“I can’t come to your birthday party, Steve.”
“Why not, Joe?”
“Because over the next 30 days I’m going to work my full-time job, take night classes, make dinner for my family every evening, watch How to Get Away with Murder every Thursday and, oh, write 50,000 words.”
” … What?”
For some, it’s strange to think November involves anything other than turkey, parade floats, Christmas shopping and the best day of the year to make a wish. It’s different when you’ve signed up on October 1 to attempt (and possibly conquer) yet another National Novel Writing Month challenge. Turkey, balloons, malls and 11/11 can’t quite compare to the literary insanity between you, your computer and a group of imaginary people that only exist in your head.
Once you get past explaining to your friends why November means no free time at all, ever, the next challenge is figuring out how to prepare for this month-long word thriller.
Do I outline? Do I character sketch? Do I read some of my past work to motivate myself to produce work ten times better than before? And: how do I keep myself from starting to write before November 1?
Any past NaNoWriMo winner you ask will tell you something different. There is no right or wrong answer or solution. Every writer’s mind is different, which means the way I’m going to suggest you prepare isn’t necessarily the exact method that will work for you. What works best is hunting around, reading a handful of different suggestions, picking out the ones you feel might work and combining them to make up your own NaNo Preparation Plan.
There are five simple steps to get you through October without writing a single sentence of your book before the contest begins. I’ve even given you dates to go by; if you’re as addicted to your planner as I am, this timeline might help.
Of course, you don’t have to follow the timeline. You could do all these things October 31 and technically no one would ever know. It’s your NaNo Preparation Plan. You have to make it work for YOU.
What about managing your time once November actually hits? Slow down. We’ll get to that. You can’t plan for November if you haven’t, well, planned for planning for November.
It’s okay. You’re going to make it through this. So you can’t watch every episode of your favorite T.V. show or attend every birthday party next month. That’s okay. The key to conquering NaNo is knowing what you can and can’t sacrifice for even just an hour of writing time every day. It’s like Thanksgiving. First comes the preparation. TTHEN you get to choose what to put on your plate, and how much of it you’ll eat.
Don’t feel bad for Steve, though. Just give him your first signed copy of the novel you’re going to publish someday. And the next one. And the next one.