4 Things You Can to Do Prepare for NaNoWriMo in the Next 4 Days

NaNoWriMo Participant 2014NaNoWriMo 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.

Jett Costa

Narrator, third person. Vocalist and lead guitarist. Previously in the band Perpetual Smile.

Age: 26

Hair: Brown

Eyes: Brown

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.

Date Goal Actual
November 1st 1,667
November 2nd 3,334
November 3rd 5,001
November 4th 6,668
November 5th 8,335
November 6th—GREAT START! 10,002
November 7th 11,669
November 8th 13,336
November 9th 15,003
November 10th 16,670
November 11th 18,337
November 12th 20,004
November 13th 21,671
November 14th 23,338
November 15th—HALFWAY THERE! 25,005
November 16th 26,672
November 17th 28,339
November 18th 30,006
November 19th 31,673
November 20th 33,340
November 21st 35,007
November 22nd 36,674
November 23rd 38,341
November 24th—HOME STRETCH! 40,008
November 25th 41,675
November 26th 43,342
November 27th 45,009
November 28th 46,676
November 29th 48,343
November 30th—CONGRATULATIONS! 50,010

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.

CLICK HERE TO SIGN UP

Now Available | The Last Minute Before Midnight

The Last Minute Before Midnight, by Elizabeth BaroneBefore I fell in love with New Adult, I had a fling with horror. I spent hours crafting vignettes and creepy stories with no happy endings. Then I discovered New Adult, and my horror stories sat in the bottom of my filing cabinet… until now.

In celebration of Halloween, I’ve put together a collection of 7 creepy stories, plus a bonus. This collection is a limited edition, available exclusively on Amazon. Just like Halloween, it won’t be around forever, so hurry!

Don’t have a Kindle? Don’t worry! Download the free Kindle app for your device here.

Excerpt: “The Corpse in the Tree”

He lay underneath an uprooted tree, curled into a twisted ball of shriveled limbs and paper skin. He had forgotten his name long ago, watching the years ooze by with hollow, sagging eyes that could no longer blink. He spent his nights weaving himself further into the roots of the oak, and his days watching the legs of children walking to school. Sometimes, if he got lucky, a couple would use his oak’s trunk as a thrusting post. On a bad day, a bum used his tree as a toilet. Luckily, his sense of smell had long ago deteriorated. The acid in their urine only burned what remained of his skin. He relished in the last awareness of being alive that belonged to him. Even the laughter hurt, though, flakes of skin soughing off as the corners of his wrinkled and dried mouth moved.

Sometimes, he absorbed more than just kidney waste. The extra proteins and vitamins stored themselves in the tissues of his flesh and gave him a little color. Sometimes, if there was enough, he could blink for a few hours. During those times, he slept, hoping that he would be able to open his eyes when he woke, or that he wouldn’t wake at all.

On a cool autumn night—he only knew this because of the colored leaves that blew into his shelter—he realized he could no longer move. He and the old oak had finally become one. He smiled on the inside. It won’t be long now, he hoped. A glow filtered in through the roots and he welcomed its light.

“I have one last task for you,” a rough voice said, cutting through the fog of his thoughts.

And look, the corpse thought. I’m hallucinating.

“Oh, knock it off,” the visitor said, poking his head through the roots. Hunched over to fit, he only slightly resembled a human. Coarse black hair covered his olive skin, a fur coat for his body. Coal black eyes bore into the corpse. Silver rings on his fingers glinted in the moonlight. Slowly, the corpse remembered who his visitor was. “You’re just as alive as I am.” The devil laughed.

The corpse strained his eyes, staring at the craggy face.

“Yep, it’s me,” the devil said. “Lost your tongue?”

The corpse moaned, a dry creaking echoing through his throat.

The devil rolled his eyes. “You’ve really let yourself go, man.” He snapped his fingers and the roots of the tree loosened, spitting the corpse from their clutches. “I think I’m gonna call you Squishy,” he said, laughing as the corpse bounced onto the soft earth. “Or maybe Pepper, since you look like a dead cat.” He dragged him out from under the tree and leaned him against its trunk. From his coat he produced a flask. “Whiskey,” he said, pressing it to the corpse’s lips. “Drink up.”

The honey colored liquid flowed down Pepper’s throat, warming his vocal cords and reviving his organs. As he finished the last sip, he blinked and looked down at his hands. They were still thin and boney, but bore a more red hue—coloring him like the passersby that sexed and pissed on his tree. He smiled.

“That’s better,” the devil said. He lit a cigarette and held out the packet to the corpse.

The corpse shook his head. “Those’ll kill you,” he said.

The devil tipped back his head and laughed, its echo booming through the forest. “You’re all right, Pepper.” He sat down next to the corpse and smoked for another moment before looking at the dead man. “Go on. Ask me.”

Pepper shook his head. “If you think I can do it, that’s all the answer I need. I want to know how to die, though,” he said.

How to Survive (and Win) NaNoWriMo

NaNoWriMo Participant 2014

It’s been years since I was able to participate in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). Basically every month is NaNoWriMo for me, so I’m usually already elbow deep in another project. Not this year! I’ll finally be able to participate again, in the program that got me seriously writing.

