The Most Overlooked Part of NaNoPrep (Which Could Actually Save Your NaNoWriMo)

What’s the most overlooked and under-appreciated part of preparing for NaNoWriMo? Straightening out your plot? Interviewing your characters? Stocking the cupboards with biscuits and several tonnes of tea?

Nope. It’s preparing your writing time for the long 50k slog.

It’s easy to get caught up in novel prep and that’s completely understandable–you’ll be spending 30 days living and breathing your story, after all–but don’t let it eclipse other important aspects of NaNoPrep, like planning out exactly when you’ll be writing this November.

Here are five easy steps to figuring out the ‘when’, the ‘where’ and the ‘how much’ of NaNoWriMo writing time.

How Much Time Do You Need?

How long does it take you, on average, to write 1667 words? Two hours? Three? More? Try a few practice runs in these last few days before November starts to get a feel for how much time you’ll need to dedicate to writing each day next month.

NaNo pro tip: word sprints will get you to your target word count a gazillion times quicker than writing at a normal pace. Check out our Upcoming Sprints page for the regular word sprints going on through the month and keep an eye out for a Mass Sprint Watch post highlighting all the sprinting events going down this November.

Now that you have an idea of how much time you’ll need to write each day, it’s time to start planning when you’ll write.

Schedule Writing Time and Guard It Fiercely

Visualise your weekly schedule or actually look at it, if you’re organised enough to have it written down. Do you have any long stretches of time that you could dedicate to writing each day next month? Identify time blocks for writing, mark them down in your schedule, and guard them fiercely. Let friends and family know that these times are for writing and that you won’t be available during them. If you can help it, don’t arrange anything else during those times too.

Be Prepared to Grab Time Whenever and Wherever You Can

Don’t get so caught up in planning out big blocks of noveling time that you forget about the short writing opportunities that litter the day. Carry a notebook around with you wherever you go in November and get into the habit of scribbling in it whenever you have free time.

In the waiting room at the doctors? Write. On the train or bus? Write. Grabbing a bite to eat during your lunch break? Write.

Time is limited and your word count is vast. Take advantage of every spare moment and get those words down.

If You Can’t Find Time, Make Time to Write

If there isn’t enough already available time in your day for writing, then try making some. Look at activities you do each day that aren’t necessary. Maybe you could cut back on watching TV or browsing the Internet or reading (just for November, I promise!) and dedicate some of that time to writing instead?

Alternatively, you could organise your day to make it more efficient, therefore freeing up more time. For example, rather than checking your email at several points throughout the day, getting side-tracked on Pinterest, reading your feed on Twitter and lurking on Facebook each time, you could limit yourself to only doing this once or twice a day, and only then for 30 minutes maximum. Suddenly you have so much more time to spare for writing.

Take Advantage of the Weekends

If you’re busy on weekdays, take full advantage of the weekends to catch up on your word count. Dedicate as much time as you can do to writing and crank out those words. Sprinting helps.

NaNo pro tip: Find large sprinting events and use them to boost your word count. Weekends, in particular, will be overflowing with word sprinting events this year. #WriteClub hosts hour upon hour of sprints every Friday, through into Saturday in many time zones. The Sprint Shack hosts the #TalesAndTea Party every Saturday and #SundayScribes every (you guessed it) Sunday. There are several writing marathons scheduled for the weekends in November too, which we’ll let you know more about in the upcoming Mass Sprint Watch post.

In short, there will be opportunities aplenty over the Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays of November for you to propel your word count up, up and away. Take advantage of that and plan your writing time so that it coincides with them, if you can.


Remember to factor in time for writing when finishing off your NaNoWriMo preparations this week. It really could save you (and your word count) in November. Identify your sacred writing time, schedule it, guard it, and then sprint it out. Oh, and have fun too. Let’s not forget that.


Do you write at a specific time or grab time whenever you can?

NaNo Prep: Making the Most of the Last Week of October

The clock is ticking. Only one week to go until NaNoWriMo. Just 7 days standing between you and your next novel.

Are you ready?

If not, here’s a last-minute guide to help you make sure you’re prepared for the month-long writing marathon.

