It feels like we only just had Camp NaNoWriMo in July (where did August and most of September go?!) but in just over a month it’ll be National Novel Writing Month. Maybe you don’t know what story you’re planning on working on yet. Maybe you’ve picked but will more than likely change your mind another six times before going back to the same one you chose in the first place. Whether you’re a pantser or a plotter, there’s definitely some things you can be doing to get ready.
It wouldn’t be a pep talk from me without a mention about Pinterest. This is an invaluable tool for the plotter or the pantser; you can start building inspiration for your story and if you have several ideas, using Pinterest is a really good radar for which story is holding your attention or tickling your muses the most. It’s also great to have a moodboard to fall back on during Nano if you get stuck or lack inspiration.
A WRITING COMMUNITY
This is something that’s really great about Camp Nano. Find some people who will also be attempting Nano. Make sure they’re going to encourage you, and that you can do the same. It doesn’t have to be a Taylor Swift size squad of authors – just a close few friends or peers that can keep you accountable and kick your butt if needs be. Also, remember that you need to be that friend in return.
START WRITING NOW
One of the biggest reasons I struggled with winning in the past was because for the month before November I didn’t write regularly. Try to get into the habit of writing every day or at least every other. Set small goals for yourself so that the bigger goals of Nano won’t seem so cray-cray.
DO SOME PLANNING (even if the thought of it makes you feel ill)
Whether you’re a pantser and just like to see where the story goes, or you’re the kind of writer that has a three hundred year backdated family tree for your characters, a little planning goes a long way. There’s lots of ways you can approach this:
- Post-its with key scene ideas you have
- Spider diagrams for characters
- *whispers* an outline of your story arc if you like that sort of thing
- Have I mentioned Pinterest?
PLAN SOME MORE (I’m sorry)
This time, I’m not talking about actually considering the main bones of a story, I’m talking about planning your month. Are you going to write every day? Will you fit it in before classes or work, or in the evening. Start thinking about when you write best, when you’re most energetic. If you know that for the first week you’re going to have early starts, plan around them. A little forward thinking will really help you out when you’re in the thick of it.
DON’T BE AFRAID TO TRY SOMETHING NEW
Software and stationary aren’t the be all and end all, but a writer should feel comfortable with their tools. If you’ve always used word but find you’re saving each chapter in a separate document and losing track, maybe something like Scrivener would work better for you. But remember – November 1st is not the time to start experimenting so if you want to try out something different this NaNoWriMo (such as Scrivener or WriteOrDie), make sure you test it out before.
There are so many good writing guides out there with practical advice for aspiring authors. On Writing by Stephen King is a great one, and Erica Crouch is releasing a guide to help writers survive their first draft – just in time for Nano! In these prelude months, it’s a good time to start focusing and following the lead of authors who have been there and can offer some great tips.
READ SOME MORE
Read for fun too! They (whoever ‘they’ are) say, ‘read in your genre’. This might be tricky if you’re going to leave it to the last minute to choose a story, but if you continue to read the books you love, chances are your own prose will develop!
TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF
I know it sounds cheesy but a healthy body does really lead to a healthy mind. Start getting into the habit of getting enough sleep and drinking lots of water. This increases brain function which naturally leads to novels that are ten times more awesome*. Getting yourself in an endless cycle of writing until 4am and struggling through on energy drinks and junk food is a quick fix and probably not one that will see you through to a victory. Prioritize your health now and reap the benefits in November.
*not scientifically proven
Hannah Davies is an English Literature student and a junior editor at independent publisher PATCHWORK PRESS. When not working or studying, she can usually be found creating new recipes, marathoning TV series, or mothering everyone around her.
Hannah writes Young Adult and New Adult titles, generally science fiction, fantasy, or contemporary with magical twists. She’s a sucker for a retelling of any kind and loves to see ancient mythology brought to a modern setting.
Her debut short story was published in the PATCHWORK PRESS anthology Polaris Awakening in May 2015.