Can you feel the excitement in the air? It’s that time of year again when writers from around the world gather their pens and laptops for the epic adventure known as NaNoWriMo.
But wait a second! Before you dive into this writing journey, there’s some essential preparation work to be done. Today, we want to help you overcome all the difficulties that can arise during Preptober.
So, we’ve prepared an ultimate guide on how to survive NaNoWriMo 2023 and win. Let’s embark on this quest.
Why do you need NaNoWriMo?
NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month, an annual global writing challenge encouraging participants to write 50,000 words in 30 days. The very first event took place in 1999. Now, each year, on November 1, hundreds of thousands of people begin to write, trying to meet December with a first draft.
You may ask, why do I need all this hassle and fuss? Here are some reasons:
- If you keep putting off getting started on your book, NaNoWriMo is a perfect starting point.
- It’s an excellent chance to develop a habit of daily writing.
- The challenge and Preptober can boost your creativity.
- Networking with other authors doing NaNoWriMo brings new opportunities and benefits.
- You can get your first draft, so the dream of publishing your book will be much closer.
Simply put, NaNoWriMo is a fun and exciting writing journey with a special atmosphere. Every writer should take part in this challenge at least once in their life.
How to participate?
Have you decided to participate? Then, use this short step-by-step guide if it’s your first time.
- Go to the official NaNoWriMo website.
- Sign up for free.
- Announce a new project.
- Set a goal.
- Enter your story details.
- Wait till November 1.
While waiting, explore the website, which provides tons of helpful preparation materials. You can also join your region group and chat with your neighbor writers.
Before NaNoWriMo: How to Preptober effectively?
In a perfect world, you should start preparing for the challenge as early as possible. However, this is the reality, so we’ll understand if you delay until the last minute. We have prepared tips to help you make the most of the time you have left.
1. Consider basics
How much to write?
You don’t have to set the official word count. You probably have a job, a family, and other responsibilities that take up much of your time.
The NaNoWriMo aim is to have fun, not to burn out. Therefore, be realistic about your capabilities and set a goal you feel comfortable with. It can be 30k, 20k, or less words.
When to write?
Ideally, you should write every day. But if you’re busier during the week, try to spend at least 5 minutes writing on a weekday and do the bulk of it on the weekend.
Consider when you feel more inspired – morning, afternoon, evening, or even night. Create a writing schedule that fits your own biorhythms and daily tasks.
Where to write?
Think about where you will write. It should be a comfortable place where no one will distract you. Maybe it’s your library with your favorite soft chair or a cozy coffee shop near your home.
Then, are you going to write on paper or a laptop? If you like to write by hand, don’t forget to buy all the necessary stationery and a nice notebook. Technology enthusiasts should choose a convenient software. Here are some options that you still have time to test:
- Google Docs
- Dabble (by the way, it’s free till November 30th)
- Reedsy Book Editor
2. Start developing a habit of daily writing
To win NaNoWriMo, you must make art even when the muse hasn’t come. So, if it’s still October outside, it’s time to start developing a daily writing habit.
Start with 100 words, adding another hundred every day. That means it will be 200 words tomorrow and 300 the day after. When you get to 1700, and there are still days left in NaNoWriMo, keep up this pace.
3. Work on your characters
To create characters that resonate with your readers, you need to consider them in detail. Here’s a cheat sheet on how to do it:
- Jot down a list of all the characters.
- Create a character relationship map.
- Divide heroes into main and secondary ones.
- Write their short bios, backstories, characteristics, quirks, and flaws.
- Create the main character arc.
If you want to visualize your heroes more, find references for their appearance. It’s convenient to use Pinterest and create boards for each one.
4. Outline your plot
Perhaps, like Neil Gaiman, you don’t plot your books to leave the intrigue for yourself. However, in the case of NaNoWriMo, an outline can save you when you’re stuck, don’t know what to write next, and need to finish the daily word count.
How detailed you plan depends on your desire and time. You can use one of the following methods:
- General description. Write a short retelling of your work in any form. This way, you will see the main direction of the story.
- Three-act structure. Sort your story events according to this classic scheme. The first act should always have an inciting incident, the second – a rising action, and the third – a climax.
- Chapter-by-chapter. If you already have a detailed plot idea, you can clearly write down what happens in each chapter.
- The most important scenes. You can also plan only the most meaningful scenes and leave the events in between to your inspiration and characters.
5. Do research
Research adds depth and authenticity to your story. But it’s not just about getting the facts right. It helps you to immerse your readers in a world that feels real.
Use your outline as your roadmap to identify specific areas where research can enhance your story. Whether it’s learning the historical context of your setting or gaining insights into the professions or hobbies of your characters, this info will add that extra magic to your book.
6. Helpful books & resources
If you need extra help in writing your book, these books and resources may come in handy.
- On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King
- Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott
- Story Genius: How to Outline Your Novel Using the Secrets of Brain Science by Lisa Cron
- Save the Cat: The Last Book on Screenwriting You’ll Ever Need by Blake Snyder
- The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity by Julia Cameron
- 2,000 to 10,000: How to Write Faster, Write Better, and Write More of What You Love by Rachel Aaron
- Writer’s Routine
- Helping Writers Become Authors
- The Creative Penn Podcast for Writers
- I Should Be Writing
- Writing with Jenna Moreci
- Christy Anne Jones
- Abbie Emmons
- Alexa Donne
- The Creative Penn
- One Look
- Power Thesaurus
- Behind the Name
During NaNoWriMo: How to stay motivated?
