• Ivy James

How to Prep for NaNoWriMo

Updated: Jan 29



National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo): a writing challenge to produce 50,000 words of a novel during the month of November. Oh, NaNo, how we fear thee and love thee in equal measure.


Okay, maybe we love it more than we fear it. After all, we keep coming back for more.


NaNo is a huge commitment and an intimidating challenge, but it's totally doable if you set your mind to it. I've been doing it (and winning it) for years now.


Now that it's Preptober (preparation time in October), I'm here to help you prepare for the juggernaut of NaNoWriMo. These are all things I'm doing as I prepare for my own NaNo project this year.


How to prepare for NaNoWriMo:

  1. Come up with an idea.

  2. Decide what tools you'll use to write.

  3. Decide where you'll write.

  4. Collect your supplies.

  5. Plan or outline to your level of comfort.

  6. Create a soundtrack.

  7. Create a mood board.

  8. Announce your project on the NaNoWriMo website.

  9. Believe in yourself!


1. Come up with an idea.

This idea needs to have substance. To manage 50,000 words, it should be a full-fledged concept, one that will hold up all month.


What overall concept or theme do you want to shout from the rooftops?


Who's your protagonist? What's their goal, and what's the big fear that prevents them from achieving it?


What's the inciting incident -- the big thing that shakes up the protagonist's life and gets the story started?


2. Decide what tools you'll use to write.

There's no single "write" method here. (See what I did there?)


Do you want to write on Word? Google Docs? Scrivener? Pen and paper? Excel? (Yes, apparently that's a thing. Ugh.)


This isn't the step where you collect your tools. That comes later. For now, just decide how you want to write.


3. Decide where you'll write.

Having the same place to write daily helps build consistency, training your brain to write there. John Cleese and Chris Fox call the dedicated writing space your "tortoise enclosure."


Try to make your writing space a place that doesn't feature distractions and temptations such as a TV or a comfy bed.


4. Collect your supplies.

Whatever you decided to use, set up your tools so they're ready to go.


Find a gorgeous notebook that coos, "Write your masterpiece here." Create a new Word doc and title it "work of genius." Figure out how the hell Scrivener works. (I promise it's great!)


Make sure you're using pens, notebooks, and document titles that excite you! You want to be excited to use these, not dreading it. After all, you'll be spending a lotttt of quality time with them this month.


5. Plan or outline to your comfort level.

Time to brainstorm! Outline what you're going to write, or at least the main points.

When I'm preparing to write, I prefer to plan it all out in advance. Even if the details shift, I've got the blueprints on hand.

For people who prefer to write by the seat of their pants, write down a few big things you know you want to write about. This will provide some landmarks as you fast-draft. Even pansters/discovery writers can use some guideposts during NaNo.

During this phase, get to know your characters better. Character sheets are great for this. You can also write "interviews" with the characters or brief scene snippets of them interacting, so you can feel them out.


If you're creating your own world for the setting, now is the time to do research and the bulk of worldbuilding. You don't want to waste precious time during November searching the internet for details of how your culture's imports would work.


6. Create a soundtrack.

What songs inspire you to write? What music makes you think of your NaNo story?


Craft a playlist (or two) that you can listen to during November to give yourself a boost.



7. Create a mood board.

A mood/aesthetic board is great for getting you in the writing mood.


You can make this collage your laptop background, or you can print it out and tape it to your wall in your writing space.


For an example, here's my "Make the Yuletide Gay" aesthetic board:


8. Announce your project on the NaNoWriMo website.

A big part of the appeal of NaNoWriMo is the community. There are built-in friends and support systems, and the official website is a main place to find them.


Create an account if you don't already have one. Announce your project, and add your synopsis and/or excerpt if you want. Just posting about it can help you mentally commit to seeing it through.


Send buddy requests to authors you follow and other friends who are taking up the challenge.


Add me as a friend me there! Here I am.


9. Believe in yourself!

NaNoWriMo can be tough. Your friends and family are probably cheering you on, but sometimes it's just gonna be you, yourself, and a problematic draft. You're gonna have to be able to pump yourself up.


Make a playlist of AuthorTube pep talk videos for you to watch on the bad days. (Oh, hey! What a coincidence! I've made that playlist for you already!)


Save compliments you've received in the past and review them so you know your writing isn't utter garbage.


But most of all, believe in yourself! Be your own cheerleader.


TL;DR

The steps to preparing for NaNoWriMo:

  1. Come up with an idea.

  2. Decide what tools you'll use to write.

  3. Decide where you'll write.

  4. Collect your supplies.

  5. Plan or outline to your level of comfort.

  6. Create a soundtrack.

  7. Create a mood board.

  8. Announce your project on the NaNoWriMo website.

  9. Believe in yourself!

Now go forth and prepare for NaNoWriMo!


I believe in you!

For more fun writerly and adulty stuff, you can follow me on Facebook ("Author Ivy L. James"), Instagram (@authorivyljames), Twitter (@AuthorIvyLJames), and YouTube ("Author Ivy L. James")!


"Make the Yuletide Gay" is now out in the world! Add it to your TBR list on Goodreads. Read Chapter One for free: Chapter 1: “Good Sir, That's a Lotta Snow”!


You can buy "Make the Yuletide Gay" from NineStar Press or from your preferred digital store!

16 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All