I love NaNoWriMo. I've attempted to participate the last several years--and I've won at least 3 times, if I remember correctly. Not last year, though. Last year, I had a newborn, a pumping schedule, and all kinds of new responsibilities and stresses. I just couldn't do it! But this year, I really feel like I'm ready.
Every year, I do the same things to get ready. Want to know what they are? Here's my process:
Step 1: Pick a topic
Every year, I pick something I want to write about. One year, I wanted to write about a female marathon runner; the next year, I wanted to write about farming communities. I picked an idea, something I was interested in at the time, and ran with it. This year, I'm really into 1950s carnivals and circus culture. So guess what my topic is?
Step 2: Write an outline
Ok, so I've read some arguments that outlines miiiight be cheating at NaNoWriMo? But I disagree. I feel like if you don't know where you're going as you write, you're going to write yourself into a corner eventually--and that can let writers block take over. My logic is that I don't always know 100% of how my story is going to go--but I have at least 5 scenes per chapter outlined that I need to include to drive the plot forward, reach the climax, and ultimately resolve. That's it! I don't outline much; I outline just enough that if I start feeling bored or directionless, I can steer my novel back to the original plotline.
Step 3: Make a schedule
I like schedules, obviously, and I love outlines, also obviously. The years I've won at NaNoWriMo, I keep a very strict schedule about my writing: on work days, I write for a set period of time; on non-work days, I write for a set period of time; and on weekends, I write for a set period of time. i don't let myself deviate from it... or else, I fall behind. The hardest time is Thanksgiving, obviously, so I usually try to write well in advance for that. Basically: pick when and where you're going to write and stick with it.
Step 4: Succeed!
Ultimately, success is where you find it: even if you don't "win" NaNoWriMo, but you write 30,000 words of a novel you've been meaning to write for ages... that's still a major achievement! Success is all about what happens after November. Do you just drop the novel and stop writing for another year? Do you start edits? Do you write consistently, according for your schedule, for another six months? Last year, I succeeded because I was able to write something while taking care of a tiny new human. This year, I want to succeed while taking care of a grumpy toddler. Even if I don't hit 50,000 words, if I write even a little bit, that's a win for me!
Are you participating in NaNoWriMo? Tell me about your novel!