It’s only 3 days until NaNoWriMo starts, and I have a lot of things to do before then! Here’s a list of ten things I’m doing to get ready:
1. Sign Up – No Excuses
No excuses, write like a champion. Sign up for Camp NaNoWriMo, join a cabin, and hold yourself accountable. If you want to do this, do it properly and head over to https://campnanowrimo.org/.
2. Schedule Your Time, But Be Honest
Finding the time to write is the biggest barrier between me and a finished novel. Like the majority of other NaNoWriMo participants, I am juggling writing with work and family. But, setting up a routine definitely helps. Since I’ve been working on this novel since November, I’ve learned several things about myself and my writing habits:
- I just need to sit down and write. I can always hit 750 words (minimum) if I sit down and start writing. It’s like going to the gym to work out – the hardest part is lacing up your sneakers. If I can just sit down in front of my keyboard, I will write 750 words.
- Word sprints are my new best friend. Setting a timer for 20-30 minutes and just writing as much as I can during that brief time is a great way to be productive! You will be amazed at how much you can crank out during a word sprint.
- Once I hit 750 words, it’s pretty easy for me to stretch that to 1,000 – 2,000 words because once I start writing, it’s hard to stop.
- I am not a morning person. Never have been and never will be. I will never wake up early to write before work, not even if my husband tries to bribe me with coffee and avocado toast.
- I am also not a night owl. I used to be in college and law school, but now I’m old and I
likeneed to be asleep by 10pm.
- I am most productive on my weekends, but cannot always depend on them to play catch-up.
- I can almost always write during my lunch breaks at work.
So, here’s when I’m planning to write and what I’ll have to do in order to make sure that happens:
- Monday-Friday during every lunch break at work. This means I will have to make sure that I plan ahead and brown bag my lunch.
- For those days that I’m not prepared, I don’t pack my lunch, and/or I can’t write during lunch, I’ll stay a little bit late at work (1.5 hours max) and write before I head home. I know that if I say I’ll write when I get home that’s a lie because I’ll end up doing what I always do: get home, change into my pajamas, fix dinner, veg out on the couch in front of some Netflix, clean up the kitchen, and then it’ll be time to get ready for bed.
- Write as much as I can tolerate on Saturdays and Sundays.
To help myself be more conscious of my writing goals and to be more conscious of what I actually accomplish, I created this daily calendar where I can easily mark off how many words I write each day to track my writing goals and progress:
You can download this calendar for free and use it to help you schedule your time. Here’s a word doc version of it, if you want to modify it to fit your own needs: click to download.
If this schedule doesn’t work for you, then get your planner out and make your own schedule as to when and where you are going to write. 50,000 words in a month works out at around 11,669 words a week (with no days off). So where are you going to fit these words into your week?
3. Join a Cabin and Schedule Write-Ins
Like I mentioned in my last NaNoWriMo post, Camp NaNoWriMo gives you the ability to join a Cabin, which is a small group of 20 writers. You can use this cabin for motivation and accountability. If your cabin mates are local, you can get together for write-ins before work in bakeries, after work at coffee shops, and even host weekend sessions in bookshops. The advantage of going to one of these events is that if you are sitting around a table with other people working towards the same goal of writing for 45 mins, then having a break together for 15 mins, then getting back into writing, then you will be more productive (with the bonus of making some writer friends too). Even if you can’t venture out or if your cabin mates are scattered about the world, there are virtual write-ins too where everyone will knuckle down for a certain amount of time, then have a chat, and then repeat.
Your friends and family aren’t the only ones who can support you and keep you accountable. You might write alone but thousands of people, all over the world, are doing the exact same thing – experiencing the same dilemmas, obstacles, and thrills as you. So why not add them as ‘buddies’ and share stories, struggles and triumphs?
4. Get to Know Your Characters, Inside and Out
You need a really solid understanding of who you are writing about before you start. This will not only make the writing process easier, but it will also make your writing better – a double win!
Before I start writing, I do massive amounts of research and prep-work into my characters and the world in which they live. I’m writing a fantasy novel that is set in a world that I’ve created. However, I didn’t start my research or writing with world building – I started with my characters. All fictional stories are character driven and knowing your characters well will help you design the world in which they live.
I’m in the position where I’ve already started my novel, so I’m pretty familiar with my characters. If you need some help fleshing out your own characters, here is my own personal checklist that I use when developing each of my characters:
- Name – Name Origins/Notes of the significance of their name
- Magical Powers (if any)
- Internal Goal
- Main Goal
- When did their goal(s) become strong in their life and why?
- How the World Views Them
- Their Needs/Goals/What They Care About
- Fears – What can help them overcome their fears?
- Motivations – what drives them?
