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Preparing for NaNoWriMo

NaNoWriMo is quickly approaching & you know what that means... It's Preptober!

Over 500,000 aspiring authors will participate this year, but only 10% will succeed- will you be one of them? Here's a list of 8 things you can do to make for a smoother, more focused, and hopefully your most successful NaNoWriMo experience ever.

1. Announce Your Project

You can participate in NaNoWriMo on your own, powered by sheer willpower & relentless determination. Or you can join a community of writers committed to the same goal, cheering you on, & celebrating your victories.

NaNoWriMo began with a group of 21 writers back in the '90s. Since then, it has grown to over 300,000 writers, all chasing their author dreams. The website allows you to:

  1. Announce your project.

  2. Track your progress.

  3. Connect with writers.

  4. Access writing tips from veterans.

Join the fun at Be sure to join your region's writing group & find a writing buddy to hold you accountable and go through the journey with you.

2. Read a Craft Book

The best way to prepare to write a book is to learn from those who already have! Spend this last week finding some much-needed motivation and direction in the novel writing business. The wisdom and perspective you gain will bolster your confidence as you embark on this monumental task. Two of my favorites are Stephen King's, On Writing (for motivation), and Jessica Brody's, Save the Cat! Writes a Novel (for direction).

3. Prepare your Writing Space

You're going to be spending a lot of time here for the next 30 days or so. Take a few minutes to shut your eyes and envision your dream writing space. Your surroundings should motivate you, spark creativity, and invite you to stay awhile! My optimum writing space must have:

  1. A Window for light & peace.

  2. A Pretty Bookshelf for inspiration.

  3. A magnetic board to put plot & to do post-its.

  4. A basket filled with post-its & a mug full of favorite pens.

  5. Motivational quotes & character art.

  6. A comfy chair, fuzzy socks, & cup of iced chai.

What will your space include?

Now, get busy & create your cozy nook (or central command station or girl boss corner)!

4. Gather Your Supplies

If writing was easy, everyone would do it. But it's not! You will make mistakes- plot holes, conflicting character traits, a scene that goes awry, a timeline that won't cooperate, etc. However, you've only got 30 days to get the first draft done- 3o DAYS! Make a note & move on.

Create a system that helps you organize your story: post-its, index cards, wipe-erase board, outlines, etc. Now buy it!

Do you have a favorite pen? Buy a bunch.

Are you a visual person? Buy or create a goal tracker & set it up.

Are you an office supply junkie? Buy cute magnets, paper clips, staplers, and notebooks until your heart's content. This is your time girl! Go crazy!

Once you have all the goodies, neatly organize them in your new writing space. It's almost time to start!

5. Make a Plan

Saying you're going to write 50,000 words in a month is one thing- doing it is another matter entirely. That is why 90% of NaNoWriMo-ers fail. Reaching this goal takes more than desire- it takes commitment and a plan. My plan consists of 2 parts:

A. Writing Goals

Yes, the ultimate goal is to write 50,000 words, but how are you going to get there? Are you going to write so many words each day? Or are you going to divide the work into chapters, scenes, or some set amount of time each day? It doesn't matter which method you choose, as long as it gets you to the finish line. You know what the finish line is- now what do you have to do each day to reach it? Figure it out & map out your daily goals!

B. Writing Time

Okay, you have your daily goals set- next you have to carve out time each day to accomplish the task. Hint: Don't promise to get up an hour earlier if you have never been able to stick to this plan before. Be realistic!

The first best thing you can do is eliminate as much as possible from your November calendar. For example, my posts on social media will be cut in half as well as my blogs. I wrapped up a coaching commitment and vow not to start any new interest projects this month. And most importantly, I've informed/warned my family of my plan and desire to keep Friday and Sunday nights reserved for big writing blocks. I work a full-time teaching job- I can't wing my way through this.

The next thing to do is schedule yourself writing time every day on your calendar. What is a consistent time of day you can devote to writing? For example, I have to stay an hour after work each day for grading & planning. However, most days I spend this time visiting coworkers! I've let my work friends know of my NaNoWriMo dreams and informed them I will now be spending the hour locked in my classroom writing and I won't re-emerge until December! Now, I have a team of friends that know my dreams & will kick me back to my computer if they see me roaming the halls instead of writing.

Simply put- eliminate distractions, be ruthlessly protective of your time, and WRITE!

6. Outline the Plot

The longtime writer question- are you a planner or panster? If you read, Save the Cat! Writes a Novel, you know I'm a planner. I like to know where I'm going. The more detailed my outline, the easier the scenes seem to flow one into another. Yes, I still have problems with plot holes- but now they just slow me down a bit, not blow up the entire story.

Having an outline puts you in a positive mindset approaching NaNoWriMo because you have a plan. Again, you know where you're going and what you need to accomplish every step of the way, making success that much more likely!

7. Do the Background Work

This can be time-consuming, but not skimping here makes November less frustrating. Here are some things you may want to prepare in advance:

A. Research relating to your story

B. Character Sheets: traits, habits, background stories, family relations, quirks, hobbies, etc.

C. World Building for fantasy writers

D. Setting description: pictures and maps

Post these in your writing space or in a document opened in another tab. This will give you quick references at your fingertips and keep the keyboard clicking.

8. Find a Buddy

Finding a Writing Buddy isn't required, but it can make a world of difference in your NaNoWriMo experience. I participated in a co-writing group over the summer and the benefits of meeting with other writers were much more than I could've imagined. It forced me to show up and write an hour every week. During our five-minute sprint breaks, we talked shop. We shared writing tips and frustrations with each other. I discovered craft books like Save the Cat! and Big Magic. And big bonus- I gained three writer friends who celebrated (& promoted & reviewed) my published book.

So how can you find a writing buddy or at least some writer sprints to join? Here's how I find my groups:

  1. Don't forget- you can find your writing buddy right here!

  2. Instagram: There is a huge community of writers on Instagram. Every once in a while, you'll see a post regarding someone starting a group. Don't overthink it- just do it!

  3. Facebook: Find a writing group for your genre and request to join. Heart Breathings Writing Community is an active group that hosts many, many sprints throughout the week.

  4. YouTube: Follow writer channels and search for writing sprints. It is not quite as personal, but it still feels like you're not writing alone. I love the vibe of Abbie Emmons' Immersive Writing Sessions. Plus, I'm sure many live sprints will start popping up during NaNoWriMo.

  5. Local Libraries & Bookstores: You may discover you have an active community of writers just around the corner.

  6. Start your own! Go to your favorite social media platform & put a call out. You may be surprised at the number of people looking for the same thing you are.

Now you're ready to write! So go forth and WRITE! You can follow my journey on Instagram @staceywritesandreads. I hope to check in with word counts and time behind the keyboard. I would love to hear about your progress as well! We writers need to stick together!

Happy writing!


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