Get your outline in order if you’re a planner
Get that outline cleaned up. Finish naming your characters and sketching out your villains. Clean it all up to make the writing process smoother once November 1st rolls around.

Start cooking ideas if you’re a pantser
Even if you prefer writing by the seat of your pants, it doesn’t hurt to start thinking about your story. Get a few ideas bouncing around you brain (What genre are you writing? Who is your protagonist?) and let them simmer over the next week.

Tell your friends and family that you’re participating in NaNoWriMo NOW
Seriously, send out a mass text or a Facebook post. Make an announcement with a mega-phone. Tell everyone you know that you’re doing NaNo. This not only keeps you on track (there’s nothing worse than a judgmental look from your significant other followed up with “why aren’t you writing?”), but it also lets the important people in your life know you’ll be busier than usual for the next month.

Set your daily word count goal now
How many days do you want to write each day in November? Do you want to do the standard 1,667 words per day? Do you want to write double that each day and be done by mid-November. Do you want to write less during the week and more during the weekend? Figure it out now and then stick to it come November.

Sign up for the Writember Workshop
Need help staying on track during November? Our very own Skye Fairwin is running a workshop in November that will keep you writing. For more info or to sign up, click here.

Get your playlists in order
Take some time to hand-pick your music before NaNo starts. Doing this will keep  you inspired through the month AND it saves you from creating more and falling into a pit of procrastination when you should be writing next month.

Create your Pinterest inspiration boards
Pin to your heart’s content. If you’re constantly looking for visual inspiration, create a board full of inspiring photos or quotes that will keep you writing through November.

Stock up on the snacks
Or coffee, tea, alcohol, etc. Make sure you’ve got enough of your favorite munchies to fuel your writing…at least for the first couple days of NaNo!

Pre-write your November blog posts
Or at least outline them. Instead of having to break from your NaNo novel to write your weekly blog post, get it done now.

Get pumped with pre-NaNo sprints
Head over to our Twitter account for sprinting throughout the week and get the creative juices pumping!


What do you have left to do to prep for NaNoWriMo? Let us know in the comments below!

4 Ways to Prepare Yourself and Your Story for NaNoWriMo

4 Ways to Prepare Yourself and Your Story for #NaNoWriMo | www.sprintshack.wordpress.comNovember 1st is only two weeks away. (WHAT? When did that happen?)

Whether NaNoWriMo has crept up on you or you’ve been planning for it since December 1st 2013, there’s one way to set yourself up for a super successful noveling month: a little bit of novel prep work. And don’t worry–it’s the fun kind of prep too.

What follows are four ways I use to prepare myself and my story, so that I can dive into NaNoWriMo on November 1st and not surface again until midnight on the 30th. Here’s how you can do the same.

1. Do all your research now

Nothing stops you in your writing tracks during NaNoWriMo quite like realising you need to do research. You open up Google, intending to do a quick search and then return to writing… and 3 hours, 15 articles and a sneaky sojourn on Pinterest later, you have nothing written. Instead of forging ahead with your daily target of 1667 words, you got bogged down by hours and hours of searching–time that could have been better spent working on your NaNo project.

The solution? Do as much research as you can do before November.

Get out a pen and paper and note down anything you need to know about your project that you don’t already. Do you need to research the setting? The era? The technology? The culture? Write down any questions you’ll need to know the answers to when writing your novel, then get researching! Remember to make notes on what you find out so that you can easily refer to them in November. It’s no use doing all this research now if you can’t remember it and have to go search all over again.

2. Get to know your characters

Some people like to discover their characters as they write. If, however, you prefer to know the characters you’ll be writing 50k about before you start barrelling through their story, then fleshing out your cast is a prudent bit of NaNo prep for you.

Take some time to get to know your characters. You could do this through:

  • Creating character profiles for your main cast members. Include important details, like their names, ages, appearances, details about their background and personality, and so on.
  • Holding character interviews. Ask your main cast questions about themselves and write answers from their perspective, in their voice, so that you get a taste for their speech patterns and personality as well as find out a thing or two about their history.
  • Creating a board of character inspiration. This could be a physical board, like a collage, or a virtual one, such as on Pinterest. Gather picture inspiration for your characters, such as clothing and hair style ideas, places they like to visit, maybe even photos of actors who resemble them. Put together a board that fills you with the need to write about these characters whenever you see it.

