Before we fully dive into the meat of this article, we should probably define a couple terms, like NaNoWriMo and Preptober.
What is NaNoWriMo?
NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month, which is a month-long writing event hosted in November. Writers all over the world band together to write 50,000 words of their writing projects.
While NaNo is hosted mostly online, there are in-person writing events hosted all over the world. Check your local libraries to see if they are having any write-ins this year!
What is Preptober?
During October, NaNoWriMo participants may partake in Preptober. What you do with the time is up to you, but NaNo does provide a week-by-week outline of how you could utilize October to set yourself up for success in November.
Here are some other steps you may consider taking leading up to the event.
How to prepare for NaNoWriMo
Some writers like to jump into the 50k writing challenge totally blind and see where it takes them. That’s totally fine! That was my favorite way to participate when I first started doing NaNoWriMo.
It’s a great opportunity to explore new characters, stories, genres, and writing styles without judging what you’re creating. The writing challenge is technically just about getting words down, so any words will do.
Of course, pantsing the project will create more work down the line if you decide to keep the book through editing, but the best art often happens in the biggest messes.
If you’re a plotter/planner, that’s great, too! NaNoWriMo can help you whip out the first big chunk of your book, if not the entire first draft.
Pantser or plotter, here are a few ideas for how to maximize Preptober and get ready for NaNoWriMo.
Many NaNoWriters hate outlining. Some say it ruins the artistic process, while others say it feels like cheating!
If you hate outlining, that’s fair enough. Whip out a book from thin air and prove all those planners wrong!
On the other end of the writing spectrum, you’ve got the uber planners. They like to outline every single plot beat and scene to write with rigid automation.
And there are those of us in the middle, who might drop some bullet points and worldbuilding notes in our document before we get started.
Your NaNoWriMo plan (or lack thereof) can look however you’d like it to. Bullet points, a full outline with every scene detailed, a thought dump document, abstract paintings—your call.
- Related: How to Start Your Novel
Every writer is different, so follow your gut and do what you think sounds the most fun for you!
2. Character sheets
Creating character sheets is another optional step that not all writers like to do. Building character sheets is a good option for writers who like to prepare (but not cheat!). It doesn’t add to your manuscript word count, so you can do this work ahead of time without breaking any NaNoWriMo rules.
Like an outline, your character sheets can be as detailed or simple as you prefer. Character sheets can range from a basic overview of the character arc, to a multi-page rundown of everything about them. I’ve known writers who even include details like a character’s second favorite meal and their childhood email address.
Different strokes for different folks—do what sounds fun and effective for you and your personal writing style!
3. Aesthetics and playlists
If you want to plan for the vibes and atmosphere of your project more than the actual plot and characters, you might like making moodboards and playlists! This can get you in the headspace for the book you want to write without actually planning anything out about the plot.
Canva, Pinterest, and Pexels are all great sites to get you started making aesthetics and moodboards for your story, characters, or worldbuilding.
You can use YouTube, Spotify, or your favorite music platform to make playlists. Some writers like ambient music (fantasy tavern playlists, for example), while others like to control the mood of their story by playing certain songs while they’re writing certain scenes.
4. Create/update your NaNoWriMo profile
Go to NaNoWriMo.org to create an account, set up your profile, and input your project information!
If you’ve already got an account from last year, go ahead and add your new book. Users can customize a title, description, project status and type, and even upload a cover for their novel project.
If you’re trying to make writer friends, be sure to specify your book’s genre, put some personality in the summary, and add an excerpt! This can make it easier for writers of the same type of books to find each other and connect.
5. Connect with some friends
Solo writers benefit from reward systems—every day you meet your word count goal, you might have a lil treat planned. Going on a walk, having a snack, dropping a dollar in a fund for a bigger prize at the end of the month—do you have any other reward ideas?
Social writers benefit from accountability partners, writing buddies or groups, or anything else that lets them interact with other writers who are working toward the same goal.
If you’re more of a social writer, try joining forums on NaNoWriMo.org, finding Facebook groups for NaNo writers, or scrolling hashtags on Twitter and Instagram to find other writers who are also participating.
Here are some hashtags you might stalk to find other writers:
NaNoWriMo.org also lets you find local writing events! Most towns will have a library or school hosting write-ins and other fun stuff, so be sure to check for events near you.
