November 1 kicks off the annual writing extravaganza known as National Novel Writing Month (or more commonly, NaNoWriMo). With a goal of 50,000 words toward a new novel and 30 days to get it done, many writers are clearing their social calendars, stocking up on snacks, and making sure they’ve stowed a month’s worth of coffee-making supplies. But what else should you get done if you’re preparing to tackle NaNoWriMo 2015?
When November 1st hits, you want to be ready to write. Staring at a blank screen and wondering what should come next won’t help you hit that 50,000 word total. There are no rules against having a detailed outline ready and waiting for the first day of writing. Take advantage of that to be ready with a fully plotted story ready to go.
Not a plotter? Now’s the time to give it a try anyway. If you don’t have other writing commitments, use that lead-up time productively, right through the 31st. Maybe you won’t have a fully detailed outline, if outlining isn’t your usual style, but you may still find that having some bones in place for your story will speed up the process.
Normally I’m an advocate of worldbuilding as the story develops. Why lock yourself into a world when you can mold and shape it around the story, not setting it in stone until you publish. But NaNoWriMo changes the dynamic a little, but giving you a dedicated window where putting words on the page is your primary goal from Nov 1 – Nov 30. Anything that doesn’t put those words onto the page should be looked at as dead weight. When it comes to the finer points of worldbuilding, you can consider them candidates for putting in a little extra work before the month starts. Names, places, magic systems, and politics are all good topics to pre-plan so you’re not spending writing time pondering them.
If you’re capable of putting together a coherent plot and characters in a sketchy world, you can certainly go that route for your first draft if you’re pressed for writing time. But if you can pre-plan your world, you might find that the writing goes quicker. If you find that you’ve painted yourself into a corner, or even just a direction you didn’t mean to go, you’re still able to change your mind mid flow.
Here are some ideas to get your started.
A Realistic Monthly Plan
There are 30 days in November. The word count goal is 50,000 words. Some basic math tells you that 1667 words per day will get you there. But let’s be realistic; not everyone is going to be able to write every day. November is often problematic for US-based writers, since Thanksgiving is a major holiday toward the end of the month, and Christmas shopping season kicks off. Even aside from those, there can always be family functions, travel commitments, and unexpected events that pop up to rob you of writing time.
Look at your November social calendar and be realistic about how many days you’re actually going to be able to write. Then knock a couple off that number, just to be on the safe side. Then divide that 50,000 words by the number of days you’ve got left. You’re probably looking at a number that’s in the 2,000-2,500 range, not 1667 (besides, who wants to edge in by the skin of their teeth?).
Friends and Relatives
Let people know you’re going to be doing NaNoWriMo. Maybe some will be interested in your writing project; that’s just a bonus. Your true goal is to inform them that for a 30-day window, you are unavailable. You don’t need people inviting you out for drinks, offering you tickets to events, or asking you to come over for dinner. You’re booked. If you don’t spread the word around, you’re going to have to keep declining social occasions for the month, which will be a drain on your productivity. Even worse, you might be tempted to accept one or more invitations and lose days you could have spent writing. If you do, then you’re going to need to run fresh numbers to make sure you can stay on target for 50,000.
Has anyone else got ideas for how to prepare for NaNoWriMo, tongue-in-cheek or otherwise? Share them in the comments.