The time for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is upon us. Starting November 1st, writers of every skill level will take the challenge of writing 50k words in the span of a month. Many aspiring writers (including myself) feel overwhelmed by this daunting task ahead of them.
Wait, I hear you asking, “C. D. Baron, what is NaNoWriMo?”
It’s a non-profit organization that officially started in 1999 but got its status as a non-profit in 2006. They share the same goal I do: help aspiring writers start and finish their novels. They began with the singular challenge of writing 50k words in a single month and expanded to include writing resources, communities, and events.
You can read all about them and join their community at nanowrimo.org
I’m not going to lie; this is the first NaNoWriMo in which I’m participating. I’ve tried numerous times and usually got distracted or lost motivation about halfway through—Stopping at around 10-15k words. But, not this year. This year I am preparing myself ahead of time.
Now, not only am I planning on completing NaNoWriMo, but I also intend to finish the first draft of my debut fantasy trilogy, The Legend of Elvines: Stone of the Dragon’s Heart. I invite you to join me on my journey. Today, I’m going over the steps I’m using to get ready for the challenge ahead, starting with preparing an idea, scheduling time, warning friends and family, and choosing a reward.
Step 1: Prepare your idea
I am aware of the two kinds of writers: plotters and pantsers. Plotters plot out their story and organize every detail ahead of time, and pantsers write by the seat of their pants. They don’t plot as much and write to see where the characters take them. I find myself somewhere in the middle. I love to plot out the story’s theme and main beats, and I generally have no clue how my characters get from point A to point B until they get there.
In preparation for NaNoWriMo, I am making a basic beat sheet covering arcs I still need to complete in my first draft. Most writers will be starting a new project, and it would be beneficial to have an idea of what said project is trying to say.
If you are a plotter, check out my article on Save the Cat! it is a fantastic plotting structure designed to help you craft an engaging and compelling story. I swear by the fifteen beats of Save the Cat! It can be a lifesaver when figuring out your project’s direction.
Pantsers, take a look at my article on character development. It’s ideal to have an idea of the characters who are about to take you on an adventure. Knowing their motivations and what they want and need will help keep your characters consistent throughout your novel.
Having an idea and a plan will help you stay on track when trying to hit your daily word count over the next month. Next, we need to …
Step 2: Schedule your time
The clock is ticking; hands are sweaty—teeth chattering. It’s the final week of NaNoWriMo, and you have 25k words left to write. You could still succeed, but you don’t need to put yourself under that kind of stress with a solid plan.
The first thing you want to do is give yourself a daily word goal. With 50k words as the main objective, I try to shoot for around seventeen hundred words a day. If I exceed that goal, then great, I have room to write a little less the next day. However, If I don’t get enough words, I must make up the difference in a future writing session.
I’m going to try and clear my calendar to ensure I have time to squeeze in as much writing as possible. When I would typically take a free moment for videogames, I’m going to use that time to reach my daily word target. The NaNoWriMo website has tools and resources to help you manage your time and keep track of your progress.
If you have a community of writers or friends also participating, have joint writing sessions. Often, having the presence of another helps motivate your writing session for more productivity. NaNoWriMo hosts virtual write-in for those who want to write with others but haven’t yet found a community.
Writing may be a solitary practice, but humans need each other to learn and improve their craft. Surrounding yourself with like-minded individuals helps tremendously in achieving the final goal of finishing your novel. I’m planning to try out some of the virtual write-ins next month and participate in writing sprints through mywriteclub—another social writing tool.
Step 3: Warn Friends and Family
The last thing you want is your friends and family making a ton of plans and distracting you at all times from your writing. By letting them know, they can be your most significant resource in terms of motivation and keeping you accountable.
Tell them you plan on participating in NaNoWriMo. They may not know what it is, but that could be a great conversation starter. Talking about the goal of writing a novel in a month and your novel is a great practice to see how much you grasp your story.
I already told my wife about my plan for November, and she is already making sure I am properly prepared. She is even helping me schedule my writing so I can best utilize my time – even recommending I read through my draft ahead of time to keep pushing forward with the story-so-far fresh in my mind.
If you have late-night writing sessions planned, it best to warn those you live with as well so you can best respect each other’s sleeping schedules.
The most important reason to let people know is that they don’t disturb you during a writing session and ruin your flow.
Step 4: Choose Your Reward:
Writing 50k words in a single month is no easy task. It deserves to be rewarded. I’m the kind of person who loves a good reward system. It makes me feel like I am working for something.
I often reward myself with videogame time, a new game, or a fancy meal.
Pick something that you know will feel satisfying after putting a ton of work into your novel. You have spent hours typing away at this project, and you made the target word count. Give your reward meaning.
I’m going to take my wife out to Red Lobster when we celebrate my NaNoWriMo victory. My first draft will finally be complete, and I am one step closer to my end game goal of getting that sweet published author credit. It will be a dream come true!
With NaNoWriMo right around the corner, it’s time to prepare! Clear your schedule, find your plot, and get ready to write and finish the first draft of your novel. Remember, this is a fun event, and your words don’t have to be perfect by the end of the month. The point is to get them on the page and edit later.
If you have trouble keeping yourself accountable, find friends to help you stay on track. Join write-ins and writer sprints. Do whatever it takes to help you reach your daily word goal. I find it most helpful to have some kind of reward waiting for you at the end.
I can’t wait to see you out there during NaNoWriMo. May we all finish our first draft this coming month! Comment a quick logline of your stories below.
If you need a little extra help preparing to write your novel, join my free 5-Day Start Your First Novel Challenge. I walk you through finding an idea, creating your character, and plotting your novel! It’s straightforward and takes around 15-30 minutes a day!
Lastly, consider becoming a writing bean and supporting writing tips and sips if you enjoy my content. Even $1 helps immensely in maintaining my website, so I can keep getting out helpful writing tips.
C. D. Baron
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Congrats on getting married! Add me as a buddy on NaNoWriMo! I got married this year and am doing NaNoWriMo too!
Thank you so much! And will do! What is your nanowrimo username?