6. Plan when and where you’ll write
If you don’t want to plan out your project, you can still plan your process.
When is the most convenient time of day for you to set aside focused writing time? In the mornings before work? After dinner when the kids are in bed? During your lunch break?
Maybe your weeks are too hectic altogether, and you’re going to buckle down on the weekends to catch up.
There’s no right answer! Your life and obligations are unique, so figure out what works best for you.
When you make your writing schedule, be sure to account for days you won’t be able to write at all, and the days you know will be hectic and you may only get a few hundred words in.
A planner like NovelPad’s goal-setting page can help you strategize your schedule.
Once you know when you’ll write, consider where you’ll write. Some writers work best in public settings, like libraries, coffee shops, parks, or co-working spaces. Some writers need to practically burrow beneath the ground to get anything done. (Personally, I’m a big fan of the blanket fort writing sessions.)
Prepare your writing space, whether that means signing up for a month-long membership at a co-working space, clearing off your desk, or building a blanket fort.
7. Check out the special sponsor discounts
Make sure you don’t miss out on the limited-time deals from the NaNoWriMo sponsors! You can see the full list at nanowrimo.org/offers, but here are a few highlights you do not want to miss:
- ProWritingAid: “Turn your rough first draft into a clean, clear, publish-ready manuscript! NaNoWriMo participants save 40% on one year of ProWritingAid Premium so you can polish your manuscript with ease…join ProWriting Academy for one year at 50% off to access live workshops with bestselling authors, on-demand courses, and an exclusive writing community.
Plus, download a free copy of our novel planning guide! Offer expires January 1, 2023.”
- NovelPad “is a novel drafting software designed for the way writers write. Whether you’re a meticulous planner, a free-spirited pantser, or somewhere in between, NovelPad’s got your back. It’s now even easier to reach your NaNo goals this year, with NovelPad’s brand new Note features and full collaborative editing with others in real-time!
Use NovelPad for free during NaNoWriMo! But we’re not leaving you when Camp’s over—we’re giving a 20% discount to all NaNoWriMo participants with the code NANO22, and a 40% discount if you win. Offer expires March 31, 2023.”
- IngramSpark “is an award-winning independent publishing platform, offering indie authors and publishers the ability to create professional print books and ebooks.
Use promo code NANO2022 at checkout for a free book upload. Offer expires March 15, 2023.”
- Aeon Timeline “is a visual hub for your entire story. Whether you are a planner looking to craft a bulletproof story, or a pantser hoping to mold your creativity into a workable story structure, Aeon Timeline helps you develop your plot, create complex backstories for your characters, model fictional universes, and craft a compelling story timeline. Try for free on Mac, Windows and iOS, and use the coupon code NANOWRIMO2022 to get 25% off your Aeon Timeline license. This offer expires December 15, 2022.”
Go to nanowrimo.org/offers to see the full list of discounts and freebies participants have access to this year!
8. Set up incentives for yourself
Sometimes the pride of a job well done just doesn’t cut it for motivation. You might need a little extra incentive to hit those daily goals!
Every person is different—what motivates you? It might be a snack, a little walk, a hangout with friends, or listening to an episode of a podcast.
Rewarding yourself along the way for hitting those smaller goals can keep you focused for a longer amount of time.
9. Sort the rest of your life out
Most of us have jobs, school, and/or family to worry about outside of writing—try to clear up your to-do list for general life responsibilities in October to free yourself up for November. Of course, you can’t do everything ahead of time, but if there are big to-dos you’ve been putting off, time-sensitive tasks you’d rather not worry about later, or any kind of preparation you can take off of your plate for November, now is a great time to get them sorted.
10. Set goals
Everyone knows the overall goal of NaNoWriMo is to write 50,000 words in one month, but what are you personally hoping to get out of it?
How will it help you grow as a writer?
Are you trying something new or experimenting?
Do you want to practice any specific skills?
Is NaNo going to help you set aside your self-critique and get words down?
Understanding exactly what you want to gain out of the experience can help keep you focused and motivated on reaching your goals. Try to make a list or journal about what you personally aim to gain from NaNoWriMo.
Are you ready for NaNoWriMo 2022?
A little Preptober work now can get you ahead of the game and situated for a successful NaNoWriMo.
Be sure to check out these other articles on the topic: