Participating in NaNoWriMo? Start Planning Now!

by Bess Cozby
published in Writing

I stepped into Starbucks this morning and saw a sign for Pumpkin Spice Lattes. Although the weather isn’t exactly Autumn-crisp just yet, it was a stark reminder that Fall–with its themed drinks, sweaters and fantastic foliage–is upon us. For writers, that means NaNoWriMo is just around the corner. Are you participating this year? Here are a few ways to start prepping now.

Take Stock of Where You Are

NaNoWriMo isn’t always the best use of a writer’s time. If you’re in the middle of a revision, and going along at a good clip, stopping to work on something new could kill the momentum you’ve built. But if you are in a place to start something new, set a goal now to get your other writing commitments out of the way by November 1. That way, you’ll have a clean slate–or desk–and be ready to write.

Start by making a list of all the writerly things you would love to have out of the way to be in your ideal drafting head-space. This can include things outside of just finishing another book. Are you guest-posting in the next few months? Get those drafts done and out the door. Did you plan on submitting a short story to a literary magazine? Hit “Send!” Drafting takes a certain type of creative energy. Make sure all yours is stored up for your shiny new idea.

Set Up Your Space for Ideal Focus

I recently read Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, a book that focuses on discarding everything that doesn’t “Spark joy” in your living space.  Kondo’s philosophy is that we should set up our homes only with things we absolutely love, and that help us spend time the way we want. Half my clothes, shoes and even books went out the door. So did my desk. It got me thinking about what is the perfect writing space for me, and coming up with creative ideas to achieve it.

Do you have an inspiration board for your books? Do you like having a candle burning while you write? Do you prefer a de-cluttered desk, but stuff has piled up? Start working on the board, stock up on candles, and tackle that clutter.Take stock of your writing space now, so that come November 1, it’s ready for you to work. First up on my list? Find a new desk. 

Start Exploring Your World

The blank page is scary. It can be less scary if you’re more sure of your world, characters and story. Whether you’re a plotter or a pantser, having a strong sense of your story before you start can help stave off writer’s block. Take an afternoon to get to know your characters. There are tons of exercises out there to help writers think more deeply about them. Take a deep-dive into backstory, and write about the myths, legends and history of your world. Free-write from the POV of a secondary character. Or, if you’re so inclined, try writing a loose outline. These types of exercises can help a writer feel more confident approaching the blank page on November 1.

Form Habits Now

Whether you write every day or only when the mood strikes you, NaNoWriMo requires a certain level of focus and time. One of the best ways to ensure that, come November 1, you’re ready to write over a thousand words a day is to start developing those awesome writerly habits now. I know if I haven’t written in a few weeks, getting back into the habit of waking up at 6am and somehow remaining focused for an hour and a half takes me a few weeks.

What is your ideal writing schedule? And how can you take the next two months to get yourself into it? Are there any habits that you need to develop to get back in the game? Whether it’s going to bed earlier, or setting up your coffee pot for the morning, asking these questions–and coming up with a plan now–will help tremendously when you’re beginning to draft.

There are so many ways to prep for the craziness of NaNoWriMo. Do you have any tips or tricks? Let me know on social media, or in the comments!


IMG_4628Bess Cozby writes epic stories in expansive worlds from her tiny apartment in New York City. By day, she’s an Editor at Tor Books, and Web Editor for DIY MFA. Her work is represented by Brooks Sherman of the Bent Agency. Tweet her at @besscozby, contact her at [email protected], or visit her website at www.besscozby.com.

  • Leanne Sowul

    Great points, Bess- especially that we need to evaluate whether NaNoWriMo is the right challenge for our current writing life, and if it is, it requires preparation! Jumping right in without at least preparing for the time management aspect means a higher likelihood of not making it through.

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