NaNoWriMo is a writer’s version of blood sport. Fifty thousand words in a month, take no prisoners, a first draft heaven where anything goes. The goal is to get a novel together in a month and writers have a tendency to form a love-hate relationship with their manuscript and everything around them. This blog is going to touch on the top three things to do while preparing for NaNo so you get the most of it and not end up a wreck by the end of November.
Writing a book is like being dropped into the wildness, so it’s important to have a map and a compass. Finishing a first draft in a month is a huge and daunting task so it doesn’t matter if you are a plotter or a pantser, having a plan is essential. You are going to want to focus 100% on getting words on the page. Having a rough map will make sure you don’t waffle yourself into a corner and burn out. Here are some quick ideas, whether you are a strict planner or not:
- Beat sheets– some writers hate these but they can work well to prompt you when you need to put your big events in.
- Mind maps– grab a pen and create a scribbled mind map even if it’s to get your ideas down.
- Chapter Plans– these can be as loose or rigid as you like. Try to view them as a suggested route but don’t forget you can move and change stuff about as you go.
- Notebook– have a notebook designated just for your story. This is a place to jot down ideas, write snippets on the run and keep any research you will need.
Whether you plan chapter by chapter in Scrivener or jot down plot points on a wine stained napkin, you need to know where you want to go before you start. For more ideas and ways to plan go and check out Chuck Wendig’s blog, he offers some great ideas that any writer can adapt.
You Are an Island (in a Chain)
During NaNo your mind needs to be free to focus on your story and roll with all the emotions that go with it. Announcing to your friends and family that you are on a writing challenge will hopefully give them a pre-warning about respecting the space you will need. Writing is a tough, solitary business but remember; meeting up with other writers and NaNoWriMo sufferers can help refresh your mind, bounce feedback off of each other and get you a much needed break away from the keyboard.
It is going to be a busy month so setting extra reminders about birthdays, engagements or bills due dates isn’t a bad idea either. Knowing that everything is covered will free your mind of the mundane so your story can move about freely. Plan to connect so you don’t burn yourself out.
Know Thy Distractions
Everybody has a weakness or an excuse not to write. Social Media and the ease of checking in while on your computer can seriously cut into your writing time. For 90% of us you have to fight for your writing time and protect it. Don’t waste it on Facebook updates and cat videos. If you have a Social Media weakness it’s a good idea to turn off your wifi before you start. “But I need it to research!”…No, you don’t. The point of NaNo is to write a first draft not a finished copy. If you need research then it should have been done before NaNo started (which is why it’s important to start with a rough plot idea). You can always go back and add the research information into it.
Turn the internet off, everything will be fine, I promise.
The same goes for TV and Netflix, if you know that it’s going to be a distraction, get rid of it. If you have kids or a loud flatmate then maybe head out to a café or for some quiet time at the local library. Libraries usually have quiet rooms you can book if the normal library is too loud. Know what your weaknesses are and prepare for them.
NaNoWriMo can be fun, exciting and productive, but remember that it’s a marathon, not a sprint. Preparing your month by having a novel outlined, planning to step away from the computer to recharge, and minimising your distractions, will ensure you hit your word count and get the most out it.