November is one of my favorite times of the year for many reasons. The cold weather, the delicious foods, the cozy sweaters, and most importantly, National Novel Writing Month! Now, I know some writers like to dive right in on November 1 with no plan, no direction, just writing by the seat of their pants. And while I think that’s wonderful, it’s just not something I can pull off. My anxiety won’t allow it. I need a plan for literally everything and my writing is no exception.
NaNoWriMo prep for me begins usually in the summer time as I mull over the different ideas I have for stand alone novels. I like to do stand alone stories during NaNo because it’s a fresh page and I enjoy starting new projects that I haven’t touched before. The reason I gravitate towards new stories is that I like the challenge of writing an entire novel’s worth in just thirty days. It’s like a super power that few people can pull off. That being said, writing and prepping are two totally different beasts.
Middle of October I usually have a concrete story idea picked out and this is when I prefer to sit down and get a loose plot outline together. This can be as detailed as you want it to be. Sometimes I find it useful to type out a description of how I picture an entire scene but other times a simple, “Main character goes to talk to a side character” is enough for the time being. Honestly, you’ll change your plot more than once during the writing process so sometimes detail is not your friend. The main thing I try to get down on paper for NaNo prep is who I’m writing about and what do they want.
One of my favorite things for NaNo is a new notebook. Yes, you’ll be doing most, if not all, of your writing on your laptop and probably your plot too but there’s just something about the first blank page of a fresh notebook to really symbolize the new beginning that is your NaNo project.
So the first thing to decide during your NaNo prep is, what do I want to write about? What interests me? Who’s voice do I want to share with my readers? Who is this person, and most importantly, what do they want? What are they willing to sacrifice to get it?
When you’re writing about 1700 words per day for a month straight, you want to have a vague answer for these questions before you sit down on November first and begin your journey. Especially if this is your first time participating in NaNo. It took me a few years before I dove into participating. I was in college, I was already working on a book in my free time. I thought between working full time, being a full time student and still wanting free time to be creative in other outlets filled up my plate pretty full. And to be honest, it was probably a smart decision for me. So the first semester I had after graduating college, I was so ready to be creative in November like so many other writers around the world.
Also, you want to make sure you have sufficient time throughout the day to sit down and write without distraction. If you’re a mom like me, you want to make sure you don’t have children climbing all over you or a significant other asking you questions while you’re trying to stay focused on the task at hand. Make sure you have snacks on hand, a nice cup of tea (or coffee or whatever you fancy), and a good pair of headphones. You want to be able to focus on and not get distracted. It’s hard to get lost in your own world, let alone create one, when you aren’t able to give it your all.