Tips for NaNoWriMo, Part 2

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Happy October! For those of us who are planning to participate in NaNoWriMo, October should be a very important month. (And I see by the WordPress Reader under the tag of NaNoWriMo that I am not alone in this thinking. Seriously, for the last month, I’ve been obsessively reading every post on WordPress that has been tagged as such, and it really exploded today!) There is a lot to prepare in advance, and I don’t just mean the story. Let’s face it, planning a story is only part of what one should to do prepare for NaNo.

Today, I’m going to share some more tips for what you could do throughout this month to make sure you’re ready to write on November 1st.

A few weeks ago, I shared some ideas for these pre-NaNo months that could help anyone who was planning to participate get ready. All of those tips still work for this month too. Honestly, if you’re new to NaNoWriMo especially, I suggest you learn what works for you now, because you’re not going to want to spend your first few days of writing trying to figure out where the best place is to write, or when you can get to it, or other things like that.

1. Consumables
NaNoWriMo is not the time for sleep. Caffeine can be a crucial ingredient for the month, so make sure you’re stocked up on your favorite poison. I don’t care for coffee, so I usually drink cappuccino (the kind from a powder). I drink iced tea, even in cold months, but it’s normally decaf. Last year someone suggested switching to regular tea for November, so I may try that too. But for my birthday this year, I got a Keurig machine. Strange for someone who doesn’t like coffee, I know, but since I discovered that I rather enjoy flavored coffees, I’ve gone kind of crazy for it. So I have a lot of that stocked up for November.

More than beverages, though, many people find that they want to snack more during NaNoWriMo. I know not everyone is as self-indulgent as I, so if you’re more health conscious, you may want to skip the chocolate. Personally, though, I have plans to go to some stores on November 1 in the afternoon and buy up a bunch of post-Halloween-sale candy. Chips are also a staple for some, or any other snack-type foods you like.

2. Writing Tools
This may seem kind of obvious, but there are plenty of things that you may assume you’d remember, or you’d have available, but won’t be able to find when the time comes. Make sure you have any notebooks you may need, pens or pencils, binders, planners, whatever physical items you use for writing. Put them all in one place and even contained in a transportable bag, box, etc. if your location for writing tends to change (either within the house or to coffee shops, library, or friend’s house). I would advise that even if you are a true computer writer and don’t use pen/paper for any stage of writing that you still carry a notebook and pen or pencil with you during November. It’s a good back up in case anything goes wrong with electronic devices, and this is not a time to risk that.

In the virtual sense, make sure you know what programs or apps you want to use and have them on any computers or devices you may use. If you’ve heard a lot about a program but haven’t tried it yet (like Scrivener or Evernote), download it now and play around with it before November. During NaNoWriMo is no time to be trying to learn a new software. I have some more virtual tools that I use for writing that I’ll share during the rest of this month too.

3. Writing Buddies
I’ve mentioned before that now is the time to be finding your home region on the NaNoWriMo website. More than that, this is a good time to start scheduling your month for local events, if you can make it to those. I won’t say that it’s a necessity to attend, as I would be a hypocrite if I did. I’ve never been to a write-in, just the last few years’ kick-off parties. Write-ins are usually 45 minutes away, and I’m a stay-at-home, homeschooling mom, so it’s hard to get away. This year, though, my local library, which is about 5 minutes away, is going to have weekly write-ins, so I’m working out plans to at least go to the first one and see how it goes.

Whether you go to in-person events or not, it can be nice to connect with others in your area, even if only online. Introduce yourself in the forums, see if there is an online chat you can join in on, and just be part of the community. It’s easy to get overwhelmed with the community if you let yourself, which is why I mostly stick to my region’s forums, and don’t venture much into the main forums.

Something else to be thinking about now is how you might best go about doing some word wars once November starts. (Word wars are where you and at least one other person agree on a set amount of time, usually 10-15 minutes, start writing at the same time, and compare your word count at the end.) Last year I was part of my first word wars, and let me tell you, they are very motivating. They were all virtual, taking place over Skype in a group some people from my region created. Almost every day there were word wars going on in the evening, and most of the Wrimos who were there regularly finished NaNo at least a week early, citing word wars as the reason why.

If you know people in person who are also doing NaNo, they’d be the obvious choice for word war competitors. However, you can usually find someone to go head-to-head with in your region, at write-ins esp, or if all else fails, there’s a forum for that: http://nanowrimo.org/forums/word-wars-prompts-sprints

4. Involve Other Senses
So number 1 kind of covered taste, but that’s not really what I mean. I’ve mentioned in a previous post about how the time leading up to November is a great time to discover what kind of writing atmosphere you need (if you don’t already know). Do you require absolute silence? Some kind of white noise? Music? The last one is what I’m referring to right now.

Some people create a playlist for every story. I’ve read about people who will find music that matches the theme of their story, make a playlist from it (even if just on YouTube), and listen to it all month. Then, when November is over and they want to go back later and either finish the novel or revise it, they can listen to that music again, and it will put them right back in the mood. I’ve never done this, I think because music doesn’t work that way in my head. Or maybe it’s because I’m too lazy to spend time tracking down what music would fit my novel (though this year, I may just have the perfect music, given the subject matter).

One year, I did spend the whole month going back and forth between these two playlists: D&E NaNo songs, NaNoMusical songs

Whatever your taste in music is, an alternative to creating an audio scene for your story is creating an olfactory scene. Scent memory is said to be very powerful. Go to the store and smell all the candles or all the scented wax (if you have or are willing to buy the wax melter to go with it). Think of your story, what it’s about, where it’s set, who the main character(s) is/are. Is it a romance? Maybe something flowery or sensual. Is it set in a tropical location? Something with coconut or tropical fruit, perhaps. There are outdoor scents if your story involves a lot of forest or other outdoor scenes. Not every story lends itself easily to a scent, but pick something that smells right and have it burning/melting near you while you write all month. Then later, you may just be able to immerse yourself back into the book by activating that scent again.

5. To Sprint or Not To Sprint
NaNoWriMo begins at midnight on November 1. This year, that falls on Saturday night/Sunday morning. If you’re the kind who stays up late, or can make an exception for one night, you can start writing right at midnight and get some words under your belt before going to bed. It’s purely a mental trick, getting a jump start on the day’s word count, but many people love to do the midnight sprint.


If you read my first Tips post, hopefully you have been getting used to how you like to write–what format you prefer, what items you’ll need, what kind of writing environment you desire. If not, there is still time to do that. The best advice I can give is to start writing every day right now. Whether that writing is pre-writing for your NaNoNovel (brainstorming, outlining, character creation) or just free writing to get in the habit, it’s a great idea to warm up before November starts, and not jump in cold.

Are you considering NaNoWriMo? Give me a shout if you’re participating, and share what you do in October to get ready. Feel free to add me as a buddy on the site, though let me know you came from here somehow.

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