National Novel Writing Month…or how all the “cool kids” say: NaNoWriMo, is soon upon us. The goal is simple, write a novel (50,000 words) during the month of November. Since there are 30 days in the month, this breaks down to an average of 1,666.7 words a day (of course a dastardly 666 numeric would be included in this brand of writer’s torment).
The challenge is therefore pretty basic, but that doesn’t make it easy. It takes a good amount of motivation and discipline to hit the 50k goal.
I have unofficially participated in previous years, but this is the first year that I had posted a project with real project goals on the official NaNoWriMo site AND the first year I participated in what the cool kids also call preptober.
What is Preptober?
In case spending a full month dedicated to writing a book in November isn’t quite enough. Preptober is using the month of October to get yourself hyped up and ready to work on this goal.
Main objectives for preptober:
- Develop a story idea and flush it out into a real concept
- Create and develop the characters of the story
- Construct an outline for the plot
- Build the world that your story will take place in (research)
- Get yourself as emotionally ready to take on the task of writing a novel (so I guess stocking up on chocolate and caffeine?)
Coincidentally enough those are the five main objectives, and there are five weeks in October! Those NaNoWriMo people are so smart that they subdivided those prepping objectives to be a key focus for a week in October.
I tried to follow along with this systematic approach, and found it pretty useful. But it was very structured, and seemed most beneficial if you are a Plotter like me.
Where I struggled with Preptober:
- The pacing was too slow/segmented. I tend to develop my characters and world building along with the flow of plot ideas. I found myself ignoring the boundaries of the weeks and focused on what I found important to develop in the moment. Plus, a whole month to plan out a novel was too long for me.
- Don’t do what I did... Because I had more time than I actually needed, I ended up plotting out and outlining a second novel. Now that I’m less than a week from the start of NaNoWriMo, I’m flip flopping and questioning which project to take on.
- I got too excited for the drafting process. This might not be the biggest deal, but as I was planning out my project, all I wanted to do was dive into writing the dang story. And then I had hesitations on whether or not to jump in and then only count the words I had written in November. Essentially things got muddy and that’s when I felt myself pause on my story and started to fall out of it. Which is also what led me to develop another story idea…
What value I took from Preptober:
- Writing a novel is hard work. Preptober is a great way to focus your attention on planning with special curated resources. Whether you follow the weeks to the letter or use it as planning suggestions, it is helpful to enter into NaNoWriMo with a developed idea.
- It helps reduce burnout and getting stuck while writing during November. Writing an average of nearly 2k a day is no small task. Getting yourself psyched and prepped during October helps carry you to the finish line in November.
- It gives you an opportunity to recruit your support system. This year was also different for me because I connected with even more writers participating and found some solid accountability partners. These are other writers who are going to cheer me on (and vice-versa). Having a buddy system takes this challenge and transforms it into a communal experience. Who ever said writing is an isolated task?
Wait you mentioned resources for NaNoWriMo prep?
Why yes, I did! All of them can be found here. But these are the ones I found the most valuable during my prep!
Quiz to determine what planning method works best for you! (I got the 9-step plot dot)
And Finally… My personal check list items that you might want to consider
Do you have…
- An idea that you are excited and passionate about?
- The time and motivation to turn the 50,000 word goal into a reality?
- A support system in place/someone to vent to?
- A daily word count goal and/or scheduled catch-up days?
- A way to track your progress?
If you answered yes to all the above, then you are definitely ready to dive into NaNoWriMo. If you answered no, go for it anyway. Even if you don’t “win” NaNoWriMo any words written are not wasted.
All of this is essentially to say, that all writers have very different processes when it comes to their approach to writing a novel. And blessedly, there is no right or wrong way to do it. That is therefore where I see the biggest value of NaNoWriMo, it is a huge platform that just pushes us writers to write. At the end of the day (or month) the most important thing is to continue to write and create.