Before I share another list of story seed ideas, I’m going to take today to discuss NaNoWriMo itself a bit more. 50,000 words in a month is a lot of work for each day, and it often takes not only pre-planning, but also a variety of tricks for Wrimos to prevail with their sanity intact.
Before November, I will share various things I have learned about how to survive–no, how to thrive during the potentially harsh conditions of NaNoWriMo. For now, I am going to focus on tips that you can start doing right now, while you’re still planning out your novel weeks in advance.
1. Give it time.
In a previous blog post, I suggested using the next several weeks as practice for NaNoWriMo in the area of finding and making daily writing time. Whether you are using my activities or doing pre-writing of your own, commit to working on it daily. Find or make some time in your day when you are able to sit down and work on the plot, characters, outline, or whatever you’re doing. It doesn’t have to be the amount of time you will need to write 1667 words each day in November, but maybe 15-20 minutes.
Take this time to learn what works best for you, so that by November, you know how to make the most of your writing time. Do you require absolute silence? If yes, when can you find that? Is your ideal time late at night when others are asleep? During your lunch break? First thing in the morning? Figure that out while also developing the actual content of your novel. (For pantsers, the real hardcore ones, who are doing absolutely no planning before November 1, you can still make time every day to free write in anticipation of daily writing in November.)
2. Find your space.
In a similar vein as figuring what when you work best, it can also be good to know in advance where and how you work best. Do you need a comfy spot? Maybe you work better at a desk or table with a straight-backed chair. Where can you go to have the solitude you need? Or do you prefer some noise? Give coffitivity.com a try for a steady coffee shop background noise available anywhere you happen to be. Sometimes a little noise is good, but too much (people in the room, or even music with lyrics) can be bad.
Use your planning time to try out different locations and environments and see what works best. Do some work with pen/pencil and paper and some with a computer. Do you enjoy the tactile feel of writing by hand? Do you prefer the speed that typing can provide? This is the time to find out!
3. Write every day.
It is easier said than done, I know. However, it can make all the difference. If I don’t do some sort of writing work every day, it’s that much easier to fall into a fit of laziness and do nothing for weeks at a time. Pushing myself to work on my revision every night that I am not too busy keeps me going forward.
During NaNo, words can add up fast. But so can lack of words. One missed day means you’re 1667 words behind. Two missed days means you’re 3333 words behind. It can be stressful to start building that gap. I know not everyone is able to make writing a part of every day, but it is important to make a solid effort to do so. So instead of thinking of this planning time as less important, start getting used to making yourself do at least some work every day. There’s always something that can be done, because even if your plot is fully outlined before November 1, you can free write for practice. It can make you a better writer, and it also helps build good habits.
4. Make it official.
If you’re new to NaNoWriMo, make sure you sign up on the site. Find your home region and see if there are already events planned. Introduce yourself sometime between now and November. Check out the forums (try not to get too overwhelmed), fill out your profile, look for writing buddies, and enter your novel info once you have one to enter. Get familiar with the site and where you will need to update your word count and validate your win near the end of the month.
And lastly, tell everyone you know that you plan to write a novel during November. Explain to them why you may be tired, moody, or unavailable a lot during that month. (Or invite them to join you!) Friends and family members are often good at cheering us on during the month. Sometimes, just knowing that you’ve announced to people that you’re planning to undertake a big challenge makes you work that much harder to accomplish it.
Whether you’re new to NaNoWriMo or a veteran, if you’re not currently in the habit of writing regularly, November 1st can come as quite a shock. 1667 words may flow out of you in 20 minutes, but more likely, it will take more time than that. Easing into it now may keep you from hitting a wall very early in the month.
What about you? How are you preparing for NaNoWriMo? If you’ve done this all before, do you have any tips on how to get ready?