11 Ways to Prepare for NaNoWriMo

GlassesIn an earlier post I explained why this is an excellent time to start preparing for NaNoWriMo.

Today I am going to give you 11 ways that you can start getting ready for this years’ fiction writing challenge in November.

  1. Establish a Writing Routine. If you don’t already have a regular writing routine then start one now. Is your best time for writing between 5.30 and 7.30 in the morning?  Is it in the evening? Find out now and get into a routine of writing every day.
  2. Plan Your Schedule. I don’t only mean scheduling time for your writing. You need to schedule times for everything else. Take a look at your calendar for November. Is there anything you can do now and cross off the list before November arrives. Draw up a schedule remembering to include your daily writing routine and any other activities and commitments in November that you cannot reschedule.  This will help you to avoid being caught off-guard by something you forgot that you had to do during the month.
  3. Come up with a Novel Idea. There is nothing worse than the 1st of November rolling around and there you are… still struggling to come up with an idea for your novel. Now is a better time to come up with some ideas for good stories.  You have plenty of time to choose a favorite in time for the challenge.
  4. Start Plotting and Outlining. After you have selected one story idea, start thinking about the major turning points in the plot. Will there be sub-plots? Start outlining. How many chapters will there be? Briefly note down what will happen in each chapter.
  5. Create Character Profiles. Write a bio for each of your main characters detailing their personality type, appearance, voice, emotions, motivations, and any other important character traits.
  6. Choose Your Narrative Voice. Decide which narrative voice you will use, for example will you write in the First Person or Third Person? Will you write in the Present Tense or Past Tense?
  7. Do Your Research. Do any research that you will need for the story. Is there a location in your story that you’ve never visited? Take a trip if it’s nearby, or start researching the location online. Research any other topics you might need while you are writing this story, such as weapon descriptions, human anatomy, medical terms, and forensic techniques.
  8. Set Your Own Higher Target. Since most novels are longer  than 50,000 words consider upping your personal target to 75,000 or 80,000 words. This is a good idea for two reasons. One, you’ll be that much closer to a novel-length manuscript.  And two, since you will be writing close to 2,500 words per day you will have a nice safety buffer. Even if you miss your daily target on a day or two, you’ll still be on track to finish the official challenge of 50,000 words..
  9. Select Your Software: Sure, you can write your novel using Microsoft Word if you want to, but many authors prefer to use dedicated novel-writing software. Whether you splash out for an expensive application like Final Draft, choose an inexpensive alternative like Scrivener, or go with a free option such as yWriter or Storybook, now is a good time to make your selection and become familiar with the application.
  10. Get a Writing Buddy. With a challenge like this it can really help to have the support of another writer or a group of writers. It’ll be even better if they are also taking part in NaNoWriMo too. If you don’t know any you should be able to find some new writing buddies through the official site or even through social networks like Twitter.
  11. Learn More about Writing Fiction. It’s one thing to know you want to write a novel. It’s another thing entirely to understand the common techniques of plot and structure, character development etc. You still have time to take a short course or to read some books on how to write a novel. I have listed several resources that might be useful on this page.

As you can see there is plenty that you can do now so you will be able to hit the ground running on 1st November.

Next>> 7 More Ways to Prepare for NaNoWriMo

About the Author: Gary McLaren

Gary McLaren is the author of 'The Indie Author's Guide to Publishing Ebooks'. He also manages several web sites for professional writers including Publish Your Own Ebooks and Worldwide Freelance.


  1. I’m well into plotting my story. Still lots on your list to finish too. I love the idea of making the overall target word count higher than 50,000. That is exactly what I will (try to) do. Thanks for the tips.

  2. 1) Establish a Writing Routine – Check. I write once I get home from school every night or around that same time on days when I don’t have classes.
    2) Plan Your Schedule – Sort of check. I have no schedule. I have few outside activities.
    3) Come up with a Novel Idea – Check. I came up with that some time ago, along with ideas that should keep me busy for the next few years of NaNoWriMos and Camp NaNoWriMos.
    4) Start Plotting and Outlining – Start? Check. Finish . . . um.
    5) Create Character Profiles – Since many of the characters appeared in at least one of the previous stories, check. Those that haven’t I’m working on.
    6) Choose Your Narrative Voice – See here’s the funny thing. I write third person past tense, but for NaNoWriMo, I’ve been writing first drafts in first person past tense to help me stay inside their heads.
    7) Do Your Research – Working on this.
    8) Set Your Out Higher Target – Check. Goal set at 77K. I know that’s a funny number, but last November I wrote 76,892 words. I want to beat that. I wasn’t able to with Camp NaNoWriMo either time this year, despite beating 50K both times . . . and 60K. I want to break that record next month.
    9) Select Your Software – Check. Last November I use Microsoft Word, but after getting a discount on Scrivener from that, I decided to get it and I love it.
    10) Get a Writing Buddy – Um. I communicate with people working on NaNoWriMo via twitter, so I guess you could say they are my writing buddies.
    11) Learn More about Writing Fiction – Also working on this one.

    Now, I’m going to go back to asking insane, but very relevant, questions on the NaNoWriMo forums to see if I can get help keeping my characters from going insane.


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