November 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.
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?