NaNo Prep 101

Prepare for NaNoWriMo and win this year! Click through for five tips to write and finish your NaNo novel.

Is anyone else panicking that NaNoWriMo is less than a month away?!?

If you are, I’ve got just the thing for you! By the end of this post, you’ll be ready and raring to go when Nov. 1 comes around.

If you’re a planner, then things like NaNoWriMo will really put you through your paces. You’ll be tested on your forethought, your follow through, your self-discipline, and your stamina to maintain your passion for your goals. But don’t worry, if you’re the type of person who lives off to-do lists, has multiple planners, and assesses your goals on an almost daily basis, then you’ll be just fine.

These are my top five tips to prep you for the most successful NaNo experience!

Tip #1: Set Your Goals, Then Set Stretch Goals

This is something I wish I had done last year. I only focused on finishing my book; I couldn’t see the possibility of anything else. However, if I had imagined what the rest of my month could look like if/when I finished my book early, I could have accomplished so much more!

It’s important to set your main goal for the month: write a 50,000-word book. That’s the simple part. You can break this down into daily word count goals and see the finish line fairly clearly. And you’ll have accomplished so much by the end of November if you meet this goal!

But…I know you can do so much more! I’ve written about this before, but it’s so important to set stretch goals. Even if you don’t finish your novel, setting stretch goals for the what-if’s gets your brain in the right mode, and next time you try to tackle a big challenge or project you’ll be so much more prepared.

Before Nov. 1, write down what you want to accomplish in your writing life after you finish your NaNo novel. You can ride that high of completing such a big goal to really get shit done in your writing life! Whether it’s starting to edit the novel you’ve just completed, work on another WIP that needs a bit of help, write a short story a day until the end of the month, whatever it is, write these down!

Tip #2: Create a Word Count Calendar

I’ve mentioned my word count calendar before in the post I linked to above and I still say that this single tip is the main reason I actually finished my novel in 2015. I created a front-loaded word count calendar.

To finish NaNo on time you need to write 1,666 words per day. I wanted to finish early, so I gave myself a high word count each day. For the first two weeks of November, I wrote 1800 words a day. If I wrote say 3200 words in a day, those extra words didn’t roll over to the next day; I still had to sit down and write another 1800 words, regardless of how many words I’d written the day prior.

After those first two weeks of 1800 words, I bumped the number down to 1700 words a day. Not only did this give my brain a break, it helped me realize the end was in sight and gave me the boost I needed to carry on.

I finished my novel by Thanksgiving. Easily. And I promise you can too if you make your own word-count calendar. It doesn’t have to have the same word count each day…you can get really strategic and plan for more words on days you know you’ll have more time and fewer words on days you know you’ll have less time. You can get into the spirit of NaNo and write 10,000 words a day (it’s been done!) to finish your novel in a week.

It’s the act of giving yourself one simple daily goal. For me, my day wasn’t productive unless I’d written my words for my novel. Even if I did seven other very productive or helpful or beneficial things, if I didn’t write my word count, the day was a flop. And I never want my days to be a flop!

Tip #3: Schedule Time To Write

This is probably the second reason I was able to finish my 2015 NaNo novel. Every morning, I woke up at 6am and put my butt in my chair and started typing. If I really needed help or inspiration I’d go to the NaNo Word Sprint Twitter page to challenge myself and get those words out. But I knew that I had about 45 minutes to get my word count for the day, and that simple time crunch had me banging out words like no tomorrow. On the weekend, I relied on my husband to help me find the time, and we always found the time.

When you make the time for yourself to make a little progress, you’ll absolutely finish your novel.

Tip #4: Have a Plan B

I don’t mean a what-if-I-quit Plan B, I mean a what-if-I-finish-early Plan B. I didn’t have this when I wrote my novel in 2015 and I still think it could have made so much of a difference. Part of this is setting stretch goals for yourself, but also part of this is thinking hard about how you want to spend the time you used to write your novel, once you’re done writing your novel. Do you want to continue to write? Do you want to edit? Do you want to treat yourself to a daily bath? Do you want to spend that time reading or playing a board game with your sister, or taking your dog for a long walk?

Your Plan B is two parts: how to continue with your writing dream and how to better take care of yourself to achieve that dream.

Tip #5: Don’t Cut Corners

Don’t put off your writing till the evening, if all your best mental energy happens in the morning. Don’t tell yourself you’ll write tomorrow when you know you’d have the time today if you didn’t watch a third rerun of Gilmore Girls. Don’t spontaneously double book your writing time.

Basically, get out of your own way, and let yourself win. You absolutely can write a whole novel in a month. I believe everyone is capable of writing and finishing a successful NaNo run. It takes a bit of gumption, a lot of planning, and healthy dose of stubborn-ass attitude.

Use these tips and you’ll get there. I promise.


Alexis Truitt

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