Countdown to NaNoWriMo – Preparation and Survival Guide

The end of October brings all sorts of spooky images. Black cats, ghosts, ghouls, and witches surround us, trying to drive us back into our homes, where the candy bowl beckons and adorable children will come ringing our doorbells dressed as superheroes, pirates, and minions.

But for writers, the end of October drives us inside for another reason. National Novel Writing Month is just around the corner…six days around the corner, in fact, and now’s the time to prepare. We’ve put together a survival guide for NaNo to keep you sane and help you bang out those 50,000 words like a pro.

Step 1: Warn your family and friends.

While some writers can bang out 50,000 words without batting an eye, for many of us, 1,667 words every day beats our usual output. You don’t ramp up like that without some trade-offs. Movies might have to wait until December 1st. Coffee dates might turn into a quick cup chugged down in front of a laptop rather than sipped slowly while hanging with friends. And parties? Don’t even ask. If you have support around you in the form of a spouse or children of cooking age, plan out some easy meals they can help you cook to save you time (or perhaps your husband or wife or partner is just awesome and does all of the cooking anyway).

Step 2: Outline.

We can’t stress this enough. Outline, outline, outline. Now, we’re not a huge fan of the old-school outlines we all learned when we were twelve and writing our first social studies report. No, we’re in favor of a more light, and possibly visual method. Our favorite outlining tool was developed by a friend of ours, Ally at Upgrade Your Story. Head over to her site, sign up for her newsletter, and you’ll get her Visual Outlining Method for free. But that’s definitely not the only way to outline. Notecards, whiteboards, sticky notes…whatever your method, start working on your outline this week so once November 1st rolls around (or comes crashing through your front door), you’re ready to go to town on those words.

Step 3: Start strong.

NaNoWriMo starts on a Sunday this year. Assuming you don’t have littles around who need you all day on a weekend, we recommend trying to get a little bit ahead of the game on the first day. Motivation is high, distractions (we hope) are low, and you’re at that exciting part of the story where anything is possible. If you can manage 3000 words the first day, you’ll give yourself a bit of breathing room for the rest of the first week.

Step 4: Take breaks.

Yes, really. Sure, you want to get all of those 50,000 words down RIGHT NOW. We know you do. But burnout is real, and we want you to avoid it at all costs. Plan some downtime. Have a book you’ve been dying to read? Use it for motivation. “If I get 2,000 words in this writing session, I get to read two chapters.” We’re big fans of rewards. And don’t forget that there’s a whole world outside your door. Stuck on a tricky scene? Go walk around the block. Can’t get your dialog to come out right? Stand up and stretch. Try some lunges or some crunches. Get the blood moving. Or just pick up your laptop and move into another room. Open a window. Try some new music and dance around the living room for a bit. You’ll come back stronger.

Step 5: Be realistic.

At the end of November, whether you’ve managed 20,000 words, 50,000 words, or 100,000 words, you’re not ready to publish. Nope. You’ve still got the self-editing phase, the editing phase, and the formatting phase to get through. And you should probably take at least a week off between writing and self-editing. If not more. You’re going to need to recuperate from thirty days of insanity. No one should publish their NaNoWriMo novel in December. Nope. Put the book away for a little bit, refresh your body and mind, and then go back to it and polish that manuscript until it shines. And then let a professional editor take their turn. (Hint: If you need one, we can help. Use the Contact form at the bottom of this page for information on how we can help with your editing neds.)

This advice also goes for setting goals during the month. NaNoWriMo official goals are 1,667 words a day. But maybe the right number for you is 500 words. While you won’t “win” NaNo officially, if you produce 500 really awesome words a day, and you’ve been stuck of late at 500 words a week, that’s still winning in our book. Be smart about  your own goal setting. Push yourself, sure. but don’t totally exhaust yourself in the process.

Step 6: Find support.

Whether you like twitter chats, Facebook parties, or public write-ins, NaNoWriMo is a fantastic time to discover other writers in your community (physical and virtual) who’ll support you. Be there for them as much as they’re there for you. You might end up with some fantastic friends out of the process, and maybe even some inspiration for your novel. PageCurl will be hosting writing sprints every couple of days on Twitter. Just look for the hashtag: #pagecurlwrites and join in. We also love #WriteClub from @FriNightWrites, and of course, follow the official NaNoWriMo twitter account @NaNoWriMo.

Step 7: When it’s all over, celebrate.

Whether you managed 50,000 words or 10,000, you still did something awesome. Reward yourself. We suggest a gourmet chocolate bar, a nice glass of wine, or maybe a new book. Or all three. Or perhaps all you want is to sleep for twelve hours. Whatever tickles your fancy, we suggest trying to make it happen on December 1st. Oh, and maybe say hi to your family as well. They’ve probably missed you.

Need support for NaNoWriMo? Have a tip to share here? Leave us a comment!

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