Someone recently asked me what you win if you complete NaNoWriMo, the worldwide event where you try to write 50000 words in the month of November. I told them I was sent a little video of people on a climbing frame and they looked confused. Why would anyone put themselves through 30 days of writing over 1600 words to win a video of a climbing frame?
It’s a good question and we shall come to the answer soon but for those of you who are here because you’re thinking of taking part in NaNoWriMo then let’s get to the important bit first: how to prepare for a winning National Novel Writing Month.
Most people will tell you that successful preparation is all about planning your novel. That probably is a good idea but, for me, so long as I have a few chapter headings and a rough idea in my head then I’m happy. If you want a more detailed plan worked out then take a look at this article. It is a brilliantly straight-forward way of thinking about a story. So plot sorted (kind of) let’s turn to what I found to be the real secrets to a successful NaNoWriMo. I suspect the first one might be unexpected!
1) Cook your food for November in advance
Honestly, people think I am insane when I say this but this was the best thing I did in Preptober last year. I made sandwiches and popped them in the freezer for my packed lunches. For my dinners, I cooked batches of soup, lasagne, shepherd’s pie, pasta sauce and vegetarian sausages. I even made myself snacks in advance, freezing cakes and homemade energy balls! It was hard work but I got most of it done over a focussed weekend and if had to attribute my NaNoWriMo success to just one thing then this would be it.
2) Sprint your way to success
This is my second top tip. I wrote my whole novel last year in sprints – short blocks of measured time in which you write as many words as you can. The real secret of sprints is to do them with other people – it holds you to account and, most importantly, provides a source of support. So take the time now to find your local group and get yourself connected on Twitter to the official NaNoWriMo feed. Both of these will be great sources of sprintspiration – did you see what I did there?!
3) Clear your diary
Don’t be afraid to let people know what you are doing and to keep your socialising plans to a minimum during November. As well as writing, you will want some down time just to soak in the bath, watch television or [insert relaxation option of choice here]. Of course, sometimes seeing friends can provide a welcome break. But manage your expectations and the expectations of those around you of how much time (and energy) you’ll have during NaNoWriMo.
4) Choose your software
There are plenty of software options from which to choose. Last year I signed up for a free trial of Scrivener and I wouldn’t be without it now! However, sometimes I like to switch it up. OmmWriter provides a lovely minimal writing environment for times you want something relaxing and FreeWriter is great for when you want to pick up the pace. You may prefer to stick to your regular word processing software. It is whatever works for you but it’s good to think it through now because you’ll want all the time you can get in November for writing words!
5) Set up your NaNoWriMo profile
NaNoWriMo will invite you to set up your profile and to design your book cover. The idea of designing my book cover terrified me a bit. But then I made myself design it and I’m so glad I did! Once your cover exists then it feels as though your book exists. It was one of the most motivating factors in (a) starting and (b) carrying on when things got tough!
But nothing has ever surpassed the elation I felt watching that video having just completed NaNoWriMo 2016. So here’s my main tip: imagine how great you are going to feel when you win! Not if you win … when you win. If I can do it then anyone can. But preparation is key. So let’s get ready! Oh … and if you’re still wondering why you’d put yourself through this to win a video, you can see how brilliant it is for yourself below!
What to read next: Writing tips, self-care and a little interview
I recently did a little interview for a beautiful blog, Quills and Coffee, about my writing journey so far and what inspires me to write. As well as checking out my interview, there is a lovely post on self-care, which I highly recommend. Beth also posts about topics such as mental health, lifestyle and writing tips. She’s currently busy completing an MA in Writing for Young People so definitely check out her blog if you’re interested in this area of writing!