personally have never passed 35k during a NaNo). Or maybe you want to write more than that (I have a friend who wrote 120,000 words last November). Set a goal for yourself. Shoot for the moon. And if you miss, you’ll still land among the stars. (Okay, that was kind of cheesy…)
A word of advice, though. During July Camp NaNo this year, I started with my goal of 30k. When I was getting behind and getting stressed, I lowered the goal for slack. It was a good idea in general, but I became apathetic toward NaNo after that. My suggestion is that you start reasonable but challenging. If you need to lower it, do so, but be fair to yourself and don’t lower too much.
4. Outline or Plan.
If you are going to outline, now is the time.
Disclaimer: almost no one is complete discovery writer or outliner. Most everyone falls on the spectrum between the two. I am a pantser who plans a little bit.
You don’t have to know every single thing about your story before NaNo (I often don’t know much about a story until I’ve written some of it). You don’t even have to write any plans down. There is no wrong way to NaNo. (Yes, I totally just made that a verb.)
Personally, I like to know the premise, a few scenes, the key points (though I sometimes figure those out as I go), and the end. And all of these are subject to change. If you outline, you are allowed to deviate from it.
5. Buy a notebook.
This is a personal preference for me. Not only do I write longhand instead of typing, but I also make notes about the story in the back of whatever notebook I’m writing in (they get eaten by mermaids, what if she kissed him?!?, what if that adorable little girl was really a were-cupine?, etc.). I also recently started a new notebook for outlining scenes. When my brain feels overflowing and scrambled to the point I can’t focus enough to write, I write out what I want to happen in the scene. I write what I need to convey through my MC, how she’s feeling, how my other charries are feeling (so I know what they look like and how MC interprets that), and anything else I want to include or remember.
6. Stock up on sweet things.
I realize that this doesn’t work for everyone, but November 1st is conveniently right after October 31st. That’s either right after you just brought in an enormous haul of Halloween candy or when all the Halloween candy goes on sale (I need Mallow-Crème Pumpkins.). If you buy candy, I recommend buying something with a lot of small pieces (like Mallow-Crème Pumpkins). You can either use it as a reward system, or just eat candy because it’s NaNo (don’t get sick, though!).
(Also, if you are a Mistborn, it is a good time to stock up on pewter. NaNo wears people out, physically and mentally. Burning a little extra pewter during the month is wise. But be careful of pewter drag.)
7. Plan, write, schedule blog posts.
If you have a blog, now would be a wise time to write a bunch of blog posts for November and schedule them. That way, you don’t have to spend your writing energy on blog posts, but neither does your blog become a ghost town. Another option is explaining to your followers that you are going on hiatus for the month, but that is a very long time. And by the time December 1st rolls around, you aren’t going to want to write much (you’ll be dog tired!).
Read, read, read, READ! I can not stress how important it is for writers to read. And during NaNoWriMo, you won’t have much time. So read as much as you can for the rest of October. Writers are inspired by other writers.
And that’s it! Keep an eye out for my other two NaNoWriMo posts, coming soon!
(P.S.– here is another great NaNo Prep post from Mirriam Neal.)