6 Things I Did to Prepare for NaNoWriMo

National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is fast approaching. If you’re participating, chances are you’re either scrambling to prepare or you’re sitting back calmly wondering if there’s something you should be doing. If you’re a true pantser, you’ll be picking up your writing implement of choice on November 1st without a second thought to the consequences. Planners and plantsers, on the other hand, know there’s more that can be done to facilitate NaNo success.

As a NaNoWriMo veteran, I’ve tried every strategy, but this year, I went into full planner mode. Here are six things I did to prepare for NaNoWriMo:

1. Announced my novel on nanowrimo.org. I’ve had a profile on nanowrimo.org for many years, so it was easy to announce my novel. I didn’t share a lot of details about it, but I created the novel so that I can at least track my progress throughout the month. If you don’t yet have a profile on nanowrimo.org, now’s the time! NaNoWriMo is only a week away and there are a ton of great resources on the official website to get you through one of the toughest months of your writing life. Through the site, you can share an excerpt or synopsis of your novel, add a cover image, track your progress, participate in the forums, see what events are happening in your region, and much more! At the end of the month, if you’ve reached 50,000 words, you’ll also get a bunch of winner goodies.

2. Connected with writers in my region. As a Municipal Liaison, and a new one at that, it was especially important for me to connect with people in Timmins and the surrounding area. Even if you’re just writing, however, you can benefit from connecting with writers around you who understand the unique challenges of completing a manuscript, and who can provide you with encouragement, support, advice and accountability to get through the roadblocks on your way to 50,000 words.

3. Attended a NaNo Prep workshop. Ok, to be fair, I taught the workshop. I want to to help as many writers as possible kick off November feeling confident and prepared to tackle the NaNo beast. I taught a workshop called Preparing to Write which outlined the basic story elements, talked about brainstorming and outlining techniques, and even included a fun element where participants could choose a random topic out of a jar and do some on-the-spot idea generation. NaNo Prep courses have so much to teach you, and there are many available for free in your region or online.

4. Ensured I have a support system in place. As a mom of four, it’s important to know that while I’m in superpowered novelling mode, my kids are taken care of. I will be attending two write-ins a week to give me some time away from the kids to write, as well as provide support to other writers in my region, so I told my super understanding and supportive life partner to expect my absence during those times. I will, of course, be using plenty of at-home time to write, and am fully stocked up on tea, coffee and wine!

5.Outlined my NaNo novel. Not everyone likes to outline. When you’re writing a first draft of a manuscript, it’s ok to let the words flow and see where they go. I needed to outline this time around because this is my second draft of last year’s novel. I discovered over the course of this year as I reviewed last year’s manuscript that I had more than enough content left to write to write another 50,000 words. My novel is undergoing some serious revisions, with brand new characters and side stories being added to the overall plot which is remaining largely the same. To prepare to tackle the second draft, I wrote a very detailed synopsis of my novel, including scenes that already exist and scenes yet to be written. Then, I went through and highlighted the scenes that I need to write during November this year. I will not be touching the existing scenes for editing until after NaNoWriMo is over.

6. Optimized Scrivener for my NaNo novel. Last year, I got 50% off Scrivener as a goodie for winning NaNoWriMo. I’ve slowly been learning the software over the course of 2017, and now feel quite confident in my ability to use it effectively. Since my novel is a second draft of last year’s novel, I didn’t want to create a whole new project. Ideally, I want to create the new content in my current project then drag and drop the scenes to the appropriate chapters of my existing novel when NaNoWriMo is over. The issue with this was that I couldn’t track wordcount at the folder level, only at the project or document level…or so I thought. I discovered a trick that I will now share with you.

If you have an existing project in which you’d like to add your NaNoWriMo content, first, create a NaNoWriMo 2017 folder. Now click File > Compile. Find your NaNoWriMo 2017 folder in the list of files and folders and make sure it’s checked in the Include column. Then, uncheck all other files and folders. Then click compile. Don’t worry about the file this creates; you can delete it later.

Next, click on Project > Show Project Targets. Change your overall wordcount target to 50,000 words. Click Options in this window. Change the deadline of your project to November 30th, and then click the checkbox marked Count documents included in compile only. You can also change other settings like what days during the week you’ll be writing or whether you receive notifications as you reach session and project targets. Your session target will automatically adjust based on the deadline you set and number of days per week you’ve indicated you will be writing. You can write more often than what you’ve marked; it just helps create more realistic session targets.

Once you’ve saved your project targets, you’ll see that your targets indicate you’ve written no words! That’s because there’s nothing in your NaNoWriMo 2017 folder…yet. Don’t worry, that’s going to start filling up soon!

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Jessica Trudel

Jessica Trudel has been a freelance writer and editor for over a decade. She is an outspoken advocate for mental health awareness, and a supporter of the arts in Northern Ontario.

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