Columns > Published on August 31st, 2018

7 Ways to Prepare for NaNoWriMo Right Now

For veteran writers, the approach of autumn means one thing — and it’s not Starbucks pumpkin lattes, beautiful golden leaves, or even Halloween.

It’s National Novel Writing Month, or what all writers fondly know as NaNoWriMo.

You’ll need a whole lot of writing enthusiasm to get you through NaNoWriMo, and eager beavers (like me) know that it’s never too early to start preparing. Here are a few tips to get the ball rolling in September...

1. Outline your book chapter by chapter

Working out how many chapters you want to write each day of November will be useful in terms of visualising your novel. If you prefer to split things up quantitatively — remember, we’re aiming for 50,000 words — you could even work out a rough word count per chapter.

Will you write a chapter a day? How many chapters are you going to dedicate to a backstory, or setting the scene? In which chapter will the climax occur? If you really want to plan in advance, mapping out your chapters and dedicating each day of November to writing a specific number of chapters could give you a leg up in terms of reaching the finish line.

2. Draw out your main plot points

If going nuts with planning isn’t your speed, just note your high points (your drama, conflict, action, and the like) and you’ll be sure to hit the ground running come NaNoWriMo.

These moments of big excitement are the plot points, and will drive the twists and turns that comprise your narrative arc. Definitely worth giving some prior thought!

3. Research for world building

If you’re gearing up to create the next Lord of the Rings, Warriors, or the like, it might be a bit overwhelming constructing not only a whole novel, but a whole world — one with its own rules, inhabitants, and setting.

Sketching your novel’s world now will pay dividends come November. The easiest way to do this might be to answer a handful of questions about your world of fantasy:

Where is it?
What is it called?
Who rules it? Is there conflict around who runs the show?
If it follows the same timeline as us, when was it in existence? Is it still around?
Is it accessible to humans?
If not, or even if so, what kind of creatures or people live there?

If you can answer all of these, you’ve already got one foot in the door!

4. Sketch out your characters

The characters you’re going to be working with are, of course, a keystone of your book. Knowing your characters inside out before you even start the novel is going to give you a huge advantage — and with the aid of ready-made character development exercises it can be a breeze!

If doing full-blown exercises seems like overkill, just know that names, ages, and character motivations will get you most of the way there. Knowing what a character wants is the starting point for any character arc, and will drive the plot of your novel.

5. Establish a writing routine

If you’re used to writing as part of a routine, the idea of writing a bit everyday won’t feel too unnatural or overwhelming come NaNoWriMo. Still, you need to set your rules, and then (this is the hard part) stick to them.

Contrary to the idea of a struggling artist, you don’t have to dedicate your entire life and soul in order to write a novel. Obviously, writing an entire book in just one month is meant to be a challenge. But if you start incorporating 10, 15, or 20 minutes of writing into your day early on, it’ll already be a habit by the time NaNoWriMo hits.

6. Sign up on the NaNoWriMo website

You can register for NaNoWriMo at, where you will be able to share your progress and interact with the rest of the writing community undertaking the challenge. Nearly half a million writers took part last year, which gives you plenty of other people to celebrate the good days (or commiserate over the bad days) with. Getting in touch with the NaNo community is a key part of the fun, and even motivation, for many.

Keeping up with social media will also help you keep up to speed in the run-up to NaNoWriMo. Whilst writing might often feel like an isolated activity, there’s plenty of other writers who want to share their stories, and want to hear yours. You’ll get pep talks and support from the website as well, and you can even see from where people all over the world are writing their stories.

7. Don’t panic

NaNoWriMo is all about letting go and being open to mistakes, changes of tack, and wherever your writing may take you. Just keep writing!

It’s also the perfect opportunity to collect ideas and bits of writing for subsequent drafts and stories. It’s not the be-all and end-all of your writing career. Quite the opposite, it may be the very beginning of something, springboarding you into your next bestselling project!

The journey to 50,000 words may be a bit of a tough one, but like all challenges, the key is preparation. This is a great way to hone your writing skills and enjoy a big project, and there’s no time like the present for gearing up to it.

About the author

Emmanuel Nataf is a Founder at Reedsy, a marketplace and set of tools that allows authors and publishers to find top editorial, design and marketing talent. Over 3,000 books have been published using Reedsy's services.

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