It’s almost National Novel Writing Month! With the NaNoWriMo challenge only weeks away, many (well, most) of us writers are scrambling to get our ideas together—or just realizing that it’s time to starting preparing.
Many of us (myself included) balk at the idea of NaNoWriMo simply because we didn’t have enough time to mentally prepare. But it doesn’t have to be that scary if we take the time now to ramp ourselves up for the writing event.
Know The Math
I took this picture from NaNoWriMo founder Chris Baty’s book No Plot? No Problem! He diagrams here what word count we need to reach each day so that we make it to the goal of a 50,000-word novel.
I don’t display this to alarm you. I’ll admit that at first glance, my commitment phobia kicked in and I was ready to dash.
Rather, it’s a pretty good guide to see the pace you’ll need to write at during the next month. Look at it like this: Each day has a word count goal. That really breaks up the challenge into sizable, conquerable steps.
Embrace the Challenge
What I learned from my MFA program is that the next great American novel takes months and even years to write, backed up by many years of experiences and many hours grueling over punctuation and syntax.
National Novel Writing Month isn’t about writing the next great American novel.
NaNoWriMo goes against all our preconceptions of writing literature. We only have 30 days to make it happen and we can only rely on the experiences that we’ve already got (or can quick search on the Internet).
The challenge isn’t to write the best piece of literature deep inside of you. The challenge is to write a 50,000-word novel before December 1.
It doesn’t have to be pretty. Heck, you don’t even have to like it. It just has to get done—and fast.
Take the next few weeks to let that sink in. It might even help to send your inner editor on a long trip away from your calm state of mind. Because you can’t have these high expectations next month if you want to succeed.
Choose a Story & Stick With It
Since time is scarce, you’re really doing yourself a favor by choosing the exact story from your idea shelf to tackle during National Novel Writing Month.
Remember, this challenge isn’t about writing the literary piece you want generations to remember you by. So it might be best to table that grandiose writing project for another time when you can give it the time you want to craft it correctly.
I’d also recommend saving that writing idea that gives you a lot of anxiety just to tackle it. NaNoWriMo is supposed to be an exciting challenge. Sure, writing thousands of words in a short period of time is no cake walk, but it shouldn’t stress you out so much that it takes all the fun out of writing.
Fortunately, you don’t need to know all the details about your story idea before you start on Day 1. You just need to know what story you can commit to this November.
Block Off Your Calendar
You can still have a life between your 9-to-5 and your NaNoWriMo project. The National Novel Writing Month challenge isn’t about dedicating your every waking moment to your novel.
What it’s about is learning how to be smart with your time. Make a list of daily tasks that are important to you. For me, it’s important to go to work (9AM-5PM) and run (1 hour, four or five days/week).
Then get out your calendar. It’s time to find a way to make everything that’s still important to you still happen in your life. That probably means making adjustments to your current routine.
For example, I plan to wake up an hour earlier so that I have a couple of hours to write before work. Since it’s so dark in the mornings now, it’s better in my schedule to run before dinner.
Get Your Support Group On Board
October is the perfect time to sit your closest friends and family down and tell them the news: You’re taking on the NaNoWriMo challenge.
Some will think it’s amazing. Some will think it’s stupid. And all will think you’re getting yourself into a crazy mess.
But after the shock wears off, be realistic with your crew. Tell them that you probably can’t hang out as much in November. Tell them that you might disappear for weeks at a time during this stretch. Tell them that you’ll still try to be there for them as much as possible, but ask them to cut you a little slack if you lag a little.
You’re going to need all the support you can get, so preparing your inner circle now is ideal. Your moods might swing, your stress levels might get to all-high levels. If you warn those closest to you now, they’ll want to cheer you on during the month or talk you from the ledge if you’re tempted to quit.
What do you do to prepare for NaNoWriMo? Share your advice below.