Your Ultimate Guide to Prepping for NaNoWriMo 2018


If you’re the literary type, or if you’ve spent any time at all on Twitter in the months of October or November, then you’ve likely encountered the hashtag #NaNoWriMo, aka, National Novel Writing Month. It’s an annual competition where upwards of 400,000 people sign up from all over the world and make a pledge to write 50,000 words . . . in one month.

Yup, that’s right. In one month.

When I first heard about this, I was filled with a mixture of curiosity and horror. “Not for me,” I said. “No way.”

Fast forward many years later, and here I am: about to hit the “submit” button for my NaNoWriMo profile. Why the change of heart? Even as I swore I would never do it because it seemed so impossible, I also secretly wanted to. And it’s taken me just this long to gather up the courage and make a solid go of it. But before I do, there’s lots of prep work to be done.

Here’s what I am doing to prepare for NaNoWriMo 2018. Perhaps it will give you a few ideas, as well?

1. Figure out your WHY — and post it somewhere that you can look at often throughout the month of November.

My goal in doing NaNoWriMo is to make it a creative experiment. To lighten up and have fun. I often take my writing too seriously, which opens me up to all sorts of debilitating things. Fear of failure, finding my identity in my writing, being critical of every sentence in the drafting process. All of that slows me down. Big time. But if I pledge to write a 50,000 word rough draft in one month, I simply won’t have time for all that nonsense. What is your why? I challenge you to take some time in the next two weeks and journal about it. Own it. Let it be your north star when the going gets tough, and you know it will!

2. Get in the habit now of writing daily and meeting a smaller word count.

If you don’t already have a daily writing practice, a great place to start is by doing what Julia Cameron calls “Morning Pages.” This video explains them in greater detail, but they can either be stream of consciousness thoughts, journaling your prayers, or taking inventory of all the things you are thankful for. The main idea is to practice not censoring yourself (this can be a challenge), experiment with what times of day/environments work best for you to write in, and develop healthy habits that correlate with your writing routine. For example, I’m challenging myself to put my phone on airplane mode before I begin my daily writing practice so that I won’t get so distracted. Again, this is easier said than done :).

3. Create a loose outline or plan for your book.

Please note: You do not have to write novel to participate in NaNoWriMo. Some people write memoirs and even self-help books. Find out more about writing in other genres at Camp NaNoWriMo. Either way, you’ll probably want to do some form of preparation. If you’re writing a novel or a memoir, I suggest grabbing a copy of The Art of Character by David Corbett, and watching Kristen Martin’s YouTube video on outlining your book. If you’re writing a self help, there’s no better guide than Jean Marie Stine’s Writing Successful Self-Help & How-To Books.

4. Decide which program you want to use.

Scrivener is probably the most well known tool for writing and organizing your book, but I also find it pretty complicated to learn. That’s why I’ll be using Novelize It, which is super intuitive, comes with tons of great features, and only costs $5 per month. If you’ve never heard of either of these and it all sounds slightly overwhelming, then by all means use a basic Word program and you’ll be just fine. The main advantage of programs like Novelize It and Scrivener is that they really come in handy during the editing process and allow you to easily move chapters around. Plus, they help you keep track of your daily word count goals, and Novelize It saves your work in real time, so you don’t have to worry about backing up all that hard work on an external hard drive.

5. Speaking of word counts: Do the math!

I’ve heard that the majority of NaNoWriMo participants take Thanksgiving day off. Sounds like a fabulous idea to me! But it also means my daily word count will change. So, 50,000 divided by 29 days (instead of 30) = 1,724 words per day. Yikes! What am I doing again . . .?

6. Treat Yo Self! (as my favorite characters from Parks and Rec would say).

I plan to reward myself four times throughout the month. Essentially every time I hit another 12,500 words (roughly, every 50 pages). Rewards can be whatever your heart desires. Something you need or have been wanting to buy, or indulging in a relaxing experience, like taking a bubble bath or going for a hike. Any small but special thing that will keep you motivated and help you celebrate.

7. Lastly, before November 1st comes along, sign up on the NaNoWriMo website and search for groups in your area.

Half the fun of doing this thing is to recognize you are not in it alone. There are hundreds of thousands of people all over the world in the same boat you are — working their butts off to churn out 50,000 words. I just checked, and in my region alone, there are over 2,000 people signed up and there are in-person meetups planned so we can gather together and work.

Any other ideas for prepping? Comment below if you’ve got anything else to add.