There are already a number of great resources available on how to prepare your plot and characters. This article is different. NaNoWriMo is a lot of fun but it consumes your life for the entire month. You become a plate spinner with three too many plates to spin. It can be a challenge to keep your life going while focused the 50k goal.
I've successfully participant in NaNoWriMo since 2007 and have been an ML for 7 years. Even with the writing wins November hasn't always gone smoothly for me. It takes effort and planning to stay balanced and organized. Below are seven tips, tricks, and helpful suggestions to help you prepare for life in November while avoiding dropping any plates.
1. Schedule Your Calendar
A common piece of advice is planning when you will write. It is important to set up large blocks of time for writing while finding spare moments to steal 5 to 20 extra minutes to write here and there. 'Schedule your calendar' takes that a step further. Look at what family, work, or school commitments you have in November. Make a list of those and any appointments or projects you have. Ask yourself what can you do ahead of time or put off till December? Make a to do list of these things. Start projects now to help relieve some of the stress in November.
Next, figure out what are non-negotiable activities. For students it might be a test, project, or presentation. For my American friends it maybe a trip home for Thanksgiving. Mark these on your calendar. This will help keep you from forgetting your commitments when you are deep in the world of writing. It will also help you know the days you might not make the 1667 word goal while showing you the best word count recovery days.
2. Make a Meal Plan and Freeze Meals
I often decide what I am going to cook that day, if I am really on top of things I know a week in advance. For November I try to have the whole month planned. I even cook extras in October so I have meals ready to go in the freezer. My other meal trick is paper plates. My places doesn't have a dishwasher. To gain more writing time I cut down my dish washing time.
3. Gather Inspiration
Writing is pilgrimage. It is you journeying alone through your creativity. Writing will take you to the highest peaks of inspiration. But it requires will and determination to keep going because after the mountain tops comes the valleys. These low points are filled with self-doubt, negativity, and an inner editor who won't shut up. It will make you want to give up. You need tools to help you stay motivated and keep writing. Here are a few suggestions:
- Find good quotes about writing. I keep mine as the cover to my research binder. You could write then on note cards and put them up around your work space. Or make them your desktop background.
- Gather inspirational images, postcards, or your own sketches. I use a mix of pictures I find pretty or make me happy and those that fit with my novel idea and spark my creativity. Use your collection to create a poster or desktop background.
- Make a writing playlist or two. Music is different for everyone. I like to use movie and video soundtracks. I find songs lyrics distracting because I want to sing along.
- I got this idea from another ML, I have never tried it, but make a box or cage to be the symbolic prison for your inner editor.
- Have a way to recharge and/or relax between writing sessions. It could be drawing, walking, a bubble bath, or whatever works for you. Something that can be a quick 10-20 minute reset. Try to avoid using the internet or TV for these breaks. Both draw you in for longer than you expect and aren't as helpful at letting your mind wander to the next twist your novel needs.
- Write future you a motivational note on why you want to finish NaNoWriMo to be opened on a rough day.
- Read the nanoprep talks that are sent out every week.
Writing is a solo activity but NaNoWriMo doesn't have to be. If you haven't already, find and set your home region. Introduce yourself on the forums now. Connect with other writers in your area or find some writing in the same green.
Check to see if there are any events scheduled near you. Many regions have preparation meetings and kick off parties in October. One of my favourite events in NaNoEve. Then through out November there are write in's and meet ups. The local MLs work hard to make these events fun and supportive. You don't need to go to everything but it can help to commiserate with others that understand. And you never know when someone's random comment might fix a plot problem you've been struggling with.
5. Prepare for Mundane Lighting
I have found my best thinking happens when I am doing something else. Ideas come when you least expect them. Be ready to save these inspirational moments of creative lightening. Probably your best tool is paper and pen. If you get ideas when you are falling asleep keep a pad of paper by the bed. Or carry a notebook and pen with you while your run errands or go for walks. I also use my phone. It helps keep short notes but also take pictures of things that inspire me. One of my friends is a NaNoRebel who is writing a musical. She keeps a recorder with her to save melody's that pop into her head.
6. Choose and Know Your Software
My first few years of Nano I used Word, never again. Now I use Scrivner. I love it. I know there are other programs out there at different cost brackets. I believe yWriter and Storybook are free options. Do your research and make a choice that is best for you.
Once you have made your software decision, take the time in October to get familiar with it. Play around with the options and tools. I am going to redo the Scrivner tutorial. I know there are a number of features I didn't use to their fullest potential. Also check out YouTube for help and how to videos.
7. Have Your Backup Plan
Writing a novel takes time, energy, and effort. NaNoWriMo is extreme novel writing. At the end of the month you should have a pretty decent first draft all shiny and new ready for the editing process. Unless something horrible happen to your files. And sometimes horrible things happen, computers crash, laptops are stolen, USBs get run over, notebooks get left on buses. It can be devastating.
I know the pain of losing a manuscript. In 2012 my laptop died mid November and was beyond repair. There was great weeping and washing of teeth. Till I remembered that I had emailed myself a backup copy just a few day earlier. The total lost was only 4000 words. Now I regularly hit save, save a copy to a USB, and email a copy. Others might use an external hard drive or the cloud. I have less advice for handwriters. Maybe you could scan, photocopy, or take pictures of your work. However you write have a plan to save your work.
Hope those help and happy writing!
Days Until Sister Arrives: 22
Days Until Hal-Con: 23
Days Until Sci-Fi Symphony by Symphony Nova Scotia: 24
Days Until NaNoWriMo begins: 25
Days Until Christmas (and the Doctor Who Christmas Special): 79
Days Until I can watch the Doctor Who Christmas Special: 80