3. Plot out your story or ready some signposts

If you’re a plotter, then knowing where your story is going to go, at least roughly, before November starts is a priority. Use the next two weeks to create an outline of your novel, if you haven’t already. I love structuring and planning out my novels using K.M. Weiland’s The Secrets of Story Structure articles–they give me a framework without being restrictive, perfect for keeping me going during NaNoWriMo.

Even if you’re more of a pantser (someone who writes without knowing what will happen next), there are still benefits to a little bit of novel planning. Give yourself some ‘signposts’, or indications of what you’d like to happen at certain points (this could be a scene you really want to include or a character appearance you want to happen at some point), to give yourself direction should you encounter writer’s block or a sudden drop in motivation.

Both plotters and pantsers can benefit from planning out some ‘candy bar’ scenes before NaNo begins. These are the scenes that make you giddy with excitement just by thinking about them, scenes that your fingers are itching to write. Get some paper or index cards and write a brief outline of your candy bar scenes (exactly how detailed your outline is will depend on how much you like to plan out), then have these at the ready for days you feel uninspired, unmotivated and uninterested in writing during November. They should rekindle your desire to write, no problem.

4. Practice

Writing 1667 words a day isn’t easy, particularly if you’re not used to it. Ease yourself into writing regularly by dedicating some time each day to writing or setting yourself a word count goal for the rest of October. (Try out the Write Chain Challenge if this idea appeals to you.)

If you opt for a word count goal and are unused to writing on a regular basis, start small–maybe 500 words a day–and build up to 1667 over the next fortnight. That way, when NaNoWriMo does start, you’ll already have an idea of what writing every day entails.

What can you write during October? There are a few options.

  • If you intend your NaNoWriMo project to be more than 50,000 words, you could start it early, make some progress, and then write the next 50k of it during November.
  • If you want to save your main project for November, you could focus on a different story until then. (Maybe editing last year’s NaNo project, eh?)
  • Alternatively, you could use your writing time each day to work on the three aforementioned ways to prepare yourself and your story. For example, you could write 500 words of character interviews each day. You could write an outline for your plot. You could write up research notes, ready to be referred to once NaNoWriMo starts. Like killing two birds with one stone, don’t you think?

The moral of the story…

Don’t start NaNoWriMo unprepared. Get your research done, characters created, plot outlined and practice in, so that you can spend November concentrating on what really matters–the words. Best of luck, my friend.


How do you prepare for NaNoWriMo?

Guest Post: Brigid Gallagher (YA Buccaneers) – Kill Your Distractions

If you’re anything like me, then your writing time is limited and precious. And yet, you still face distractions that make focusing on writing difficult. The pile of laundry that needs to be folded. Emails from work. Phone calls to return. The list goes on an on.
There’s hope, though! You can fight back by making simple simple shifts in your writing practice to reduce your distractions and improve your focus. Read on for my favorite distraction-killing practices:

1. Make it a date
Start by recognizing the importance and value of your writing time. Whether you have fifteen minutes or four hours, it’s your time to write, and you should give it your full attention. Add your writing time to your calendar or planner, just as you would a doctor’s appointment or social date. Then be sure to show up.

