Preparing for NaNoWriMo? Step 1: Clear the Decks and Collect Ingredients

Ingredients set out to be transformed into imaginative cakes and tortes. Poppelsdorfer Schloss café, Bonn, Germany. © Laurel Decher, 2016.
Ingredients set out to be transformed into imaginative cakes and tortes. Poppelsdorfer Schloss café, Bonn, Germany. © Laurel Decher, 2016.

A friend (waving to Jane!) asked me how to prepare for National Novel Writing Month and after I sent her the third e-mail, suggested I write a blog post since November 1st is coming right up.

This is the first post in a short series on preparing for National Novel Writing Month. You can find the second post about finding the core of your story here and the third post about organizing your story bits and pieces into a winning shape here. Happy Writing!

Jane had lots of good ways to clear the decks:

  1. Read Chris Baty’s No Plot? No Problem!
  2. Freeze a few extra dinners.
  3. Set up to write. Get the writing set-up organized, whether that means lots of spiral notebooks or Scrivener on your computer or iPad.
  4. Plan your time. Block out writing-free days in November. Set up word-count targets in Scrivener or use the free online Pacemaker.

I had a few more ideas about the actual writing prep. It looks a little different depending on the kind of inspiration you’ve got for this project, but it’s all about putting it where you can find it again.

  1. No inspiration? Then set up virtual or physical shoeboxes*, go out into your world with all your senses active and find some. The things that appeal to you personally give your book that unique voice people are always talking about. Don’t skimp here.
  2. Idea for a character? Try the brilliant and deceptively simple Reverse Backstory Tool to nail down your character’s wants and needs.
  3. Idea for a setting? Go to the library and get a pile of photo books or picture books that give you visuals. When you get stuck writing, dip into a book and whatever you see, goes into the story. If you’ve got a contemporary, realistic story in mind, you could try the Urban Setting Thesaurus or the Rural Setting Thesaurus.
  4. Idea for some part of a story? Try this fascinating Day by Day Outline for NaNoWriMo. This list could save you when it’s 10 PM and you’re sleeping on the keyboard, but you want another 1,000 words.

*Virtual shoeboxes can be anything from a Word file with a long, alphabetized list of ideas of all kinds, a private blog that lets you search for that elusive link, a Pinterest board, or a nifty app on your smartphone. Pick something fun and easy to use.

Have favorite ways to get ready for NaNoWriMo? Share your tips for success in the comments below.


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Laurel Decher

LAUREL DECHER lives on the outskirts of a mid-sized city in Germany, between a medieval chapel on St. James' Way and a boundary marker tree complete with scary face. It's a little surprising, since she expected to live in Vermont for the rest of her life. You just never know when adventure will call! She writes stories about all things whimsical, vegetable, or musical. When she's not lost, she can be found on Twitter and on her blog, This Is An Overseas Post. TROUBLE WITH PARSNIPS (Oct 2018) is her first book for young readers (ages 9-12) and the first Seven Kingdoms Fairy Tale. Photo: © Jan Decher.

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