NaNoWriMo starts in 4 days! If you’ve been procrastinating or, if you’re like me, busy wrapping up another project, it’s time to make the most of the time you have left to plan for your novel.
A Word on Plotting vs Pantsing
Just so we’re clear, I’m not trying to tell you that you need an outline to win NaNoWriMo. Even if you like to write by the seat of your pants, there are a few things you can do ahead of time to make the next month a little bit easier for you.
Day T-Minus 4: Get to Know Your Characters
Your characters are, arguably, the most important component to your novel. If you don’t know who these people are—or at least have an idea—you will probably have a hard time getting going. You want the first few days of NaNoWriMo to go smoothly to get some momentum going.
Create a profile for each character. Even if you just jot down the basics (hair color, eye color, heritage, her goals, things that piss her off), you’ll be ahead of the game.
Here’s a profile that I did for Jett Costa, the main character of my NaNoWriMo project, Diving Into Him.
Narrator, third person. Vocalist and lead guitarist. Previously in the band Perpetual Smile.
Description: Petite with shoulder-length hair and light olive skin. Resembles Jael De Pardo. Dresses like Liela Moss and Aja Volkman. Has a tattoo of a music note behind her ear.
Goals: Jett wants to get her new band, South of Forever, signed to a label and release an album.
Fears: Getting distracted by love again, and relapsing and breaking her sobriety.
What Pushes Her Buttons: Koty, any mention of her drinking problem, her own impatience.
What Makes Her Happy: Koty, performing, boots.
Reaction to Conflict: Gets feisty and takes action without really thinking things through.
Distinct Way of Talking: Says “fuck” a lot.
Feel free to copy and paste to use this for your own characters.
Day T-Minus 3: Make a List of Possible Endings
Stephen Covey says in his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, to “begin with the end in mind.” This couldn’t be more true for novel-writing. Even if you prefer to write without an outline, having some idea of how your book ends is a great way to keep yourself motivated.
Picking one ending can be hard, though—especially when you have several ideas. It took me years to write Secondhand Mom (and I’m still not ready to release it, which is a whole different blog post). My biggest hurdle was figuring out the ending. I had a custody battle (main plot) and a love triangle (sub-plot). The book could have ended at least 5 different ways, and that kept tripping me up while I was writing.
Make a list of all of the possible endings for your book. Then, pick the one that you like the most. Stick with it until you’ve written the entire novel. You can always change it later when you rewrite.
Day T-Minus 2: Create a Word Count Goal Calendar
Writing 50,000 words in 30 days can seem terrifying—whether this is your first novel or your twenty-first. Rather than letting that crazy number loom over you, break it down. In order to win NaNoWriMo, you need to write 1,667 words a day.
Grab a calendar (you can print one out for free here), and in each slot, write down your daily word count. For example, your goal on November 1st is to reach 1,667 words; your goal on November 2nd is to get to 3,334 words.
You can also use the table below, or the PDF/spreadsheet I created.
|November 6th—GREAT START!||10,002|
|November 15th—HALFWAY THERE!||25,005|
|November 24th—HOME STRETCH!||40,008|
Day T-Minus 1: Schedule Your Writing Time
If you have a day job or other commitments, it’s easier to get your writing done if you carve out time before you start. For example, if you work part-time and get your schedule three weeks in advance, you can use your calendar or a planner to plan out the best times of day for you to write during the next three weeks. If you work from home and have kids, you can pencil in writing appointments for when the kids are at school or asleep.
Think of your writing time during the next month as an important appointment, and treat it as one that you absolutely cannot miss. Even if something really great comes up, if it falls during the time of your writing appointment, stay focused!
Bonus: NaNoWriMo, Day 1
Make your favorite hot beverage. Grab some pillows to support your back. Follow the rules in the survival guide. Start writing… and don’t stop. You’ve got this.
Speaking of NaNoWriMo, I will be blogging my progress and posting chapters as I finish them! Make sure you are signed up for my email newsletter to get notified every time I post a new chapter from Diving Into Him, the first South of Forever novel.