Preparing for NaNoWriMo

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Yesterday, I gave an online presentation on plotting for NaNoWriMo, for the India chapter. (To access it, just join the group on FB by clicking here.)

If you are a writer, chances are that you must have heard of NaNoWriMo. It’s a month-long challenge where writers across the globe aim to finish 50000 words in 30 days. So, if you break those words by daily requirement, you need to write 1766 words or roughly 7 MS Word pages a day.

From the time Chris Baty introduced this challenge, way back in 1998, novels were regularly birthed in the month of November. I personally know many writers who would have never written a novel, if not for NanNoWrimo.

Why 50000 words? An average novel is anywhere between 50k-90k words. If you finish the first 50k words, you are half way there. Considering that most writers suffer from procrastination, this challenge eliminates the “starting problem” and delivers a kick in the pants to get their muses show up for work. What’s not to love about a goal like this?


But I get it. It’s scary to face that empty screen. How the heck are you going to fill it all up 50000 words, your mind demands, poking you in the ribs. Muttering an ouch, you try to ignore your doubts and put on a brave face.


Ignoring your mind’s questions is always a bad idea. That question is actually your sub-conscious asking you whether you are committed, whether you are prepared, whether you are writer enough to win this challenge. You have to answer it. You don’t have a choice.

It’s surprising how often we ignore this voice. All it needs is the assurance that you can do it.

It’s also surprising that, we would never think of showing up at an interview or an examination without being prepared, yet many writers just join in at the last minute (or join without any prep) and hope to win. Not gonna happen!


Like all challenges, this one is also tough, it will test you and scare you and if you do not stand committed, it will break you and push you out (no matter how much you shrug it off as cest la vie, you will know that you failed and sometimes, that’s the bitterest of all criticism.)

So. Here are my top 3 preparation tips for anybody thinking to attempt NaNoWriMo this year.

1. Start NOW.

Never ignore your fears and doubts. Face them, answer them, tackle them. Tell your mind that you are going to do it – period. Because – ta da – you have a plan! What plan? Now is the time to plan. You have nearly 2 weeks until Day 1 of the challenge. Spend this time plotting your novel. How to do that? Get all your previous half-completed novels out and select one that’s the most developed. You have none? Then start plotting a fresh idea, something that has been on your mind for a long time. You don’t have one of those either? Go to Plot Generator, keep generating plots until you find the one that piques your interest, and start working on it.

2. Form a Habit.

The habit of NaNo Prep – this simply means you pick a time, ideally the same time (for me, early morning just after I wake up is the best time) and make it your NaNo time. Spend 30 minutes every day this month plotting your novel (you are encouraged to spend more time, but if you have only 30 minutes, then you better start writing!). Not only will this eliminate “oh my god what comes now, I don’t know!” moments during NaNoWriMo month, this will also set the habit of sitting and writing everyday in November. A couple of links given below talk about the same idea, so don’t skip reading them. The idea is to write 7 pages every day and that can happen only when you make it a habit.


3. Be Ready.

Mentally, physically, emotionally – be ready. You want to be a writer? It ain’t gonna happen by itself. You want to complete a novel? It ain’t gonna write itself. You want to be famous, beloved, immortal? You need to do everything to make it happen. Get your laptop (or notebooks and pens) in order. Get your writing space (please tell me you have one!) in order. After you finish outlining and doing character sketches this month, save those notes in a folder and keep it on your writing desk, so that you can refer them any time. Look forward to editing your novel this January… that would give you the impetuous to finish the damn thing in November!

All others come later. You be prepared with a blurb and an outline, with a decent workspace and laptop/PC/writing medium, and you show up every single day next month and commit to writing at least 1800 words… your story WILL come to you. And that’s how you win a challenge ☺. All the best!


Homework links:


One thought on “Preparing for NaNoWriMo

  1. Pingback: What’s Your Langolier? | Radhika Meganathan

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