2. Silence distractions
Distractions can take many forms – from people and pets to social media and email. Before you settle in to write, take a moment to make your writing space distraction-free.
  • If you work from home, tell your family when you’re writing. Put up a sign on your door reminding them to think twice before interrupting.
  • Silence your phone. If that’s not an option, limit yourself to checking it on the hour, or in increments that work for you.
  • At the café, use ear buds or headphones even if you’re not playing music. It’s a great way to communicate that you aren’t up for a conversation.
  • Close your web browser. If that’s still too much temptation, try using a program like MacFreedom or Write or Die to block digital distractions.
  • Tidy your desk or workspace and keep it clear of anything that might distract you.
3. Find friends
If you have someone to check in with, it can help you stay motivated to write. Here are a few ideas:
  • Ask a friend to meet you at the library or coffee house for a writing date. Even easier, set a time to “meet” on Twitter!
  • Check The Sprint Shack or the YA Buccaneers Twitter accounts for word sprints! Word sprints are great ways to meet new writer friends, plus they can do wonders for giving you an extra boost of motivation.
  • Search the #amwriting or #amrevising hashtags to see who’s writing, then ask a fellow writer if they’d like company.
4. Music matters
Create a playlist of music to inspire you, and use the music to help you stay focused. Use a service like Spotify or Pandora to create playlists to suite your projects.

5. Track your progress
Keeping track of your progress – whether it’s how often you write, your word count, or the number of scenes you’ve revised – can help you stay motivated and on-task. Over at the YA Buccaneers, we have a few favorite goal-keeping methods, from stickers on a calendar to word count trackers like MyWriteClub. Learn more about how we track goals here.

What’s your distraction-killing advice? I’d love to hear about what works for you in the comments. You never know – it might be just what another writer needs to hear!

Bridgid Gallagher writes kidlit in Utah. She is a co-founder and crew member of the YA Buccaneers, and is often looking for writing company on Twitter. Join the YA Buccaneers from now through November for a Fall Writing Bootcamp!

NaNoWriMo Prep: Becoming a Pantser

A Pantser is Born
I’m VERY excited for NaNoWriMo this year. I’m sure we all are, but I’m excited because something new has happened. Something weird and strange and entirely out of character for me. You guys: I think I’ve become a Pantser.

It wasn’t until I read Christina’s latest post that I began to identify what had been taking place during my NaNo “prep” – for once I wasn’t really prepping at all. I wasn’t outlining and I wasn’t picking out character names or world building. I wasn’t doing any planning. I was just…ready to wing it come November 1st.

Did you guys know that scientists STILL don’t fully understand HOW a caterpillar turns into a butterfly? Seriously, they don’t. Sure they go into their cocoons, but researchers can’t quite pin-point the details of how a little worm becomes a fragile, winged creature. I’m serious (hear more about it on Radiolab if you’re interested)!

My current transformation from Planner to Pantser kind of feels like a mysterious metamorphosis, too. I’m not sure when it started happening, or HOW, but I’ve noticed a huge difference in the way I’ve been approaching NaNoWriMo this year.
For those of you who don’t know, I’ve always considered myself to be a die-hard Planner. In past Octobers, I’ve always meticulously outlined and set up blank files in Scrivener for each and every scene in my yet-to-be-written book. And up until recently, I always regarded Pantsers as a different breed of writers. A wilder, more spontaneous kind.

But now I’m here, on October 11 – less than 20 days from the start of the biggest writing event of the year – and I have done absolutely zero planning.

Old Habits Die Hard
Okay, so I’ve done a little bit of planning. Shhh don’t tell the rest of the Pantsers!

I do have a concept for my NaNo novel, and I have a main character in mind. I’m not running into NaNoWriMo entirely blind – I’m not that courageous! At least not yet. But these ideas haven’t touched paper.

Sorry, I don’t think you guys understand how big of a deal this is for me: I haven’t written ANYTHING down. Nothing. This coming from the woman who writes down things like “charge phone” on her to-do list just to have it written down.

I’m excited to see how NaNo goes with my new pantsing approach. But I’m also terrified. Will I run out of ideas or inspiration one week into November? Maybe half-way through? Will my story be full of plot holes and will some characters have no names? Will some have names I use interchangeably because I can’t remember who is who? Will my story make any sense? Will it be any good?

I’ll admit, I swaddled myself in a pretty thick blanket of panic the other day when I realized I had next to nothing prepared for NaNo yet. But I remembered by days as a Planner (aaaahh the good ol’ days) and recalled that having an outline didn’t make me feel any better about my NaNo projects. It never guaranteed that my writing itself would be good. Or that the story wouldn’t develop a bad case of plot-holes. Everyone has these worries. It’s part of being a writer.

