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Charlotte Rains Dixon  

Top 5 Ways to Prepare for Nanowrimo

I'm not going to do Nanowrimo this year, because I need to focus on the final rewrite (yeah, right, how many times have I said that) of my current novel.  But I'm a huge fan of it and had a blast doing it several years ago, when I "won" by the way.

(In case you live on Mars, Nanowrimo is short for National Novel Writing Month, a project which encourages people all across the globe to write a "novel" of 50,000 words over the month of November.)

But since preparing for Nanowrimo is much like preparing to write any big project, I thought I'd post some tips.  Here we go:

1.  Set a page or word goal.  I figured to win Nanowrimo I would be safe if I wrote 2,000 words a day.  This allowed for acts of god and trips to LA, when I couldn't write every day.  If you aren't doing Nanowrimo,  you might want to set a page goal.  Three pages a day is good.  Doesn't sound like much but if you write three pages a day at the end of a month you have 90 pages, which is 1/3 of a novel. (God, this is such good advice, why don't I follow it?  Because it is much harder to set a specific page or word goal when you are rewriting–some changes are simple, some lead to many other changes forward and back.  Okay, I feel better.)

2.  Get it done first thing.  I like to get up first thing in the morning and write.  If I get going on the novel first, everything else falls into place.  If I decide to work on some other project, like those pesky ones that pay bills, I'll never get back to the novel.  When I did Nanowrimo, my deal with myself was that I couldn't go to bed until I had my word count done.   If I didn't finish in the morning, I had to keep going back to it until I did.  On the other hand, I know that there are people like my friend Tony who prefers to write from 8 PM to 1 AM. Huh.  A different opinion than mine, imagine that.

3.  Prepare, prepare, prepare.  C'mon, you've still got three days.  That's plenty of time.  Nanowrimo rules say you can do as much preparation as you want–as long as you don't write word one until November 1st.  Make lists of plot points, decide on character motivations, figure out what your characters want and what will stand in their way.  Choose locations and make notes about them.  Think about where your characters live and what they wear. What do they do on an ordinary day?  By preparing to write your novel in this way, you are also prepping your subconscious for what is to come–and trust me, those 2,000 words a day will come much easier.

4.  Tell family and friends to go jump in a lake.  No, perhaps it is a bit too cold for that, so tell them to take a hike.  Or rent every season of Friends, or the entire set of the Lord of the Rings and lock themselves in the TV room.  Or perhaps this is the time to tell your wife to finally read Anna Karenina.  The point is to (kindly) get rid of them.  Let them know you'll need time, space and energy to complete this goal that is important to you.

5.  Treat yourself well.  Now, and for the entire month of November.  Go easy on the alcohol (I hate that part) and eat healthy, natural whole foods. Exercise regularly.  My favorite exercise is pushing myself away from the computer desk.  Kidding.  I love to walk, and walking is excellent for pondering plot points.  Do all the things that you know will create energy for yourself.  You need to be alert and full of energy to write those 2000 words a day during November. 

Here's the bonus tip:  HAVE FUN.  Nanowrimo is a blast, and I love that it gets people writing and also connecting in Nanowrimo meetings.  So enjoy it.  And keep me posted on your progress.  Good luck!

10 thoughts on “Top 5 Ways to Prepare for Nanowrimo

  1. bria

    This is great.

    I created a list like this on the RD forum for FDing, and people added things like: Pre-cook meals, do all the laundry, shave legs… I did ask if she really planned on going two weeks w/o shaving.

    Apparently she did 🙂

  2. C.J. Harley

    Sorry to hear that you are not participating this year. Thanks for posting some great tips for a first year NaNo writer. I’ll be sure to visit often and keep you updated on my progress.

  3. Lauri

    Great advice, even for those of us who aren’t doing Nano, your ideas would help get in those writing hours.

  4. Charlotte

    I hope that all the Nano-ers will keep us updated often so that we can cheer you on! And I hope that the rest of us let some of the spirit of Nanowrimo rub off on us as we work on our longer projects

  5. Kate Lord Brown

    Hmmm … I am really tempted. My excuse is the two year old. Everything else I can juggle, but telling him to watch hours of tv in the morning while Mummy gets her word count in – tricky. Would love to do this though. Perhaps the best remedy for all the delays and frustration with seeing book 1 published would be to get on with the next one ..?

  6. Word Nerd

    I’m using November to edit my manuscript too instead of doing Nanowrimo. I think it’s a fine way to still celebrate.

  7. Roy Burkhead

    Howdy Charlotte:

    Wonderful comments. While you’re focused on Nanowrimo, your words of wisdom apply to any writing situation, I think. I’m taking your words to heart, a sort of rededication to my novel!! 🙂


  8. Bridgid Gallagher

    Great list! Thank you! 🙂

    (Still useful two years later…)

  9. Charlotte Dixon

    Thanks, Bridgid! Maybe I should update it and run it again, and thanks to you I probably will!

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