Now that you’ve committed to doing NaNo this year, here are a few tips on how to spend your October wisely to help ensure a win in November! Whether this is your first NaNo or your tenth, prepping is a crucial step.
Non-Writerly Prep Work
Stuff like plotting is important, but I’ll get to that later. Today I’m going to talk about some things you can do in your non-writing life to help get you ready!
Step One: Tell Everyone
Tell your friends and family, tell your kids and your pets and your houseplants, tell strangers on the Internet and shout it to the void: “I’m writing a novel this November!”
Why? First, the people in your life need to know what’s coming. NaNo takes up a lot of time that might otherwise be spent with friends or family.
And because sometime in mid-November, you’ll be staring at a blank scene*, watching the cursor blink to the rhythm of your life slipping away, second by second, and you’ll ask yourself, “What’s the point? This novel is garbage and will always be garbage. Why should I bother?”
Some answers to this question are high-minded and noble: because your story matters, because every first draft is trash and you can get past it, because the story will eat you alive if you don’t get it out, etc. But another fun answer to this is because you bragged to everyone you know how you’re going to win NaNo this year, and soon someone’s going to ask how it’s going, and you can’t very well look them the eye and tell them writing is just too hard and you gave up, can you?
Do you want to see the slight disappointment in their eyes? Or, if they’re the type who never believed you could do it, do you want to see the quiet triumph, the obnoxious smug superiority that they were right, and you really aren’t good enough to hack it? No! So tell everyone, your cheerleaders and detractors alike, because some days all it takes to get your story moving forward is that special blend of shame and spite that comes with the thought of who you’ll have to admit your failure to.
Your cheerleaders will help you with encouragement, and the people who don’t believe you can do it will be choking on their words come December. With some luck and hard work, you can even rub their smug faces in it come Thanksgiving**: “Oh, what’s that Uncle Bob? Yes, my writing is going well, thank you. I actually just finished the first draft of a novel yesterday. I only started it this month! [You deliver the previous line in an Elle Woods, ‘What, like it’s hard?’ voice] Pass the stuffing.”
Step Two: Deep Clean Your Entire House
Okay, maybe you don’t have to deep clean the entire house (though you certainly can if you have the time and energy.) But clean what you can, especially around your writing area. The benefits of this pre-November cleaning are twofold:
- Writing in a clean area is easier, at least for most people. I myself can hardly think if my house is a wreck, and I have to keep my study desk tidy or I can’t focus. But if you’re the type who can work just fine amid chaos, you should still try to clean in October, because
- Cleaning beforehand removes the ability to procrastinate by deep cleaning the house in November. If you’re like me, procrastination is half your writing process most of the year. But in November, there’s no time for that! You have 50k words to write, you can’t spend an entire week dusting every inch of your home! If You’ve already done a lot of cleaning, all that’s left is just maintaining, and that sort of cleaning can be done in like half an hour a day. Cleaning is usually a guilt-free form of procrastination, which is why it’s such a go-to activity for me when I’m trying to draft a new novel. By cleaning your entire home in late October, you’re removing the ability to slack off while still being productive around the house.
Step Three: Half-Price Halloween Candy
This isn’t technically something you can do in October, but if you’re like me, and your writing is fueled mostly by sugar and caffeine, taking some time out to hit the story early in the morning on November 1st pays off all month.
My usual strategy is to take off work the 1st, start writing at midnight, then around 4 or 5 in the morning I drive through empty streets to the 24-hour Wal-Mart and buy as many 100 Grand bars I can get my sleepy little hands on. If you’re working that day, try to squeeze a trip to the store in sometime. Candy can be both fuel and incentive to write, depending on your will power.
If candy isn’t your thing, you can skip this step and instead stock up on… I don’t know, carrot sticks? Whatever healthy people like to eat.
I’ll be talking about the real meat-and-potatoes stuff: writing prep! More specifically, I’ll discuss plotting vs. pantsing, the eternal debate!