- Sexual Orientation
- Physical Appearance
- Eyes/Facial Appearance
- Hair (and/or makeup)
- Weight/Body Build
- Example Characters
- Friends/Family and their archetypes
In addition to listing out those traits and characteristics for each of my characters, I also create a vision board on Pinterest. This is a great and productive way to procrastinate when writing. You can find the vision board for my current NaNoWriMo WIP here: https://www.pinterest.com/sedunawaybooks/deaths-dominion/.
5. Plot and Organize Your Ideas, as Much as You Can, Before You Start
There are two types of NaNoWriMo writers: those who like to outline (like me!) and those who fly by the seats of their pants. The latter are known affectionately as pantsers.
But if you’re not a pantser, then you need an outline like me. Don’t waste time agonizing over this outline. It shouldn’t take too long to write. The basic idea is to come up with a simple story that you can summarize in a simple sentence or two. Then, expand from there. Try to get that down on paper. For example, here’s my briefest of brief outlines:
War is brewing in Gaiya, for it is written in the stars. Three lives; three choices; one price to be paid:
A queen’s legacy, drenched in blood.
A soldier’s family, sacrificed in the name of duty.
An ancient kingdom, abandoned by their prince.
War is brewing and it will come with a price.
You might find brainstorming a good way to get started with your outline, in which case a brainstorming app such as MindNode might be useful. If you are more of a list person, then Trello is a great tool for building and managing lists and tasks. I started my project in a OneNote Notebook and then expanded to a physical notebook, breaking my outline into sections and categories like characters, countries, religion & culture, and scenes.
Since I’ve started writing and developing a fairly detailed outline for my WIP, I’ve moved to outlining the individual scenes of my novel on note cards. The model I use for my scene cards was originally developed by Lara Ferrari – you can get this resource (plus countless more) by signing up for her newsletter.
If you want more resources on plotting and outlining, I’ve listed a whole bunch of them in the writing section of my website.
6. Let Go of the Research, the Planning, and the Preparation
This is the hardest step for me. There will always be gaps in your knowledge. It is impossible to do every bit of research that you need before you start writing. When you come to a tricky section of your writing that exposes gaps in your knowledge, do not be tempted to switch to research mode. Just make a note like insert *knowledge* here and come back to it next month after NaNoWriMo ends.
NaNoWriMo is about finishing. It’s not about writing the perfect draft – it’s simply about finishing the draft. That’s my biggest problem and my biggest goal for Camp NaNoWriMo – just finish the draft, even if it’s absolutely horrible.
7. Get Your Tools Ready
A good keyboard: I took a page out of Patrick Rothfuss’ playbook and I hooked up an old keyboard from my childhood to my laptop. The clicking and clanking of the heavy keys is so delightful and rewarding! I am enjoying writing like I’ve never enjoyed it before. Bonus: it’s better for your eyes if they’re a little bit further away from the light of the screen.
A notebook: You need a notebook (and a pen) on your desk during NaNoWriMo. When you come up with some fantastic idea (plot twist, character backstory, perfect turn of phrase), you need to write it down before it evaporates. You can jot it down in your notebook without breaking your momentum. You can also keep this notebook with you when you’re not at your desk to quickly log ideas. Always have a notebook and pen handy – you never know where inspiration will strike!
A soundtrack: Some writers need to listen to music as they write. If that’s you, get your playlist ready now. Need some help with writing music inspiration? You can listen to my writing playlist on Spotify.
Food and drink: Last, but certainly not least, you’ll probably need some form of caffeine or edible goodness on your desk at all times. My go-to drink is a dirty chai latte (chai latte + shot(s) of espresso). To reduce wasted time and money, I’ve figured out how to make this drink at home. What’s your favorite form of caffeine? Have you perfected brewing up that beverage at home? Do you need any special treats, cookies, or snacks to keep you motivated and writing? NaNoWriMo is a judgment free zone, so treat yourself!
8. Ignore The Doubt & Silence Your Inner Editor
Every writer will suffer from self-doubt at one point or another. We’ve all been there. Ignore the doubt – it doesn’t deserve any airtime.
Also, don’t waste your time with edits and revisions. This is something I constantly struggle with. I am a perfectionist. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten bogged down in a scene because I constantly come back to revising and rewriting it. I am a writer. And for 30 days, that is my only role.
9. Jump Around & Write, Even When You Don’t Feel Like Writing
Don’t limit yourself to writing in a straight line. Feel free to follow inspiration wherever it leads. If it leads you to a scene near the end of your book, skip ahead. The same goes if you get stuck. Just make a note and move on. Whatever you do, don’t stop writing.
The first and only rule about NaNoWriMo: there are no rules, except to write, and you should always write, even when you don’t feel like writing.
10. Switch Off Your Phone and Say Goodbye to Netflix
Set your phone to silent and your status to ‘busy’. Ignore social media, turn off the television, and minimize distractions. Do not start watching the latest season of Jessica Jones or Altered Carbon. For just one month, drop any non-essential responsibilities, warn your friends you’ll be out of contact, and let your house get messy. You have permission to feel no guilt.