Usually, the first week of the challenge is the most fruitful. The creative energy you accumulated during Preptober is pouring out of you. Starting from the second week, you may experience problems with inspiration and concentration.
Here are some ways to deal with this.
1. Communicate with other authors
Connect with fellow Wrimos in your local NaNoWriMo group or online forums. Sharing your progress, setbacks, and ideas with others can provide much-needed motivation.
2. Join immersive online writing sessions
There’s something magical about participating in virtual write-ins or sprints. You can join such sessions on YouTube or social media.
If you don’t find anything you like, organize your sprint and try these immersive sounds:
3. Write at least 5 minutes per day
On days when motivation seems elusive, commit to writing just for five minutes. Often, once you start, you’ll find it hard to stop. Those five minutes can easily turn into an hour of productive writing.
4. Don’t edit
Remember, NaNoWriMo is all about quantity, not quality. Don’t get bogged down by editing your work as you go. Save the editing for December or later. Right now, just let your creativity flow freely.
5. Treat NaNoWriMo as a job
Stick to your writing schedule. Treat your writing time with the same dedication as you would a job. Consistency is key, and having a routine can help you stay on track.
6. Write in several rounds during the day
If you find sitting down for long stretches challenging, break your writing into shorter, focused sessions. Write in 20-30 minute bursts with short breaks in between. This can make the task feel more manageable.
7. Allow yourself to be an imperfect writer
Your first draft may be messy, disjointed, and filled with plot holes. Perfectionism can be the enemy of progress, so embrace imperfection and keep moving forward.
8. Skip the scene if you’re stuck
If you hit a creative roadblock or a scene just isn’t working, don’t suffer over it. Move on to the next one and come back later. Sometimes, a change of scenery in your story can spark new ideas.
After NaNoWriMo: How to analyze your path?
Well, the hardest part is over. Or not? Your first draft is complete, but you still have a ton of work to do on the book before it’s published.
Let’s find out what to do after NaNoWriMo to get the most out of it.
1. Celebrate your achievements
First and foremost, give yourself a pat on the back! Completing NaNoWriMo is a significant accomplishment, and you should be proud of your hard work. Take a moment to enjoy your success.
2. Take a rest for a few weeks
Put your manuscript aside for a while. Taking a break allows you to detach emotionally from your work so you can view it with fresh, objective eyes when you return. After all, you’ve earned rest.
3. Read your manuscript
When you’re ready, dive back into your manuscript. Take notes as you read, jotting down what you like, what needs improvement, and any ideas for revisions. Try to approach it as both a writer and a reader.
4. Access your plot and characters
Consider the strengths and weaknesses of your storyline and characters. Are there any plot holes? Are your characters well-developed and relatable? Identifying these areas will help you plan revisions.
5. Consider the themes and messages in your novel
Reflect on the themes and messages you wanted to convey in your book. Are they clear and effectively communicated throughout the story? If not, think about how you can strengthen them.
6. Think what was the most difficult during NaNoWriMo
Think back to the most challenging aspects of NaNoWriMo. Was it writer’s block, time management, or something else? Identifying your stumbling blocks can help you prepare better for future writing endeavors.
7. Find out what was missed during Preptober
Take a look at your Preptober. Did you do enough outlining, character development, or research? Identify what was missed or could be improved to make your next writing project even smoother.
Other authors’ NaNoWriMo experience
Finally, the best way to learn something is to explore the experiences of others. Here are some insights from writers who participated in NaNoWriMo.
- NaNoWriMo gives the joy of discovery in writing. Magellan mentions that the characters’ “why” and many conflicts within the story only became clear as he wrote the scenes. Thus, writing can be an adventure, not just for the characters but for the writer as well.
- Discipline is more important than motivation. Setting aside a specific time each day to write, regardless of whether it’s convenient or not, can help writers push through difficult days and make consistent progress.
- Magellan highlights how vital it is to get support. Whether it’s friends, family, or fellow writers, having someone to cheer you on during challenging moments is invaluable.
- The author says that participating in NaNoWriMo is a form of therapy during a challenging year. Writing became a way to express the emotions she had bottled up, providing a sense of relief.
- It’s essential to surround yourself with fellow writers who share your goals and vision. Whether it’s through joining a NaNoWriMo region or connecting with writing buddies, having a supportive community can be immensely motivating.
- MenteMelan reminds you that you can edit your manuscript later. The first draft doesn’t have to be flawless. The important thing is to start writing.
- Plotting and researching in advance matters. Having a solid chapter-by-chapter outline and pages of research on all aspects of the story helped the author to feel secure while NaNoWriMo.
- Demi emphasizes tracking her word count while writing. She set a clear target word count range for her young adult novel and paid close attention to individual chapter lengths.
- The author also highlights how her best friend’s support has helped her during NaNoWriMo. Jess gave motivation, valuable feedback, and ideas while brainstorming.
You’ve got all the tools, tips, and inspiration you need to win the challenge. There may be moments of doubt and writer’s block, but remember that every word you write is a step closer to your goal.
Do you have any tips to share with your fellow writers who are NaNoWriMo-ing this year? Share them in the comments below.