Tips for NaNoPrep

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In 2015, I wrote a series of posts about NaNoWriMo, covering things like tips for prep time, tips for November, help in the actual prep work, and even some of my favorite writing tools.

The problem now is that, though those things are all still helpful and relevant, there’s not a lot to add to them. I have picked up a few extra tips since then, sure, but those things I wrote about 2 years ago are still some of the most helpful advice I could give.

I could just reblog those posts throughout the month, but I don’t like that idea. Instead, I’m going to pick some of my favorite tips and share them in a few, boiled-down posts, while also suggesting that anyone who is interested in learning more visit the page where I’ve listed all of those posts from 2015.

1. Start writing now.
Take the next 2 1/2 weeks 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?

It doesn’t have to be the amount of time you will need to write 1667 words each day in November, but find maybe 15-20 minutes when you can sit down and write. For planners, work on the plot, characters, outline, or whatever you’re doing. For pantsers 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. In fact, free writing can be a great use of your time whether you’re a planner, a pantser, or somewhere in between.

Try to write every day, which is a good habit to have even outside of NaNo, but also keep in mind that if you can’t get to it one day, it’s not the end of the world. Just remember that if you’re like most of us, the longer you let yourself stay away, the less likely it is that you’ll keep the habit you’ve developed.

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. Gather your NaNo necessities.
Whether this includes consumables, physical tools, or making sure your laptop is set up and ready to use, make sure you know what you want to have handy for NaNoWriMo now, and procure as much of it as you can. When November starts, you don’t want to find yourself lacking.

4. Involve other senses.
I touched on sound above, so we’ll start there. Some people create a playlist for every story. I’ve read about people who will find music that matches the theme of their story, make a playlist from it (even if just on YouTube), and listen to it all month. Then, when November is over and they want to go back later and either finish the novel or revise it, they can listen to that music again, and it will put them right back in the mood.

Whatever your taste in music is, an alternative to creating an audio scene for your story is creating an olfactory scene. Scent memory is said to be very powerful. Go to the store and smell all the candles or all the scented wax (if you have or are willing to buy the wax melter to go with it). Think of your story, what it’s about, where it’s set, who the main character(s) is/are. Is it a romance? Maybe something flowery or sensual. Is it set in a tropical location? Something with coconut or tropical fruit, perhaps. There are outdoor scents if your story involves a lot of forest or other outdoor scenes. Not every story lends itself easily to a scent, but pick something that smells right and have it burning/melting near you while you write all month. Then later, you may just be able to immerse yourself back into the book by activating that scent again.

Check out this post for some NaNo-related music, comic strips, and even a musical!

5. The midnight sprint.
NaNoWriMo begins at midnight on November 1. That falls in the middle of the week this year, but if you’re the kind who stays up late, or can make an exception for one night, you can start writing right at midnight and get some words under your belt before going to bed. It’s purely a mental trick, getting a jump start on the day’s word count, but many people love to do the midnight sprint.

When November looms closer, I will post tips about the writing itself, and how to survive–and even thrive–during NaNoWriMo. If you’re don’t want to wait, by all means, here’s the link again to the series of posts I made 2 years ago, from which I’ll probably be stealing some those tips.

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?

Tips for NaNoWriMo, Part 2

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Happy October! For those of us who are planning to participate in NaNoWriMo, October should be a very important month. (And I see by the WordPress Reader under the tag of NaNoWriMo that I am not alone in this thinking. Seriously, for the last month, I’ve been obsessively reading every post on WordPress that has been tagged as such, and it really exploded today!) There is a lot to prepare in advance, and I don’t just mean the story. Let’s face it, planning a story is only part of what one should to do prepare for NaNo.

Today, I’m going to share some more tips for what you could do throughout this month to make sure you’re ready to write on November 1st.

A few weeks ago, I shared some ideas for these pre-NaNo months that could help anyone who was planning to participate get ready. All of those tips still work for this month too. Honestly, if you’re new to NaNoWriMo especially, I suggest you learn what works for you now, because you’re not going to want to spend your first few days of writing trying to figure out where the best place is to write, or when you can get to it, or other things like that.

1. Consumables
NaNoWriMo is not the time for sleep. Caffeine can be a crucial ingredient for the month, so make sure you’re stocked up on your favorite poison. I don’t care for coffee, so I usually drink cappuccino (the kind from a powder). I drink iced tea, even in cold months, but it’s normally decaf. Last year someone suggested switching to regular tea for November, so I may try that too. But for my birthday this year, I got a Keurig machine. Strange for someone who doesn’t like coffee, I know, but since I discovered that I rather enjoy flavored coffees, I’ve gone kind of crazy for it. So I have a lot of that stocked up for November.

More than beverages, though, many people find that they want to snack more during NaNoWriMo. I know not everyone is as self-indulgent as I, so if you’re more health conscious, you may want to skip the chocolate. Personally, though, I have plans to go to some stores on November 1 in the afternoon and buy up a bunch of post-Halloween-sale candy. Chips are also a staple for some, or any other snack-type foods you like.

