Doing NaNoWriMo? How to Get Started NOW

NaNoWriMo begins in a week and a half, which means your time for any pre-NaNo prepping is drawing short. Although NaNo rules require that you not write a single word of your novel before November 1 (and I’m no cheater!) there are several things you can do right now to help you hit the ground running.

  1. Track how you’re spending your time – The biggest challenge to writers everywhere, and NaNo-ers in particular, is finding the TIME to write. It seems our lives always feel too full or too busy to add one more thing to our plates. Try tracking how you spend your time for a week to discover where you are losing “time pockets” — 15 minutes surfing the net, half an hour of unplanned TV watching, etc. Then, take a good long look at where your time is going, and decide what you’re going to cut during November. (It’s tempting to cut sleep and exercise, but I don’t recommend it — the thoughts of well-rested writers flow more freely, and exercise gives you good “novel-processing” time.)
  2. Make an outline or jot ideas – The way you implement this will depend on whether you are a “planner” or a “pantser.” Planners like to have detailed outlines before they dive into writing. Pantsers like to “fly by the seat of their pants.” If you are a planner, now is the time to work on your outline. If you are a “pantser,” writing an outline might actually impeded your success doing NaNoWriMo — many pantsers (also called “discovery writers” because they make it up as they go along) find knowing too much about how their story is going to turn out crushes their enthusiasm for writing it. If you’re a pantser, jot down a few ideas — images, tone, characters, etc., or make a list of questions you want to answer in your novel. Not sure which category you fall into? Think about what makes you get “stuck.” Planners often feel stuck when they’re not sure what is going to happen next; Pantsers get stuck when they know too much about what’s coming in their story.
  3. Research – Research is a rabbit hole that can suck hours away from enthusiastic writers. Although research is important, you will NOT have time to do it AND write your novel in November. If you know you will need to research a time, place, or profession for your novel, do that research now. Don’t worry if you don’t finish it. Use your “best guess” when you write in November, and finish researching when your novel is done, correcting any errors.
  4. Get into a writing habit – Although there are some “binge writers” out there who write feverishly for short periods of time after months of writing abstinence, for most people, your writing brain is like a muscle that becomes more limber and responsive with regular use. Get yourself in the habit of writing now by setting aside some time for journaling, writing letters, or blogging. This will make your “writing brain” more readily accessible in November — and you will want fast access to that baby, believe me.

If you have other tips about things you can do to prepare for NaNoWriMo before November hits, leave me a comment!