NaNoPrep: How to Prepare to Write a Novel in a Month

NaNoPrep - How to Prepare to Write a Novel in a Month

We are just over two weeks away from the first of November. For those of us ingrained in writing culture, that means we’re right in the middle of NaNoPrep season. For everyone else, allow me to explain what the heck I’m talking about.

November is the National Novel Writing Month, also known as NaNoWriMo. Each year, thousands of writers around the world embark on a quest to write a 50,000-word novel in 30 days. It’s a self-regulated marathon for anyone who has always wanted to write a book, but simply hasn’t found the motivation — the “kick in the pants”, if you will — to get around to it. Keep in mind that the goal is to produce a very rough first draft. The editing process comes afterward, once you have a manuscript to play with. Writing that first draft is the largest single hurdle anyway, so the internal and external motivation of this challenge is perfect for getting it done.

The NaNoWriMo website contains a myraid of resources, plus a comprehensive forum to connect its global participants. And if you live in a decently populated area, there may even be local writing sessions, or “write-ins”, scheduled nearby during the month for you to attend.

If this is the first time you’re hearing about NaNoWriMo, you’re probably thinking one of three things:

  • That sounds awful! Why would anyone do that?
  • That sounds awesome. Sign me up!
  • I’m sure that would be really fun, but I simply don’t have time to write a novel in a month! That sounds far too ambitious for me.

If you fall into the second or third camp, then I would encourage you to read on. With the right attitude and support, you may surprise yourself in your ability to conquer the challenge.

I’ve participated in NaNoWriMo six times now — and I’ve won each and every time. I’ll talk about how I accomplished that in a future post. But for now, let’s make the most of NaNoPrep season. Here’s how I prepare in October to write a novel in November!

Sign up.

For first-timers, the first step is to hop on over to the NaNoWriMo site and sign up. You’ll have a chance to input a bit of a bio and your geographical location, which will allow you to connect with the local writerly community (if you so choose).

Declare your intention to participate.

I would encourage you to take a digital and traditional approach to your declaration. Tell your friends and family that you’ll be writing a novel in November. Then post some NaNoWriMo flair on social media to spread the word to your larger circle.

Decide what you’ll write about (or don’t).

Whether you’re a planner or a pantser (i.e. “flying by the seat of your pants-er”), you’ll want to create your novel on the NaNoWriMo site in order to track your word count progress. From there, it’s up to you. In the past, I’ve taken extensive notes, drawn maps, made character profile sheets, the works… and in other years, I’ve literally started with a title, a one-liner plot synopsis, and a blank Word doc. So get planning — or not!

Rally the troops.

Writing a novel is fun, but writing a novel alongside friends and family is even better! Find people in your live with a love for writing and encourage them to join you in your journey. You can even NaNoPrep together (whatever that means for you)!

Commit to attending a local event (where applicable).

If you’re lucky enough to live in a region with a local group, make the effort to attend at least one event. I find these events are highly motivating for upping your word count. Plus, it’s a great opportunity to meet other writers in your area, and to thank your Municipal Liaison (or ML, the local organizers for NaNoWriMo) for their efforts in the writing community. (Okay, I’m a little biased… I served as the ML for Kingston, Ontario in 2013-14!)


If you’re joining the marathon this year (or at least still thinking about it), let’s be buddies! Click here for my NaNoWriMo profile.

What are you doing to NaNoPrep this year?