Prepare for NaNoWriMo: 5 Tips for October Planning

Last year was the first year I took part in NaNoWriMo. I participated mostly as a challenge that I could document here on the site. It went well. And I'm doing it again this year, although I'll be following the traditional rules rather than last year's "rebel" approach where I combined a few projects that I needed to work on anyway.

This year I'm working on a fresh novel manuscript during NaNoWriMo, and I'm using October to prepare. In this post, I'll share some of the ways you can do the same to increase your chances of hitting your NaNo goal.

5 Ways You Can Prepare for NaNoWriMo This October

Here are five ways you can start preparing for NaNoWriMo during October:

1. Prepare yourself and your writing environment.

Decide where you're going to work on your novel during NaNoWriMo. Make sure your working area is clean and organized and that you have everything you'll need.

Also prepare yourself in any way that might help. Set up your November writing schedule. Get on a better sleep schedule early. Do things to improve your health so you have the energy for your next big project. Clear up other work projects to make more time available in November. Have a talk with family members about when you will and won't be available to avoid frustration and misunderstandings next month.

2. Bounce around story ideas.

Even if you prefer the pantser approach, there's no reason to go into NaNoWriMo completely blind. Use October to pull story ideas out of your head, bounce them around with friends, family, or other writers, and find the absolute best idea for your NaNo novel.

3. Conduct research.

Will your novel require extensive research such as interviews or visiting special places that will inspire your settings? While you can always leave placeholders in your NaNo first draft where more research is needed, having some of that work done could help you reach your 50k words even faster.

4. Get to know your characters.

Spend some time on character development. What will your characters look like? What inspires them? What motivates them through the course of your book? What will you call them?

October is a great time to develop and get to know your characters. When they feel more like familiar friends than strangers on the page, dialog and decisions might come much easier to you in your first draft. You'll already know what kind of people they are, how they think, and how they'll react.

5. Outline your novel.

If, like me, you're more of an outliner, October is a great time to outline your novel. This year I'm using the Snowflake Method for the first time. But I've tried several different outlining methods, from scene cards to all-out book binders filled with notes, plot points, character worksheets, and more. Over the years I've customized my own outlining method taking bits and pieces of other methods I've tried, figuring out what works best for me.

Here are a few books I recommend if you're considering outlining your NaNoWriMo novel:

And of course you should consider reading No Plot? No Problem! by NaNoWriMo founder, Chris Baty.

How are you preparing for NaNoWriMo, if at all? Can you think of other things authors can do to get ready ahead of time? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments.


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2 thoughts on “Prepare for NaNoWriMo: 5 Tips for October Planning”

  1. I would love to know how people prepare for nanowrimo. I always tried to get prepared mentally because it’s a marathon. You gotta knock out a good portion everyday and anything that stops the momentum will kill you. I suggest people outline, create space in their day (mostly morning) to write, and write extra on the weekends. That helps me make it every time. Great post

    • The strategy that worked well for me last year was to strike while the motivation was strong. I knew as the month went on I’d get worn out, especially around Thanksgiving when I like to take downtime, see family, and start holiday shopping and decorating. The best thing I did was to plan out my word count strategy early. And what worked for me was to account for time off (for me that meant Sundays and a few days over the holiday), and start with high word counts. So I started the month writing over 3500 words per day and by my last day I only had to write around 800 words. That was very doable for me. And of course if I didn’t want a day off each week the daily word counts could have come down.

      I’m planning a similar strategy this time. So we’ll see if I have luck with it again. 🙂


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