So I’m embracing my new-found urge to start writing from scratch on November 1st. Maybe it’ll be a huge mistake. But maybe it’ll be wonderful.

Are you a Planner or Pantser (or a mix of the two)? Tell us about your NaNoWriMo Prep – or lack thereof –  in the comments below.

NaNoWriMo Prep: “Pantsing” Your Way Into An Outline

nano prepWhen it comes down to preparation, writers often like to divide themselves into two categories: Plotters and Pantsers (or outliners and discovery writers, respectively). Rarely, though, do we see people identifying themselves as somewhere in-between. Do many of us really go to such extremes—planning out each scene of our novel in a rigorous outline, versus sitting down without a single word planned past “Chapter One”—or do we realistically fall somewhere on the scale? Is there a way to prepare for NaNoWriMo that doesn’t either pigeonhole you into one corner, thus stifling the creativity that the challenge is created for, or leave you without a sense of direction on day one?

I, personally, have always landed somewhere in-between. It’s a hard thing to admit when everyone seems to identify with one end of the spectrum, but I really can’t see myself as strictly an outliner or discovery writer. Instead, I often find myself planning my stories in more of a free-writing discovery exercise that allows my creativity to mold and bend as needed, but helps keep me on track when I’m knee-deep in plot holes and have to dig my way out.

If you’re preparing for NaNoWriMo and need a compromise between these two methods as well, try this out! I’ll call it the “Rundown Method,” since the basic idea is to briefly tell the story as if you were giving someone the rundown of a movie you’d just seen. Here’s how the Rundown Method differs from traditional outlining:

Traditional Outlining

  1. Chapter One – Chapter Name – Boy meets girl
    1. Boy goes into café, sees girl sitting at a window seat with a cup of tea. They spark conversation.
    2. Girl seems hesitant to speak to boy for reasons the reader and boy do not yet understand.
      1. Girl has had bad experiences with abuse in the past.
    3. Boy attempts to strike up conversation.

Forgive me for the banal example… but you get the drift. Now here’s how The Rundown Method would handle the beginning to the same story.

The Rundown Method

Chapter one starts on a quiet suburban street, where the protagonist enters a café. He sees a girl he is attracted to and tries to come up with a few ways to spark conversation while he orders his drink. He then goes over and asks if the seat is taken, and tries to start up a conversation with her. She’s clearly uncomfortable and hesitant to speak with him. He presses further, though she isn’t being responsive, and begins to wonder if maybe he’s doing something wrong.

The thing I like about the Rundown Method is that it leaves more room to include details. Think of it as chapter summaries for your novel. Sure, you can include as much or as little as you want in an outline, but I’ve always felt this method allows you to go further into detail—such as how the characters are feeling, what they’re doing, and even what they’re saying—with greater ease. Getting a more in-depth visual of the situation allows you to plan out the logistics of the story while also getting a feel for its tone, which is something I know I’ve always had a hard time doing with outlines.

In using this method, I’ve come up with ideas, quotes, and major plots and themes I otherwise wouldn’t have through outlining. Likewise, I’ve sometimes gotten so immersed in describing an event in the story that my freewriting phased from story description to writing the actual word-for-word scene, then back to planning.

This may not work for everyone and may in fact allow for more diversions from the main plot line than intended; everyone writes differently, and this definitely isn’t the way most do it. But strike the right balance between creative freedom and self control, and you could find yourself with a solid plan come November First!

How do you plan your NaNoWriMo novels (if at all)? Are you working on your preparations yet? Let us know!

Happy Birthday to Us! The Sprint Shack is One Year Old!

ss bdayYep, you’ve read that right. Crazy, isn’t it?

Twelve whole months have passed since The Sprint Shack was born, and we’d like to thank our readers and fellow word sprinters for coming along on this crazy run with us. We’ve lapped the track several times over, slipped and fallen, and picked ourselves up for yet another round each time. We don’t plan on stopping any time soon and we can’t wait to see what the next twelve months hold.

And–surprise, surprise–we’re sprinting all day to celebrate it! Follow us on Twitter to join in on the word sprinting action throughout the day. We’d love to write with you!

