Last year was my first November observing National Novel Writing Month. I had an idea for a novel and had done some research on my topic, but didn’t prepare other than that. I won, but it was really hard and came right down to the wire.
If you’re still not sure if NaNoWriMo is right for you, I wrote a post about my experience last year #NaNoWriMo Yes or No? The Pros and Cons of Participating in National Novel Writing Month that you might enjoy.
This year, I have a fresh story idea that has been running through my head since a newspaper article inspired in April. I’m using all the tools at my disposal to do some plotting and planning. Prepared, this year should be rewarding AND FUN!
Whether you’re a plotter, pantser or planster (like me) you should find some of these tips and tools helpful.
Declare your novel
Once you set up your account at nanowrimo.org it’s time to declare your novel. This is the fun part where you type in your title and your summary.
Writing your novel summary is a great exercise to organize your ideas and will be a tool for down the road, when you have a finished novel that you want to pitch to agents and share your amazing story with the world.
Try this exercise: Imagine that you’ve already won NaNoWriMo. You’ve written your amazing story from beginning to end. Quickly write down everything that happens in your story. Great! Now look at what you’ve written and pick out your main character, what they want more than anything, what/who stands in their way and how they overcome the impediment. Try to get that all into one sentence. You have your logline. You’re ready to pitch your novel.
Now that you’re ready to pitch, head over to 30 covers for 30 days and submit your novel for the cover contest. Graphic designers volunteer to design covers for 30 lucky winners. It’s only a NaNoWriMo souvenir, but could get your writing some attention.
Once you’ve entered your novel for the cover contest, look over the rest of the forums, there is a ton of great information in the forums. Then, make sure to hit the Regions tab on your dashboard and introduce yourself to your local MLs (municipal liaisons). Your home region site should have events to put on your calendar and people to be your writing buddies and support. Here’s a chance to reach out and make friends.
You may want to hit the NaNoWriMo shop to get yourself the T-shirt you’re going to live in and a coffee mug to attach to your hand/face.
Set up your files
Last year, I used the NaNoWriMo discount to buy scrivener. I didn’t end up using it very much because I hadn’t gotten used to it. This year, I’m using the Scrivener’s note card view to outline my chapters. I’ve also set up character pages using character worksheets and character interviews, setting pages, word substitution and theme word sheets and name idea sheets. Having everything in my project file will save me a lot of time and keep me on the page.
You can set up files for any program you plan to use. The fun part of prep is thinking about your characters, your settings and themes. There are tons of fun downloadable worksheets and questionnaires around the web to help you flesh out your ideas. Explore and have fun, but remember to keep everything organized.
I recommend creating one file folder named for your project that you keep on your desktop. You can put a million different folders inside it, but put everything, EVERYTHING to do with your novel in that folder.
Dictionary.com and Thesaurus.com – I played around at thesaurus.com to create word pages for my major themes. I also have word selection pages for my overused words.
Your local library’s digital library – kcls.org is one of my favorite websites. I’ve been using it to try out African, Arabic and Worldbeat music for my writing soundtrack. It has a variety of newspapers and magazines, videos and e-books for research.
Google News Archive – This is a wonderful site full of old newspapers you can peruse just like microfiche. I wrote a post about it last month: A great tool for research, inspiration and hours of fun if you’d like more information.
Facebook – My local region already had a writing group page to join. It’s a great place to meet other people planning for NaNoWriMo and to find out about upcoming events.
Twitter – Other than the obvious hashtags #nanoprep and #nanowrimo, there are a lot of great hashtags for writers. You may want to try them out during prep. Turning your favorite lines in to tweets is great practice for creating succinct sentences with emotion and meaning. You may want to check out my previous post Twitter #Hashtags That Motivate Revision to find the hashtags and writing challenges that are right for you. Twitter will also be a great way to keep yourself motivated throughout the month. There’s nothing like a few likes on a sentence you just wrote to keep you writing more. Make sure to read and retweet your fellow writers to keep them happy as well.
Pinterest – I’m using Pinterest to create vision boards: one for characters and the other for themes and settings. I’ve recently found a lot of writing inspiration from images I collect.
WordPress – If you’re a wordpress blogger, you can use your blog to tell your readers that you’re participating, creating a promise to yourself and others that you will do the work. You can also type nanowrimo or nanoprep into the search bar of your reader page and find other writers who are participating and will be going through the same things you are.
