The NaNo site has wiped and is fresh for a new year, so this means . . .
NaNo season is upon us!
*cue excited/panicked flailing*
Here’s a checklist for things to do to prepare for NaNoWriMo… This is actually mostly for ME as a reminder of what I should be doing during NANOPREPMONTH (er… I mean October), and sort of in the form of notes-to-self, but I thought you might enjoy it too, so here it is!
It’s a mixture of my ideal to-do list and things I think others might find helpful to do or know or think about. Whether you’re a beginner first tentatively dipping your toes into the NaNo waters, a seasoned writer of a year or three, or a veteran of a dozen years, I hope it’ll have something in it for all of you.
Hope you enjoy! 🙂
(with longwinded explanations and miscellaneous gifs and NaNo-ish pics)
1. Decide what you’re writing
This is harder than you might think. I usually take months to decide… But be it an old plot idea you’ve been planning for years or a newborn baby plotbunny from last night, you’ve still got to decide. Be excited about it!
2. Give your shiny novel idea a title (if it doesn’t have one yet)
This helps. Honest. (And yes, you’re allowed to call it The Epic Novel #293857987 if that’s what you can come up with. But you should at least have a working title!)
3. Write a “blurb” for it
This will help you with knowing what you’re writing, and you’ll also have something for the novel info page on the NaNo site, which is very motivating. I find that I have a hard time writing a story these days unless I’ve defined it in some way and summarized it in a paragraph or three. It’s very helpful.
4. Make a “cover”
Don’t underestimate the inspirational value of a mock cover for your story. It’s like a banner to lead you into battle.
5. Create your novel page on NaNo
(I’m going to assume that you’ve signed up for the NaNo site already… if you haven’t, then do so at once! Seriously, you will not regret it.) This really makes the project “real” to me. It’s an important step. *nod nod*
6. Show off a NaNo participant badge to declare your intention of epically novelling during November
7. Make a folder on your computer to keep all your nano stuff in
Or a physical one if you’re a real paper sort of person. Organization is key!
8. Name your novel inhabitants
Names are important. And if you name them MC, Character1, or Bob, they’ll probably stick like that. Believe me. I know it’s a pain, but you’ll thank me later. If you can’t come up with any, there are sites like Behind the Name, and also this name generator site which has specific genres for generating, like Steampunk, Fantasy, Mermaids, Time Lords, Supervillains…
9. Figure out your novel inhabitants
Whether it’s just the main character, or the important ones, or all the minor ones as well, make sure you do some thinking about them. Anything from a word that describes them to full bios… whatever you like.
10. Plan out and roughly summarize your plot — beginning, middle, and end
You can go as detailed or not as you want. It’s up to you and your preferences. I like to be very plotted so that I feel like I know what I’m doing and have some chance of having something to write for 30 days without chronic writer’s block.
I’m also throwing in “setting” and “worldbuilding” collectively into this point because to me at least they’re so intertwined with plot.
- Note: If you’re a pantser, feel free to disregard the two previous points.
11. Research if you want
If you’re writing a historical or a sci-fi or a fantasy or a contemporary, you may want to look up facts and figures and swords and time-zones. Or even if you think you don’t want/need to research, you may have something to do still… For instance, I’m “researching” by reading different versions of the fairytale The Twelve Dancing Princesses and rereading books that contain characters I like of certain character types which I hope to understand enough to write similar types for myself. Basically whatever you need to feel prepared!
12. Find inspirational pictures
This can be for character faces, clothing, weapons, settings, etc. Pinterest is your best friend if you want to do this. (…It is also the biggest time drain in the history of ever, so exercise caution if you don’t want to emerge decades/centuries later like Rip Van Winkle, wondering how you managed to miss NaNo… and several dozens of NaNos since.) It can be SO inspirational though! 🙂
13. Find good noveling music
Whatever inspires you. Instrumental music is good unless words don’t distract you. Fast music is ideal — those fingers will type faster if the music is exceeding the speed-limit. Epic movie soundtracks can inspire. Make a playlist on your computer/phone/ipod/youtube… I also recommend Pandora and I’ve heard some people like Spotify as well.
14. Make a schedule for NaNo
Both a daily one, and one for your overall month. It may not work out, but having something to shoot for is ideal. (Aim for moon, land in stars, am I right? Naturally. So pay attention. 😄 ) Whether this is a particular time of day you hope to write, or segments with a projected wordcount, or, for the month, blacked out days when you know you won’t be able to write, and highlighted days when you’ll have extra time for catching up… Whatever works for you, go for it!
15. Fill your calendar with NaNo goodness
Wordcount goals, local NaNo events, NaNo dates (like these). Or be nuts and overboard like me and have a whole spiral notebook with a page for each NaNo day and put all the relevant info for that day, the expected NaNo wordcount goal, my personal wordcount goal for the day, along with a daily schedule/to-do list and all other life events/importantness/reminders to remember in the midst of hectic noveling.