2. Writing Tools
This may seem kind of obvious, but there are plenty of things that you may assume you’d remember, or you’d have available, but won’t be able to find when the time comes. Make sure you have any notebooks you may need, pens or pencils, binders, planners, whatever physical items you use for writing. Put them all in one place and even contained in a transportable bag, box, etc. if your location for writing tends to change (either within the house or to coffee shops, library, or friend’s house). I would advise that even if you are a true computer writer and don’t use pen/paper for any stage of writing that you still carry a notebook and pen or pencil with you during November. It’s a good back up in case anything goes wrong with electronic devices, and this is not a time to risk that.

In the virtual sense, make sure you know what programs or apps you want to use and have them on any computers or devices you may use. If you’ve heard a lot about a program but haven’t tried it yet (like Scrivener or Evernote), download it now and play around with it before November. During NaNoWriMo is no time to be trying to learn a new software. I have some more virtual tools that I use for writing that I’ll share during the rest of this month too.

3. Writing Buddies
I’ve mentioned before that now is the time to be finding your home region on the NaNoWriMo website. More than that, this is a good time to start scheduling your month for local events, if you can make it to those. I won’t say that it’s a necessity to attend, as I would be a hypocrite if I did. I’ve never been to a write-in, just the last few years’ kick-off parties. Write-ins are usually 45 minutes away, and I’m a stay-at-home, homeschooling mom, so it’s hard to get away. This year, though, my local library, which is about 5 minutes away, is going to have weekly write-ins, so I’m working out plans to at least go to the first one and see how it goes.

Whether you go to in-person events or not, it can be nice to connect with others in your area, even if only online. Introduce yourself in the forums, see if there is an online chat you can join in on, and just be part of the community. It’s easy to get overwhelmed with the community if you let yourself, which is why I mostly stick to my region’s forums, and don’t venture much into the main forums.

Something else to be thinking about now is how you might best go about doing some word wars once November starts. (Word wars are where you and at least one other person agree on a set amount of time, usually 10-15 minutes, start writing at the same time, and compare your word count at the end.) Last year I was part of my first word wars, and let me tell you, they are very motivating. They were all virtual, taking place over Skype in a group some people from my region created. Almost every day there were word wars going on in the evening, and most of the Wrimos who were there regularly finished NaNo at least a week early, citing word wars as the reason why.

If you know people in person who are also doing NaNo, they’d be the obvious choice for word war competitors. However, you can usually find someone to go head-to-head with in your region, at write-ins esp, or if all else fails, there’s a forum for that: http://nanowrimo.org/forums/word-wars-prompts-sprints

4. Involve Other Senses
So number 1 kind of covered taste, but that’s not really what I mean. I’ve mentioned in a previous post about how the time leading up to November is a great time to discover what kind of writing atmosphere you need (if you don’t already know). Do you require absolute silence? Some kind of white noise? Music? The last one is what I’m referring to right now.

Some people create a playlist for every story. I’ve read about people who will find music that matches the theme of their story, make a playlist from it (even if just on YouTube), and listen to it all month. Then, when November is over and they want to go back later and either finish the novel or revise it, they can listen to that music again, and it will put them right back in the mood. I’ve never done this, I think because music doesn’t work that way in my head. Or maybe it’s because I’m too lazy to spend time tracking down what music would fit my novel (though this year, I may just have the perfect music, given the subject matter).

One year, I did spend the whole month going back and forth between these two playlists: D&E NaNo songs, NaNoMusical songs

Whatever your taste in music is, an alternative to creating an audio scene for your story is creating an olfactory scene. Scent memory is said to be very powerful. Go to the store and smell all the candles or all the scented wax (if you have or are willing to buy the wax melter to go with it). Think of your story, what it’s about, where it’s set, who the main character(s) is/are. Is it a romance? Maybe something flowery or sensual. Is it set in a tropical location? Something with coconut or tropical fruit, perhaps. There are outdoor scents if your story involves a lot of forest or other outdoor scenes. Not every story lends itself easily to a scent, but pick something that smells right and have it burning/melting near you while you write all month. Then later, you may just be able to immerse yourself back into the book by activating that scent again.

5. To Sprint or Not To Sprint
NaNoWriMo begins at midnight on November 1. This year, that falls on Saturday night/Sunday morning. If you’re the kind who stays up late, or can make an exception for one night, you can start writing right at midnight and get some words under your belt before going to bed. It’s purely a mental trick, getting a jump start on the day’s word count, but many people love to do the midnight sprint.


If you read my first Tips post, hopefully you have been getting used to how you like to write–what format you prefer, what items you’ll need, what kind of writing environment you desire. If not, there is still time to do that. The best advice I can give is to start writing every day right now. Whether that writing is pre-writing for your NaNoNovel (brainstorming, outlining, character creation) or just free writing to get in the habit, it’s a great idea to warm up before November starts, and not jump in cold.

Are you considering NaNoWriMo? Give me a shout if you’re participating, and share what you do in October to get ready. Feel free to add me as a buddy on the site, though let me know you came from here somehow.

Tips for NaNoWriMo

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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?