Nine years ago, I had only written a few short stories. I typed them on the family computer, usually while everyone was sleeping. I had no idea what I wanted to write. My stories were usually dark horror pieces with no happy endings, or literary vignettes about broken relationships—again, no happy endings. To be honest, I had no idea how to construct a short story. NaNoWriMo got my ass into gear. I wrote my first novel, The Praying Mantis Experiment. It about the Darwin party. There were some good parts (like the crazy old man character I invented to get the cannibalization going), but mostly, it was awful. It’s been erased from this planet—I promise. :twisted:

It doesn’t matter that The Preying Mantis Experiment sucked, though. What matters is I put my ass in the chair, every day, for 30 days straight—until I had a novel. That was a defining moment for me. I still didn’t know what I wanted to write, but I knew for sure that I would not be able to breathe properly if I couldn’t write novels for the rest of my life.

It’s been a few years since I really participated, though. In the last year, I’ve written a lot of shorter works. Although I just finished writing a novel (The Nanny with the Skull Tattoos), I’m still a bit rusty when it comes to marathon novel-writing. (The worst part is, NaNoWriMo will kick off a five-month stretch of marathon novel writing. More about that in another post, though!) I had to do some brain-racking to help me remember how I survived, and thought I’d share with you.

  • Do some preparation. Even if you like pants-ing rather than plotting, get to know your characters a bit. Create profile sheets for them as if they were filling out a dating site. Get more in-depth than just hair and eye color, though. Jot down their fears and goals. Figure out what pisses them off and makes them happy. To take your prep to the next level, decide on a (loose) beginning, middle, and ending to your novel. It can always change later.
  • Stock up on your favorite poison. Okay, so you don’t have to drink caffeine. You can stash away a huge supply of hot herbal tea. Maybe you’re like me and drink one cup of coffee in the morning and then guzzle ice water for the rest of the day. Just make sure that you have enough of it on hand.
  • Cook some meals ahead of time. If you’re the primary or even secondary food maker, you’ll want to freeze some meals that you can just toss in your Crock Pot or microwave. You can also prep some veggies ahead of time. I have a ton of slow cooker and freeze ahead recipes saved on my Pinterest.
  • Have ample snacks on hand. Writing like a beat poet on amphetamines can make a person hungry. Like, violently hungry. It can also zap your blood sugar and send you into a catatonic state where you stare at your screen, unable to remember your name, never mind construct a sentence. Keep your pantry stocked with quick and easy snacks: almonds, clementines, apples, and graham crackers with peanut butter. These are easy to munch on while you keep the words flowing.
  • Create a designated quiet writing space. Even if you don’t have your own home office, you can map out public places where it’s safe to write without being disturbed. Some of my favorites are: Starbucks or local indie coffee shops, Panera Bread, the delicious sushi restaurant that also has WiFi, and the Barnes & Noble café (which is technically Starbucks, but I just love my local BN to pieces). If you can’t escape your house and have a bunch of people running around behind the scenes like I do, create a signal to let them know you’re busy and should’t be bugged. Some authors have special writing hats. I just snarl at my husband like a wild animal. ;)
  • Find a writing buddy. The best thing about NaNoWriMo is the community. The NaNoWriMo website has forums that help match you up to people in your area who are participating, but you can also commiserate with people online. Another great place to find a buddy is Twitter, using the #NaNoWriMo or #amwriting hashtags. (Speaking of, you can add me on NaNoWriMo and follow me on Twitter. I’m always happy to chat.)
  • Make a novel writing warrior playlist. While I’m writing, I like to listen to music that sets the tone for the scene I’m working on. My writing tends to be emotionally-driven, so music helps me a lot. It also helps inspire me when I feel like I just can’t squeeze a single word out. Choose some music ahead of time to help you fly through your writing sessions. You can use free services like Pandora or YouTube to create playlists, or purchase albums and create playlists on iTunes. Some of my favorite music to write to is Lana Del Rey, The Black Keys, and BANKS. For my NaNoWriMo project, I’ll probably be listening to a lot of The Duke Spirit, since my main character is inspired by Liela Moss.
  • Keep a progress chart. Yes, the NaNoWriMo website has their own version, but there’s nothing like physically writing in your progress. I used to make charts, but now I incorporate my word count goals into my outlines. (Download a PDF or spreadsheet chart here!) If charts aren’t your thing, you can write your current word count into a journal or on a white board near your work space.
  • Create a backup plan for writer’s block. Chuck Wendig says there’s no such thing as writer’s block, and he’s right. (He posted a whole list of things that your writer’s block could be here. It’s a great read!) NaNoWriMo leaves you limited time for freezing, so having an emergency plan can help you get back on track quickly. When I start to feel unmotivated, I write in my journal about my plot problem (or my own bad mood). I’ve even borrowed friends’ ears to work out issues. Doing some quick exercise like going for a walk or doing 15 minutes of yoga can help you unblock, too. Petting and cuddling animals also helps.
  • Backup your work. Save like your life depends on it. Email a copy to yourself. Print each chapter as you finish it. These are habits I developed when I was a web designer and spent hours and hours coding web pages and designing graphics. It’s even more important when you’re a writer. There’s nothing worse than putting your heart and soul into your novel, only to have it disappear. It’s happened to me plenty of times, and it can happen to you. For the love of sanity, please backup your novel as much as possible, in multiple ways. You will thank me later.

That’s all I’ve got! What are your survival tips for NaNoWriMo? Is this your first time? Share in the comments below (and don’t forget to include your username so I can add you)!


Speaking of NaNoWriMo, I will be using this time to kickstart the South of Forever novels (ESX spinoff). I’ve decided to blog as I write, and will be posting each chapter as I finish it. (I will, of course, be leaving out some chapters. I’ve got to save some surprises for when it’s released!) Click here to read the blurb for Diving Into Him, the first of 5 novels in the South of Forever series. Stay tuned for Chapter 1, coming at you on November 1st!