5 Things You Can Do Now To Set Yourself Up For Success During NaNoWriMo

If you’ve been writing for some time, you know the deal about NaNoWriMo. Even if you’ve yet to undertake this glorious, tortuous event of nonstop writing, I imagine you have at least heard of NaNoWriMo.

If not, no shame in that! Check out the about page on the official NaNoWriMo site to learn more about the tradition, then click back here to learn how to empower yourself to get started.

I’m not sure when you’ve stumbled upon this post – maybe it’s mid-July and you want to get started early, or maybe it’s October 31 and you’re scrambling to get prepared for tomorrow. Perhaps you’re already halfway through NaNoWriMo, and you’re making one final effort to finish strong. No matter where you are in the process, this guide is for you, writer.

Disclaimer: this post contains affiliate links, meaning I receive a very, very small commission for any items purchased through my links.

5 Things You Can Do Now To Set Yourself Up For Success During NaNoWriMo

1. Practice word sprints.

PRACTICE WORD SPRINTS

Let’s say you’re going to run a marathon. But this isn’t an ordinary marathon: you have to cross the finish line in three hours or less.

(For reference, the fastest marathon ever completed was exactly two hours. Yes, I googled it.)

You’ve done everything you can to prepare for the race: your water bottle’s full, your wristbands are secured, and you have some cute new running shorts. You crouch at the starting line, rearing to go, and take off. The wind in your hair, the blood in your veins! It’s exhilarating!

For, like, five minutes.

Before long, your leg starts to cramp. Then your lungs burn, and every breath scrapes the back of your throat in a way that water can’t soothe. Your new running shorts are soaked through with sweat, and within an hour you have to stop for your own safety.

It didn’t matter how excited you felt when you approached the starting line. Without proper training, you can’t carry yourself far.

NaNoWriMo is like the writer’s marathon. If you aren’t prepared to write consistently over a long period of time (1,667 daily words for 30 days, totaling 50K words), you’ll grow weary.

The solution? Practice with word sprints.

It might feel weird to practice writing. Think of it like a workout: you’re stretching your muscles before you run, so you don’t get hurt.

In the same way, with writing sprint practices, you’re training yourself to write faster so you don’t get overwhelmed come November.

Added bonus: writing sprints are helpful in training yourself to care less about what you write.

Wait, what?

That’s a problem I ran into during my time in the throes of NaNoWriMo: the words came slowly because I was worried about the quality of my work. With NaNoWriMo, the objective is to write a first draft – not a complete novel.

That’s why writing sprints are so essential to the NaNoWriMo process. So get your laptop, set a timer, and get training!

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2. Gather inspiration.

GATHER INSPIRATION

Although you need the proper training to be prepared for NaNoWriMo, you shouldn’t neglect the importance of good ol’ inspiration. While discipline keeps you going, inspiration gets you started.

I know that staying inspired to write isn’t an easy as “getting inspired.” So here are some rapid-fire ways to gather inspiration leading up to NaNoWriMo:

Digital storyboards.

This is my favorite inspiration-gathering method purely because it’s so fun.

The nice thing about Pinterest is that you can use “sections,” or sub-boards, for specific story elements. I like to use them for character aesthetics.

Another great option is to create a vision board on Pinterest. Mine is full of pictures of women writing in stylish European cafés, but you can put whatever inspires you in your vision board.

Physical storyboards.

This one is just like the Pinterest storyboards, but it’s a little more hands-on and a little more messy (if you’re like me and buy regular Elmer’s glue).

When I started planning a new story a few months ago, I decided I needed a physical reminder of why I loved the story I was undertaking. So I curated my Pinterest storyboard, screenshotted and printed the pins, and cut and pasted them into the pages of my journal.

Story playlists.

If you’re the kind of person who listens to music while they work, building playlists based on your story is an excellent way to generate your excitement for your work.

Some ideas of playlists to make:

  • Plot-inspired playlists
  • Character-specific playlists
  • Character relationship playlists
  • Chapter-by-chapter chronological playlist
  • Inspirational brainstorming playlist

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3. Start a “Get Unstuck” List

START A “GET UNSTUCK” LIST

This is a fun one, but it’s oh-so practical when November comes around.

Basically, a “get unstuck” list is a checklist of ideas that you can use as a reference when you get stuck while you’re writing. During a time like NaNoWriMo, when time is so precious, it’s invaluable to have this list to ward off writer’s block.

Examples of ideas for your “get unstuck” list:

  • Protagonist receives a threatening letter.
  • Protagonist shares a kiss with Antagonist.
  • Someone has been kidnapped!
  • A close friend of Protagonist has committed a crime and is now on the run from the police.

Remember, your ideas can range from basic twists to something absolutely ridiculous. When it comes to NaNoWriMo, the book just has to be written, not good.

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4. Set up your NaNoWriMo profile.

SET UP YOUR NANOWRIMO PROFILE

If you’ve already done this, skip ahead to the next step!

While you work tirelessly towards that novel, you can keep track of your progress using your NaNoWriMo profile! Get yourself hype for November by filling out your profile and novel information in advance.

5. Build your community.

BUILD YOUR COMMUNITY

“Writing, at its heart, is a solitary pursuit, designed to make people depressoids, drug addicts, misanthropes, and antisocial weirdos.”

Mindy Kaling, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?

“Writing is a solitary business. It takes over your life. In some sense, a writer has no life of his own. Even when he’s there, he’s not really there.”

Paul Auster, The New York Trilogy

There’s this notion that writing is a closed-door, hunched-over-your-desk-with-a-fourth-coffee-and-a-third-cigarette kind of activity.

I want to encourage you to deviate from this idea.

Like these quotes from Kaling and Auster, it’s clear that solitary writing practices make you weird (and I know weird; I was homeschooled till college).

Don’t misunderstand me, now. I am a hardcore introvert. I’m typing these words in the coffee shop with my music1 turned up in my earbuds so nobody talks to me.

However, although writing is sometimes solitary, it should never be a lonely activity.

I write alone at times, but I always tell my husband about it later. Oftentimes I write with my husband (praise God for giving me a creative husband!), or alongside one of my writing buddies.

But it can be hard to find writer friends in real life. That’s what social media is for.

We can dog on social media all day long – and I probably will – but in this time, we have the unique opportunity for connection with likeminded individuals around the world. Why wouldn’t we take advantage of that and connect with fellow writers on the internet? (Safely, of course).

If you’re feeling a little lost and need a place to start, follow me on Instagram! I love chatting with fellow writers on there. Just send me a DM and say you came from this post, and we’ll chat!


Recap

Let’s recap.

To best prepare for NaNoWriMo in November, there are 5 steps you can take right now:

  1. Exercise your writing muscles with word sprints.
  2. Gather inspiration and get yourself hyped for your novel.
  3. Start a “get unstuck” list to combat writer’s block in November.
  4. Set up your NaNoWriMo profile.
  5. Build your community (starting with me on Instagram!).

Any questions or thoughts? Drop a comment below, or send me a DM on Instagram to get a quicker response. Happy writing!

  1. Side note/shameless plug: my brother is a musician and you should listen to his music. His name is Jackson Glas and you can find him on Spotify, Apple Music, or wherever you listen. Back to the regularly scheduled program now. ↩︎

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