NaNoWriMo – Preparation Tips

PanicCountdown: 8 Days 2 Hours.

“But yesterday there was a month to go! I haven’t planned a thing yet! I planned to do some planning but it hasn’t gone…er, to plan. I haven’t written an outline or a character sheet. I think I have an idea for a story but will it stretch to 50,000 words? And there’s only a week to go before it starts! Aaargh!”

Calm down fellow Wrimo! Take a deep breath. Relax. In and out. Okay. It’s not as bad as you think. There’s still plenty of time to get prepared for the crazy month of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month.) You don’t need to freak out before you get started, save those for the last week of the challenge. There’s no problem here that can’t be sorted out. In fact you shouldn’t call it a problem.

Don’t say: “I’ve found a problem.”

Say: “I’ve found a challenge.”

Doesn’t that sound better? You know it makes sense. I have some handy tips on how to prepare for NaNo so you can waltz into that first week with a grin on your face and a keyboard that sings to your merry tune. Let’s look at your preparation options.

Two Choices.

Option 1 – Don’t prepare.

Head straight into November with a determined expression, a brain overflowing with ideas and hammer away at the keyboard until you fall asleep. This works for some people, they find the sudden onset of imagination overload a rush. Maybe not in the same way a skydiver or trapeze artist gets their adrenaline fix, but kinda close. Some writers thrive on the unknown. It’s that flying by the seat of their pants ethos that gets them through. Personally I like the idea of dashing into the fray, words at the ready, plots dripping from my fingers and characters trying to climb out of my ears.

If this is your style then good luck and happy writing!

However, there is an alternative.

Option 2 – Plan, even just a little.

This tactic suits the more practical writer, the writer who needs to know where they are, when they are and where they’re going. They need to see it laid out, even in a rough draft, ideas and chapters scribbled in a few words may all you need to get you through, or get you started. Things like making sure you have a full jar of coffee labelled “NaNoWriMo Coffee – Special Writers’ Blend. DO NOT TOUCH!” is enough to make you feel secure that you have made some sort of plan.

If you prefer to plan but don’t know where to start, then this is the bit for you, dear blog reader.

How To Plan for NaNo.

Everything here is just cauldron of ideas. Choose your ladle and scoop out what you need.


The humble pad and pen is pretty much your best pal right now. Jot down ideas and make nice clear headings, underlined, bold, highlighted if you prefer. One page per topic, like:

Story Ideas:

Horror, fantasy, vampire, romance, romzomcom, thriller with a musical number, murder mystery comedy, war/comedy. Make notes, lots of notes.


Names, description, purpose, where, when etc. As much or as little as you like. At least you will have an idea of your cast. When you think of a new character, write it down.


  • Outer space stuck in a black hole scene.
  • Back garden barbecue romantic kiss scene.
  • Scary house where your two hero’s decide to split up scene.
  • Kitchen table argument about teenage drug use scene.
  • Camping on the side of a snow drenched mountain scene.
  • Car chase scene.
  • Knight of horse back kills the witch and saves the fair maiden scene.
  • Funny scene involving penguins or bunny rabbits, custard and a clever pun.

When an idea for a scene comes to you, jot it down. It may come to nothing but again, the fact that you are making notes will keep you sane.

Precious things:

Do you need coffee? Sweeties? Smokes? Tea? A comfy beanbag to relax in? Think of what you’re likely to need when you’re writing. It can’t hurt to go hunt these precious things down before you start.


Okay, so you can’t simply jot down time because it’s a dimension not a tangible object, well, not yet anyway. Time planning means different things to different people. Take your pick.

  • Carefully drawn up time-table. This can be as loose or accurate as you want. Colour coded if you like.
  • Diary of when you will write. Keep a track of your free periods and use them wisely.
  • Note on the fridge door. This works well to remind members of your household that between the hours of 2 and 4 you will be writing.
  • Sign on your door/table/back of head. This will hopefully let others know what you’re up to.
  • Printed t-shirt. You can buy a NaNo t-shirt from the store if you want. Wear it when you’re writing so others around you know not to interrupt with silly questions like: “What’s for dinner?” and “Where did I leave my thingamebob?” But you can reply to this one: “Where’s the Domino’s menu?”

The best advice I can give you where time is concerned is be realistic. There’s no point telling yourself you’ll write for 4 hours every day if you can’t maintain it. You may start out like that but when it fails you’ll feel the big Failure Monster tapping you on the shoulder with an “I told you so” expression on its face.

If you have work commitments, family stuff, hobbies etc then work out a realistic time scale for your writing time. I personally have a couple of free hours in the evening to devote to writing, though sometimes it’s 1 hour because I’m emailing, Tweeting etc. But that’s okay because I’m realistic about it. I like to spend longer at the weekend but even then life has a knack of calling me away from the PC.

NaNo Survival Kit.