16. Download an awesome wordcount tracking spreadsheet
This amazing person has splendid spreadsheets for free download that are fabulous for tracking your words and other stuff about your NaNo novel. There’s others out there you could find, but these are my favorites. You can also track your daily wordcount on the NaNo site, which is fabulous too (watching the graph climb is one of the great joys in life), but I’m not always on the internet and it’s nice to have it right there.
17. Brainstorm more about your story and characters
You may think your story is ready. But it’s not. There’s no such thing as too much brainstorming. Give your characters new quirks! Add a devious plot twist! More villains! A letter from an unknown sender! Donkeys! Red umbrellas! A suspicious strudel that’s been in the pantry for seventy-three days and has malicious intent! Believe me, there are still more ideas and you’re not going to want to stop planning your NaNo novel just because you think it’s ready…
18. Fangirl* over your novel-to-be
Because it is awesome and you know it and you love your darlings and OH MY WORD THIS STORY IS GOING TO BE EPIC ALDKFJSLKFDLKJLKJSD
*I’m assuming most people reading this are female. I apologize if you’re not. Fanboy if you will, or find a more acceptable verb if you would rather. And please inform me of what it is because I’m curious!
19. Get excited
20. Post in the NaNo forums
Because there is so much awesomeness and community at the NaNoWriMo Forums.
21. Find noveling buddies so you can support/cheer/commiserate with each other
Noveling is lonely work but the camaraderie during NaNo is one of the great reasons for writing during November even when you feel too busy for it.
22. Catch up on everything you wanted to do recently, everything you might want to do soon, and everything you might want to do during November
Okay, tall order. But you’re seriously going to want to have your plate cleared.
If there’s something you think you’re going to have time for during NaNo…?
You’re not. Better do it now. 😉
23. Gather your writing fuel (i.e. food, chocolate, and caffeine)
Plan your meals, buy snacks and coffee/tea/beverage of choice. Because food and drink is almost as necessary as chocolate. Also, caffeine is your friend, unless you think you can get enough sleep during the month… Haha.
24. Organize yourself and make your writing den pleasant/liveable
Wash enough laundry for the next month, clean your desk…
25. Manage the fearsome hordes of internet obligation and distraction
Catch up on your emails now instead of later, and plan to turn off the shiny distractions during NaNo (Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, Instagram, Blogs…) unless they are a) writing related, b) inspirational for your writing, c) rewards for having written, or, d) breaks to keep you sane. (Though really, insanity is much better embraced during NaNo. It makes the noveling process far easier to handle. I now want a t-shirt that encourages throwing the inner editor and sanity out the window together so they won’t be lonely.)
26. Make sure you have a timer and plan to engage in lots of wordwars
Also called word sprints. But I prefer word war. (Alliteration! More exciting! Even if the only person I’m warring against is my inner procrastinator/perfectionist!) Have wordwars with yourself, wordwars with others online, with your NaNo buddies, with people on the NaNo forums, with people at your local write-ins, with @NaNoWordSprints on Twitter, wordwars with your timer, your dishwasher, wordwars with your cat… (assuming dear Fluffy is willing to type). Wordwars pay off. They do. (I personally particularly like wordwarring against myself with a timer. That way I don’t get distracted between wars by talking with people online… But sometimes the companionship is awesome, so.)
27. Join your local NaNo region!
Find your local region from the list here, home to it, and join in the fun on the forum!
28. Go to the local kickoff/events in your region if you can
These events are organized by NaNoWriMo Municipal Liaisons (MLs), who are local volunteers and are awesome (I should know, as I am one. 😉 ). We work hard to support and keep our local regions together, and we love when Wrimos (that’s you, the writer participating in NaNoWriMo) come to events and have fun in the wonderful community of writers during November! Honestly, write-ins and other NaNo get-togethers are so much fun. The local, in-person support. The camaraderie. Meeting other writers. The clacking of typing. (There may even be stickers.)
29. Anticipate November 1st and die a little inside both from excitement and a feeling of woeful unpreparedness
You’re ready now, aren’t you???
It’s okay. None of us are actually ready, even if we’ve checked off everything on this list and all the lists out there. Just let the whirlwind of noveling take you where it will.
30. When NaNo hits… Write.
Seven is a favorite number of mine, so here are 7 essential tips for when NaNo arrives:
- Have fun
- Keep writing
- Don’t stop writing
- Don’t worry about it being perfect
- Don’t give up
- Have fun
(Oh, did I repeat myself? Well that’s because it’s important.)
Recipe for a successful NaNo: Write with abandon and have fun with it.