Tumblr – NaNoWriMo.org has a Tumblr blog. I have found many fellow Nano writers have Tumblrs and I’ve filled up my reader quickly with tips and advice.
Youtube – last year I really enjoyed the NaNoWriMo write-ins on Youtube. I got a lot out of them and wrote some fun scenes I might not have written otherwise.
Your Personal Arsenal
Though there are a ton of tools available to you, only you know what’s best for you. Take a minute to reflect about your writing process and make a plan.
Do you journal? Do Morning Pages?
Gather up your journals- take a look at what you’ve been writing and organize your notes. What are your themes?
Where do you write?
Now is the time to get your writing space just the way you like it. Vacuum, dust, clean the windows, get some plants and candles. Put up motivational posters or seascapes, whatever works for you. If you like big visuals like I do, put up your big piece of paper for your timeline and plot point post-its. Make sure you have tons of colorful, big post-its. Have fun. Make your writing space a place you want to be and don’t forget your Keep-Out and Beware of Deadly Plague signs for the door. You may want to install a lock if you don’t have one.
Set up your play lists
Now is a good time to scour your music collection, your friends’ music collections and your library’s music collection. Think of your themes, your characters, your scenes. Do your characters have theme songs? Think of your settings. What music would be playing there?
You may want to make collections on Youtube, stations on Pandora, or playlists on Spotify.
It doesn’t matter how you do it, now is a good time to plan it out. Give it a test drive and see what really gets you writing.
Make exercise easy
One thing that can get pushed aside during NaNoWriMo is exercise. But getting some fresh air in the lungs and circulating it through that brain will help those ideas churn. So plan ahead.
Make sure to take a walk every day. Start the good habit today.
Keep exercise equipment like small weights, a mat, mini-trampoline, etc. near your writing space and use them when you take a break.
Been wanting to paint your office? Do it now! You know the evil procrastination monster will hit hard during NaNoWriMo, so anything you can do now to head it off. Do it! Seriously, some of you know you’re suddenly going to need to clean out the crawl space in the attic in the middle of November (or November 1st). If that’s you, go clean the crawl space and paint your bedroom now. Just to be safe.
Everyone wishes they had more time to write.
What if you could just buy some?
Have you ever thought about having someone come in to clean once a week or just twice a month. Use NaNoWriMo as an excuse to try it out. It doesn’t have to be terribly expensive. I had cleaners come for a while and for a large house, they charged $70 each time they came. It was so worth it.Not only did you just buy yourself hours to write, you bought peace of mind. You’ll feel better and write better.
Hate yard work, but can’t leave the lawn for more than a week, let alone a month? Try hiring a lawn service or maybe a kid in the neighborhood. If your yard work is anything like mine, you just bought yourself at least six hours of writing time!
Have you ever thought about ordering your groceries to be delivered? Some large grocery chains will let you order your groceries online and deliver them to your home if you give them at least twenty-four hours notice. If you set up an order, don’t change it much to save time and re-order each week instead of grocery shopping, you could add at least 4 hours to your writing.
Another way to add some time is to stock up on prepared foods and healthy snacks. I just did a shop at my local Grocery Outlet. They have started stocking Amy’s frozen meals. I am in LOVE with the gluten free, rice crust pizza. It is shockingly good. I stocked up on those, her spinach enchiladas and veggie burgers. I also grabbed dips for veggies and dried fruit and nut mixes. Having low-prep foods and easy, healthy snacks will keep you energized, out of the kitchen and at the keyboard. Adding at least an hour and a half of writing time every day.
If you splurge on all of these options for just the month of November (I’m estimating having a cleaner saves you 2 hours a week could be much more), you have 63 hours to write that you didn’t have before. If you write a reasonable 800 words an hour, you have all the time you need! 50,400 words
Want More Tips and Tricks? Grab one of these books on the subject!
Ready, Set, Novel!: A Workbook
NaNoWriMo: A Cheater’s Guide: Tips, Tricks and Hacks for Winning This November (Write Better Books Book 1)
No Plot? No Problem! Revised and Expanded Edition: A Low-stress, High-velocity Guide to Writing a Novel in 30 Days
How to Win NaNoWriMo: 11 Steps to Writing Your Novel in 30 Days