You might be thinking, “National Novel Writing Month is two months away. Why should I think about how to prepare for NaNoWriMo now?”

how to prepare for NaNoWriMo

Completing the NaNoWriMo challenge is no small feat—it can take years to complete a novel, and yet those who step up for NaNoWriMo each year complete an entire first draft in just a month. This averages out to 1,667 words each day (you can download and print the official NaNoWriMo calendar here).

The official rules for NaNoWriMo state that writers are not permitted to start writing until November 1. But that doesn’t mean you have to just sit and wait. You can prepare for it!

Before the month of November, take advantage of the free time you have for some NaNoWriMo prep work.

By following these four ways, you can succeed (and have fun writing) when the time of year to meet your NaNoWriMo goals comes.

4 Ways To Prepare for NaNoWriMo

Although most writers turn their attention to NaNo prep in Preptober (the NaNo community has even dubbed this nickname for the month of October), writers hoping to take on NaNoWriMo for the first time might consider strategizing for National Novel Writing Month even earlier.

To do this, I recommend four ways you can give yourself a jumpstart for NaNoWriMo success:

1. Get to know your characters

Characters are what drive plots forward. Especially main characters, who need to make decisions and take action in order for the plot to advance.

The better you understand your characters’ motives, histories, and personalities, the more naturally the story will grow once it’s time to write.

That's why writers who take a little time to get to know each of their story's key characters have a huge advantage when November arrives.

How can you get to know your characters better? Take a look at these valuable posts for tips and strategies on how to write characters, some accompanied with free templates and practice exercises:

2. Explore your world

Whether you’re creating an entire fantasy universe or just a small Midwestern town, the setting of your story can be powerful.

Take a walk through the streets (or fly through the galaxies) and make sure you know the history, major landmarks, and secrets behind your world.

Some authors, like J.R.R. Tolkien, take twenty years to craft their worlds, while other pantsers explore their story's world when they write their first draft.

However, it doesn't hurt to brainstorm world building ideas and jot down essential setting elements that will impact your character's perspective in their world, and challenge them in their plot.

You don't need to have a flawless concept of your world before November, but having a general idea about how your world works will probably help you tighten your story idea. Maybe you even want to make a playlist for your book, inspired by the story's landscape!

Brainstorming a world can be a lot of fun—but also can intimidate writers before the writing process. For some writing tips on how to build your world, learn more from these articles:

3. Plan your plot

Star this point. Pay attention to it.

When it comes to writing and editing big ideas, you often want to start with plot and structure. Why? Because plot represents the conflicts and events your main character will face—and that they will need to make decisions about in order to move forward in your story.

Plotters have an advantage here, as you can break down your plot points as much as you want before NaNoWriMo starts. But for writers who are more fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants (pantser), it can help to at least know the major tentpole moments.

To get you started, learn and study the Six Elements of Plot. Or, the major events that happen in every unit of story—from an act to a scene to a beat.

You can learn all about the Six Elements of Plot in this post. For a quick recap, they are:

  • Exposition
  • Inciting Incident
  • Rising Action
  • Dilemma (Literary Crisis)
  • Climax
  • Denouement (Resolution)

A story that doesn't include the six elements of plot will lack an ability to develop characters and move the plot forward. One that includes these will likely avoid huge structural issues that will make it all the more difficult to edit your book after NaNoWriMo.

Having at least a rough idea of where your story is headed will also help stave off writer's block—allowing you to make the most of your writing time in November.

4. Clear your schedule

Once November hits, getting those 50,000 words in is going to keep you busy, no matter how much planning you do.

If there’s anything you can take care of in the months before November, do it. Clear what you can in your schedule now and maybe write a synopsis. Join some writing sprints or write-ins, but instead of writing scenes, focus on planning instead of writing the book. Figure out how you'll avoid social media or other distractions when it counts. Practice this.

The fewer distractions and commitments on your plate while you write, the better.

And the more you practice planning, writing, and how to dedicate your time to writing before November 1, the more likely you'll meet your NaNoWriMo goals and come out a winner.

Writing is a Marathon

Remember, writing a novel is a marathon… and taking on the challenge of NaNoWriMo is like trying to sprint the full distance.

Help yourself along by doing what you can to prepare, pacing yourself, and taking advantage of the supportive NaNoWriMo community.

You can get more tips to complete NaNoWriMo here.

And if you don't know how or where to start, start with plot. Resources like The Write Plan Planner can help you get organized, and ready.

How about you? What have you done so far to prepare for NaNoWriMo? Let me know in the comments.

Stop trying to write and start finishing your book. The Write Plan Planner is designed to help you plan, write, and finish your book. Rock NaNoWriMo with the guide that will take you from idea to finished book.

Get your Write Plan Planner


Pick your poison: character, setting, or plot.

Start planning this element of your NaNoWriMo story, and take at least fifteen minutes to get those thoughts fleshed out on paper.

Then, share your plans in the comments, and be sure to leave feedback for three other writers!

By day, Emily Wenstrom, is the editor of short story website wordhaus, author social media coach, and freelance content marketing specialist. By early-early morning, she is E. J. Wenstrom, a sci-fi and fantasy author whose first novel Mud will release in March 2016.

Share to...