First, we each have a few words about creating The Sprint Shack and what that’s been like for us and our writing.

Cristina R. Guarino

Starting The Sprint Shack alongside Skye and Taylor has done wonders for my writing. I couldn’t be happier that theCristina Guarinoy agreed to join me in this endeavor–I couldn’t have done it without them! They’re both fantastic, brilliant, motivated writers, and I’m learning a lot from and am inspired by them daily.

Not only has starting The Sprint Shack connected me with amazing and talented wordsmiths, it’s given me a type of liability to ensure I stay on top of my craft: how can I dispense advice about writing if I don’t stick with the number one rule, which is to write every day? So to ensure I stayed on top of my work, I recently started a #WriteChain (Skye’s ingenious idea!) and am approaching a month straight of writing one page of fiction and/or one blog post per day. As of today, my WriteChain link is at 28. That’s probably the most days I’ve ever written in a row, including during NaNoWriMo—I always take a day or two break during that challenge.

And to know that it’s been a year and NaNoWriMo is approaching AGAIN–I can’t believe it’s already been an entire 12 months since we’ve gone live, and more than a year since I got involved in this wonderful Twitter-centric writing community! I still have a long way to go with my writing, but for the first time since I picked up a pen, I feel I’m getting close to fully understanding what it is to be a writer and what I want out of it. I have lots of goals I’m working toward thanks to my decision to delve into this community and start up The Sprint Shack, and while many of them are taking longer than I hoped or anticipated, I’m definitely enjoying the process.

Happy birthday to us, and a big, warm thank-you to all who have been around from day one!

Taylor Eaton

Has it really been one year since The Sprint Shack was born? Somehow it feels like it’s been longer. A lot longer.

ITaylor Eatonn the last year I’ve published my book, The Suicide of the Moon, and added an extra story per week to my site. I created a write chain so long that it could circle the world (365 days!). Not to mention, I’ve begun to learn the finer points of writing non-fiction posts for The Sprint Shack – something I’d not done much of before.

I’ve also seen myself go from writing over 2,000 words a day to writing less than 50 on some days. I’ve learned the challenges that come from trying to find a balance of pursuing a traditional career, maintaining relationships (with friends, family, significant others, and myself), and writing.

I can’t say I’m where I thought I might be one year out from the start of The Sprint Shack. I thought – for one – that I’d have written more than one book. But at the same time, I’m so proud of what I’ve accomplished in my writing. And I feel like I’m ready for bigger things – literally. I’m ready to take a stab at writing a more traditional length novel (though I’ll still continue with my flash fiction – I can’t quit that). And I’m so excited to see where my writing goes.

I can say, without any doubt, that my writing wouldn’t be at the point it is without the constant support that The Sprint Shack readers and word sprints have offered me. And not to mention the amazing co-founders I’ve had the honor of writing alongside.

Happy first birthday, Sprint Shack! Can’t wait to see where we’re at for our second!

Skye Fairwin

The past 12 months have brought a lot of change for me. I delved deeper into the blogging world, here at The Sprint Shack and at my personal blog, I’ve met so many amazing people, both online and off. I graduated from university. I’ve just started a business and launched my first e-course, the Writember Workshop. And that’s just the non-fiction side of my life!

Happy birthday to us! The Sprint Shack is one year old! Here's what the founders have to say...My fiction and writing style have also undergone a metamorphosis. Since November 29th 2013, I’ve written every day as part of the Write Chain Challenge, which has let me make progress on my larger projects as well as try my hand at some flash fiction. I love that writing is now an integral part of my day, so much so that it feels strange to even think about not writing.

My expectations of myself and my mindset towards my goals have definitely changed. I know now that if I truly want to do something, I can make it happen. Even if I falter and fail at first, if I don’t give up and keep at it, I know I can do it. That’s made so much of a difference to my life.

How has word sprinting made a difference in your writing? Have you been a Sprint Shack reader from day one? Let us know–we’d love to hear from you! And don’t forget to sprint with us throughout the day on Twitter!

Thank you again, lovely readers, and here’s to yet another year!
-The Sprint Shack Team