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Prepping for NaNoWriMo

Hey guys!

So this week's post is all about preparing for NaNoWriMo. And we're still only part way through Preptober, so I'm not late! Good start.

Gifs are back! Exciting stuff.

Prepping for NaNo is a bit different, in my opinion, to prepping for a normal first draft. I made a post awhile ago about planning vs not-planning, here: On Planning (Or Rather A Lack of Planning). And I still stand by it. However, for NaNo I think it's a bit different.

NaNo is about sitting and writing, nothing else. You really can't afford to be taking time out of writing to research or develop a character or develop your world. When I write without planning (which, as you can see from that link above, is my preferred way of writing), I find myself pausing to think about my plot or my characters. It works for me, but it does mean my first drafts tend to be relatively slow in coming. That doesn't work for NaNo.

While an accurate depiction of me writing most of the time, do not do this during NaNoWriMo.

You need to pound out 50,000 words in one month and ideally those words should probably make sense. I've done NaNoWriMo six times (not including this year) and I've won the last three years running. So I feel that I have enough experience by this point to talk about what does and doesn't work. Having done this and having edited things that I wrote during NaNo, I think I'm justified in saying that I have some advice.

Plan Your Characters

This might seem like a dumb point, but you'd be surprised. Last year, I made the mistake of not really planning out the characters who were going to appear and this resulted in....issues. An example would be my good friend, Useph. Useph was a character in my story 'X'. He turned up and then just sort of...disappeared somewhere. I still have no idea where he went. 

So my advice would be make a list of the characters who are going to appear. And if you do introduce new characters, add them to the list so that you can see who's in the story and who you need to remember. It's a useful reminder and you could use it to list stuff like hair colour and eye colour and such things that we all tend to forget.

Research the Heck out of It

Nobody wants to start writing then have to pause to research whether or not badgers like cheese*. 

Think about your story and research anything that you think you're really going to need before you start November. Seriously.

During November itself, if you do come across something you need to research, make a note of it. Come back later when you're not under time-restraints and research it then. How you take these notes depends on how you're writing. Since I generally tend to use a mix of Scrivener and Microsoft Word, I make comments on the text in Word. You can also do that when you come up with worldbuilding or character issues. 

See exhibit A, a comment I made on my first draft of Asteria about worldbuilding. 
But do not, do not stop to research during NaNo. Not unless you are very much ahead. Because it's wasting valuable time and research is very easy to get sucked into.

*As it turns out, badgers do in fact eat cheese. There you go, random fact of the week. 

Think about Where You're Going

So as a confirmed pantser, I don't plan my stories. But I do think about where I'm going with it. Typically, I'll have an idea of my beginning and my end. I know where I'm starting and where I'm ending up. I understand Point A and Point B. Then when I'm writing, I just need to fill in the gaps between Point A and Point B.

For me, this is a really helpful way of guiding my writing without having to outline. I know what I'm trying to get to, so I know if something that I'm writing is going to send me too far off the beaten path. 

How much you figure out depends on how much you like to plan. Whether you meticulously plan every step or just have a vague idea where how your story ends, try and figure it out. Because it really will make keeping your story on track easier and it'll keep you from getting confused.

Do not be Bilbo Baggins here. But do be Bilbo Baggins in general. Because he's awesome.

Gather Supplies

a) Snacks/Drinks

Snacks and drinks are the lifeblood of NaNoWriMo. You can use them as rewards or as something just to snack on as you write. Either way, they're essential. It's often helpful to get something before November starts, because then you're not wasting time getting more.

I like drinking tea (just to live up to my aspiration of being a pure British stereotype) and my favourite snacks for writing are olives, grapes, maybe a bit of ice cream and a whole lot of coleslaw. But I have really, really weird tastes, so just find what works for you.

b) Notebooks/Pens

Super helpful for making the priorly mentioned notes. It's also an easy way of keeping track of where your characters are. 

For example, you might have three characters called Tim, Bertie and Alice - just go with the names. Now say you write a scene in which they separate and head off in different directions. That notebook of yours will make it a whole lot easier to remember where they are and what they're doing. It means you don't end up with tragic losses such as my old friend Useph. 

Truly, that was a tragedy.

Real footage of me writing X.

c) Anything Else You Think You Might Need

The old generic last category. I just couldn't think of what else to call it. And besides, this one is very changeable based on what you use to write. 

I write to music, so I'd use this time to build up my playlists for the story.

Here you see my main playlist for Ghosts, Doughnuts and Other Related Things. As you can see, I like to make a playlist for the main story itself and then one for each character. Then I'll sometimes make one for any relationships/friendships in the story. 

Preparing these ahead of time is essential for me, since I am entirely capable of spending hours making them and that's not a very good idea in NaNoWriMo. 

And that's the end of my advice for NaNo Prep. Obviously, not all of this will work for you, but it's just a few things to consider. And this post is only about prepping, actually doing it is an entirely different experience. 

Do any of you have any particular things you do to prep for NaNoWriMo? Write them down in the comments below, I'm always looking for new advice. 


  1. Good points all the way through! In terms of planning, I'm somewhere in between a plotter and a pantser. For NaNoWriMo this year I have a rough idea of what will happen in my sequel, with characters names' down, main plot and general themes, and most of the main setting and places. Though I will leave the bits in between as a surprise.
    That way the readers will be surprised themselves. :D


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