Preparing for NaNoWriMo in 3 Easy Steps

Are you a NaNoWriMo newbie? 

Take it from someone who has won three (four? I can't even remember) times: preparing for NaNoWriMo is a way of life. I mean, if you want it to be. 

The truth is that you're just as likely to "win" NaNoWriMo (that's National Novel Writing Month) whether you dive in without a minute of planning or spend a month outlining, scene building, and character mapping. But that doesn't mean you should jump in willy-nilly. If you're really dedicated to writing a 50,000 word novel in November, planning should be part of your process. 

Here are my tips for a successful NaNoWriMo November. 

1. Plan your time.

What's your November look like, time wise, really?

For those in the U.S., November is a holiday month. I've always struggled with NaNoWriMo during the week of Thanksgiving. Be honest with yourself: how much time can you see yourself dedicating to writing (and I mean, really writing) every single day? 30 minutes? An hour?

My goal has always been to spend 30 minutes to an hour every weekday after dinner writing, hopefully to my daily goal (1,700 words). On weekends, I try to dedicate two hours to writing--with the intention to get as many words on the page as possible. This has always worked well for me: on weekends, I can often write 5,000-7,000 words ahead of my goal, which means when Thanksgiving rolls around, I don't wake up at 1am in a cold sweat realizing that I'm now 4,000 words behind my goal. 

2. Write an outline. 

Depending on how you like to write, this might not be an option you love. But hear me out! I'm not typically an outline writer either. I usually like to have a rough idea of what I want to say, what my characters are like, and that's about it. But when it comes to NaNoWriMo, that just won't do

When it comes to NaNoWriMo, you have to think of it like this: it's more of a brain dump than a novel. I know, I know, unpopular opinion. But it's true! When trying to get 50,000 words on the page, you eventually have to settle for any words on the page. And that's much easier to reign in when you have an outline. 

I recommend dividing your rough idea into 10 chapters. Each chapter needs to be at least 5,000 words to hit your goal. Now, write down 5 scenes (1,000 words each) that you want to take place in each chapter. 

Why does this work? Eventually in November, you're going to forget a day, get sick, get tired, or just plain hit a wall. You can always glance at your outline, pick a scene, and write... and at least hit your goal for the day. 

Then you can worry about editing later... like in December. 

3. Get support.

Talk to your friends, your family, your cat or dog. Tell them about your novel; get them pumped about it. Describe the plot, the characters, the setting. Tell them you how much time you want to dedicate to writing everyday. 

Why? you ask. So they can hold you accountable. When you decide to ditch writing for after dinner drinks, you might notice your literature-loving coworker giving you side-eye. "How's the novel?" She'll ask and you'll remember: you're writing a book that she's excited about too. 

The more support you have, the more your friends and family know about your goal, the more they can help you to reach it. That might mean watching your little ones (if you've got 'em) for an hour while you write, or taking your dog for a walk, or promising to bring you a bottle of wine and a pizza after you finish your writing. Start talking about it now and you'll breeze through that novel this November. 

Do  you have your own tips for preparing for NaNoWriMo? Share with me on Twitter or in the comments below!