This is well worth taking the time to write. Even you never actually get everything on the list you will feel more confident knowing you have given it some thought. Here’s a list of things I’ve jotted down on a pad next to my PC.

  • Gel Pad wrist rest.
  • Pepsi Max. Chilled.
  • Cream soda. Chilled.
  • Ice cubes.
  • Jelly Belly jelly beans.
  • My Grammar and I book.
  • Lava lamp for staring at.
  • Music. YouTube. Spotify. Not iTunes. I don’t like iTunes.
  • Pad and pen.
  • Extra pens.
  • Coloured pens.
  • Chunk of playdoh. White. Coloured ones make my fingers look funny.
  • Caffeine products. Mountain Dew Energy. Red Bull.
  • Choccies.
  • Silly hats. They make me feel happy.

There are plenty more items to list but that should give you an idea of what I keep to hand when I’m cranking out a big writing project. Naturally there are other things you may want to include such as:

  • Wine.
  • Headphones.
  • MP3 player.
  • Inspirational/Mood music.
  • Chapstick.
  • Choccies.
  • Stress reliever toy.
  • Nibbles and snacks.
  • Pizza menu.
  • Wine.
  • Favourite wine glass / mug.
  • Precooked meals to zap in microwave.
  • Empty dishwasher/sink.
  • Clear desk of junk.
  • Coffee.
  • Hot chocolate. Marshmallows. Cream. Sprinkles.
  • Inspirational poster.
  • NaNoWriMo t-shirt.
  • “Well Done!” stickers.
  • Aspirin.
  • Comfy slouchy clothes.
  • Big “NOT NOW – LATER” sign on door, back of head, t-shirt etc.
  • Ice cream.
  • Wine.
  • Coffee.
  • Tea.
  • Eye drops.
  • Lucky underwear.
  • Lucky pencil.
  • Lucky mouse.
  • Lucky socks.
  • Blanket or other snuggly thingy.
  • A “You Can Do It” Post-It Note.
  • A “Don’t Give Up Now” Post-It Note.
  • Stack of Post-It Notes.

Edit, plot holes & mistakes.

These should be noted when you find them. That’s it. Just make a note of any mistake, error, plot hole, problem etc and then move on. NaNo Month isn’t about editing, it’s about getting it all out right now.

Edit later.

That doesn’t mean your story can be a mass of garbled nonsense. You have to find a balance between the mad dash to get those words pinned down and making sure it makes sense. Too much junk and you won’t want to edit later. There will be times when you feel under pressure or don’t have time to check every last detail, but hey, that’s okay, go with it, stick at it, push forward, all of those things!

Remember why you’re doing NaNoWriMo.

Is it for the challenge of writing 50,000 words in 30 days?

Is it because you’ve wanted to write a novel for so long?

Above all you should be writing for you and you alone. Because you enjoy it. And that is the reason why you write. Keep that in the back of your mind, write with passion, determination, enthusiasm, love for story telling – but write for you.


Write for you. Write with passion. Love it. Live it.

11 thoughts on “NaNoWriMo – Preparation Tips

  1. This is a great set of tips. I look forward to procuring my NaNoWriMo shirt this year. I just started planning my story as I read this. Good luck to you! (: Thanks for the advice.

  2. phew, all that??? okay, so I have an outline done, and character descriptions and some scene titles down. so, I guess I’m not too far behind. Now to find my lucky undies. Lucky undies? people actually own such a thing………..and talk about it? man, I do live in a cave. hee hee. Got my lucky giraffe sitting here on my desk ready to cheer me on though.

    1. Only if you have lucky undies. Sadly I don’t. But I do have a lucky hat! And I reckon a lucky giraffe is just as good and equally important for keeping the spirits up! Sounds like you’re on the ball with your prep, so you get a Gold Star!

  3. Excellent advice! I noticed a couple things on your list noted more than once: wine, choccies, and coffee. I assume these are your ‘priority’ must haves 😀 I don’t have a T-shirt but I do have a hoodie, black w/white NaNoWriMo lettering, so I don’t have to worry about turning up the heat if it gets chilly in the office and I can tuck extra candy in the pockets 🙂

    I can’t believe it is less than a week now… YIKES! I’m starting to get nervous *running off to bite nails and make some sort of plan*

    1. Ah well the wine thingy can be quite important to some, so it was worth giving them the extra prompt! The reason why I wrote this post was because I was driving back from work and I realised I had all these ideas but hadn’t made any notes!

      I use MS OneNote a lot for keeping track of things like plots, characters, dates, ideas, etc. So now I have a whole stash of notes for NaNo. I suspect many of them won’t amount to anything but I do feel a bit more prepared for doing it.

      Less than a week to go! Woohoo! I noticed the Writing Buddies and Word Count widgets still aren’t available yet. I can’t find any mention of when so I’m guessing they’ll be available closer to the start.

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