Friday, March 29, 2013

NaNoWriMo Checklist: How to Prepare for the Ultimate Writing Challenge

by Eve Pearce
OK, so there are a few more months until November yet but although National Novel Writing Month may take place throughout this month alone, it’s never too early to begin planning for it. Like all major projects, the competition (which runs from 1st – 30th November) requires preparation and lots of it. Writing a 50,000 word novel in the space of a month is no mean feat and even the organizers themselves admit that NaNoWriMo usually takes on a ‘quantity over quality’ approach. But the beauty of this is that it also allows anyone to take part, favoring enthusiasm and dedication over writing ability. With a little forward planning you can have the best possible chance of producing something great and getting the most out of this exciting writing challenge. Here are a few things to consider in the run up to this year’s NaNoWriMo.

Sign up

First things first – you need to sign up. This can be done by visiting the NaNoWriMo website at Once you have signed up you will be able to create a profile, get regular news and updates about the challenge and be given access into forums where you can chat with other participants and find out about NaNoWriMo events in your local area. As the month passes you can share extracts of your novel on your account for fellow writers to read and you also need an account to register and submit your final piece before midnight on 30th November. Don’t leave the registration process until the last minute and then find that you have missed the deadline filling in forms.


NaNoWriMo involves a lot of dedication, hard work and, above all, time so other things in your life may need to take a back seat. We’re not suggesting that you go AWOL from your day job for a month or leave your home to go to ruin, but in order to dedicate your time elsewhere it might make sense to prepare a few things before November begins. For example you could have a cooking day, making large batches of freezable food to cut down on cooking time during the month or postpone any non-urgent appointments. This may also be a good time to set up a timetable to fit in manageable writing time around your daily commitments.

You also need to prepare the equipment that you plan to work on to avoid any technical delays. If you plan to write by hand then stock up on writing material…and band aids for your overworked fingers! But unsurprisingly most people choose to write on a computer or laptop in order to produce and amend their work quickly and legibly. Make sure that your computer or laptop is in tip top condition with a full disk defragment and anti-virus software in place to avoid any sluggish programming that might slow you down. It almost goes without saying, but you should ALWAYS back up your work and it wouldn’t hurt to check out a few computer and laptop insurance reviews to pick a good deal for your machinery. That way, even if your laptop or computer does have an untimely demise during NaNoWriMo you can get a quick replacement. Don’t forget to create a nice writing nook (if you don’t already have one) in a well lit, comfortable area where you’ll be happy to spend time – that way it won’t feel like a chore.

Formulate an idea

Although the actual writing process can’t begin until November, you need to at least have a basic idea of a plot before you start even if it is simply a beginning, middle and an end. It is essential to find the right balance between sitting down at your computer on the 1st November thinking ‘now what?’ and overplanning your story so much that you get confused and stressed before even starting. Instead, spend your time reading similar genres for inspiration or completing mini projects to see how your writing goes. Then when you’re ready to start just concentrate on your basic idea and let the words start flowing.

Tell people

There are several reasons why telling people about your participation in NaNoWriMo is a good idea. Firstly it’ll alert them as to why you might be unable to attend as many social engagements during November and hopefully cut down on disturbances! You may also find a writing pal – someone you know who wants to do NaNoWriMo with you. A writing pal can help support you, spur you on and give you inspiration. You can even write together and discuss your ideas and inspiration. In short it can make the whole experience a lot more fun. Finally, telling people about your mammoth project is bound to impress them and they’ll be eager to know how you get on. This will add pressure to your challenge but in a good way. When you find yourself with writers block or feel like giving up, the fear of telling people that you didn’t quite manage it will spur you on and make you more inclined to overcome obstacles. Nobody likes a public failure!

Enjoy and don’t worry

Aside from the practical preparations, the most important thing to remember about NaNoWriMo is that it’s supposed to be fun. The best chance you have of completing it is if you enjoy it. Try to remember that the point of NaNoWriMo isn’t to create a bestselling, well crafted novel…it’s about finishing. According to Writers Digest, 86% of the 250,000 people who took part in NaNoWriMo last year didn’t finish. Some of the primary reasons for this include the fear of failing, over thinking their story too much and worries about creating something that wouldn’t be perfect. These sorts of concerns will hinder your progress before it’s even begun so try to relax and have some fun with this ultimate writing challenge.

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