How to prepare for NaNoWriMo

This Saturday marks the start of Camp NaNoWriMo, a month-long writing challenge in which participants complete an entire writing project (such as a 50,000 word novel). (NaNoWriMo is short for “National Novel Writing Month,” which is usually held in November.) I wrote a few days ago why I enjoy doing these challenges.

I started doing NaNoWriMo back in 2012, but it was only last November that I actually completed it, and then I completed it again in April. Now that I understand what works for me, I’m pretty confident that I’ll meet my goals in July, too. Here are some of my suggestions for how to make the most of the month.

Make moodboards and playlists

For me, writing is a full sensory experience. Seeing my story come to life in other ways, such as music or images, helps keep me inspired to write it. Sometimes the words on the page are not enough; it’s nice to feel the full atmosphere of your book. When I’m in the midst of a NaNoWriMo challenge, I like to feel like I’m living inside my book. There are a few songs that I can’t hear without thinking of particular stories or ideas, and every time I hear them, I am eager to write. If you’re feeling unmotivated or frustrated, you can reference these, and it’s also a useful way to think about what you want your story to evoke.

Set small goals throughout the month

When I was teaching English 101, my students would freak out about having to write five page papers. To talk them down, I’d ask: can you write a one page paper? This seemed doable, so I’d say, what if you wrote one page each night? In just a few nights, your draft would be done. It is way less daunting to break your story into achievable pieces. Consider thinking of your story in “parts,” even if those parts won’t be visible to the reader when it’s finished. Instead of thinking of 50,000 words all at once, consider writing chunks of 10,000 words, and try meeting those goals first.

Pick a tool you love

I recently wrote about some popular writing tools, and I really think this makes more of a difference than most writers realize. I’m not terribly inspired when I open Google Docs (which is a great tool that I use often for most of the work I do), but when I launch Scrivener or Ulysses, I feel excited just to start getting words on the page. Whatever you use, don’t just use it because it works; use a program that you’re excited to see open on your computer. (This includes using notebooks and pencils!)

Remember that this is a draft

The point of the challenge is to get your story out of your head and onto paper. That’s it. It’s not necessary to write a polished manuscript. I’m still editing and revising the book I wrote last year, and I probably will continue to do so for a few more months. So just focus on writing, and not editing. Some of your chapters may have the simplest of sentences, but at least you’re writing and telling a story. Revision is a whole separate process from writing and it’s easy to forget that. No

Ultimately: have fun, and don’t be too hard on yourself. Get into the habit of writing every day. It’s really satisfying to see what you can create in one month if you dedicate just an hour or two every day. Good luck!

Why I love NaNoWriMo

Do any of you watch Project Runway? My husband and I love it. My favorite part about the whole season is the second to last episode, where the final designers are visited by Tim Gunn at their homes. During this time, they are given just weeks to create an entire fashion line. I get a kick out of seeing their workspaces. There’s something so appealing to me about dedicating time to just one project, and fully investing in it and letting it consume your life for just that time.

That’s why I love participating in writing challenges like National Novel Writing Month (also known as NaNoWriMo). Historically, NaNoWriMo is held every November, but the popularity of the challenge allowed them to host other writing challenges throughout the year. For the uninitiated NaNoWriMo is a writing challenge to complete a 50,000 word novel in just one month. The April and July challenges can be used to complete any type of writing project (such as a script/screenplay). It’s a fun opportunity to make writing a priority. I’m very goal/deadline-oriented (thanks, journalism) so it works well for me to focus solely on project for a month at a time and let myself fully invest in it.

I’ve signed up to participate in Camp NaNoWriMo, beginning July 1. I completed a novel during NaNoWriMo last November; in April, I dedicated the month to revising and improving it. In July, I’m starting a new novel. My goal is to have three completed novels before I start trying to get something published.

Let me know if you’re participating!