How to (and Not to) Use Your NaNoWriMo Community | NANO PREP 2016

Your community can be a huge help – if you use it correctly.


Writing itself is an individual activity. No one else can write your words for you. No one else can decide what your characters do or say. But sometimes, the writing process does involve other people. In the case of National Novel Writing Month, there’s a community aspect to the competition. You’re not competing against anyone else – you’re there to write, to “meet” new people and have fun. Here’s how to, and not to, use this community to have a totally awesome NaNo experience this year. (ONE! MORE! WEEK!)

DO establish an equal support system.

When you join NaNoWriMo, you also join a home region – an online community full of writers who actually live near you. Though NaNo itself is a virtual event, the leaders of your region – your MLs – will encourage you to meet up with one another and interact with each other in the regional forums. The purpose of grouping participants into smaller communities has a lot to do with support. Writing 50,000 words in 30 days is hard. At some point you will probably need a little boost. It’s likely someone else in your region will be able to encourage you when you’re struggling. You can do the same for someone else who’s having a rough writing stretch.

DON’T expect someone else to support you if you don’t return the favor. Being part of a writing community is about encouraging one another to keep writing, and in some cases (though not so much with NaNo), write better. It’s not about finding someone who is going to nag you 24/7 to write – unless you plan on doing the same for them. It’s not all about you.

DO join a word sprint.

Otherwise known as, join up with one other person or a group of people, set a time limit and see how many words you can all write in that amount of time. The pressure is on, which means you’re much less likely to fall prey to distractions. You can treat it as a competition or just compare numbers when time’s up – it’s really up to you. You can do this on your own, but it’s much more fun with a group.

DON’T wear yourself out. Sprinting is fun – and productive, in terms of getting your word count up – but it’s exhausting. The last thing you want to do is completely burn out by the second week because you’re going at it a little too hard (yes, it happens). If you’re going to sprint, do it sparingly – when you really need a word count boost or you can’t get your fingers to type words, not necessarily when you’re bored or your introvert self needs some social time.

DO have fun!

I take my writing very seriously, but November is my favorite month because it’s not work. Writing a novel, and interacting with other people doing the exact same thing, is an absolute blast. You don’t have to worry about all the small mechanics of your novel. Nothing has to be perfect. Just hop on and enjoy the ride.

DON’T forget about the reason we’re all here – to write. I love joking around and answering silly questions as much as anyone, but not when it’s starting to take away from my writing time. I’m an ML, so I also have to divide my time between personal writing and forum moderating, planning events, etc. – but if you find yourself distracted by people in your region, it’s OK to take a step back and focus on your novel. No one expects you to hang out on the forums 24/7. Have fun – but not too much fun. At least until you’ve hit your daily word count goal. Then, by all means, go crazy. (You’re already doing that, seeing as you’re about to write a novel in a month, but …)

Your NaNo community is valuable – but always remember that it’s not about finding someone else that will be there for you. It’s about joining an entire bunch of word-loving literary maniacs in the race toward 50,000 words. If you see someone struggling, help them along. Have fun. Be nice and join in the conversation. Just don’t forget to actually get some writing done along the way. That is, after all, the whole reason thousands of people are tossing and turning nightly waiting for next week to HURRY UP AND GET HERE ALREADY. Or is that just me?

Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and an eight-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.

Why You Should Try to Plan Out Your Novel | NANO PREP 2016

Why plan ahead?


For the first time since my first NaNoWriMo in November 2008, I will be doing a heavy amount of planning before the first official day of writing begins this year. I have a lot going on, and I’m stressed and overwhelmed just thinking about writing a 50,000-word book. I’m looking forward to it. I just can’t go into it without a plan.

Many of you may not be planners when it comes to novel writing. But I want to encourage you to at least try planning a few things out before November 1 hits.

You might start writing and feel like you know where your story is going, like you’d prefer to just see how things go and make things up as you write. And this might work for the first few days, even for the first week or two. But I can pretty much guarantee there will come a point when you get stuck. Your brain will run out of fuel. You will try, and really struggle, to keep the story moving forward.

I’m not saying you have to outline every single detail before you write about it. Even I’m not planning on going that far. But even if you have an idea in your head of where your book starts, climaxes and ends, it really does help to write it down. For one, it’s a huge motivator. You’re not writing the story – yet – but jotting down a rough outline makes you wish you were. For another, it gives you a safety net. It’s not final – you can change anything you want to as you write. But having an endpoint is a lot easier, even if you don’t know exactly how you are going to get there.

Excuses will always be a problem – no matter how long you’ve been writing, your brain will always try coming up with things that are more pressing and worthy of your attention than getting your 1,667 words in for the day. Having a plan makes it easier to shove those excuses aside and write anyway, despite them. For me, there’s a point in my story I can’t wait to get to – and I can’t get to it unless I write what comes before it, if I do write in chronological order. Finding motivation within the story progression itself is extremely beneficial on days you just don’t want to write.

Don’t know how to start planning things out? Check out my tips for planning a novel without outlining. And for those of you who’ve been waiting for it, my guide to creating character sketches is coming to you for next week’s NaNo prep. Get ready!

Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and an eight-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.

3 Things to Do the Week Before NaNoWriMo | NaNo Prep 2015


Somehow, Noveltiers, October has disappeared. November is now a week away, which means it’s the week before National Novel Writing Month begins. Which means you’re either scrambling to get everything done as fast as you can, or you’re sitting at your desk counting the minutes.

Or both.

This week is tough. You want to start writing, but can’t. You’re a little nervous, but you’ve (mostly) convinced yourself you’re ready. You sort of want to prepare, but you’re not sure how. What do you do to get ready for 30 days of nonstop writing that doesn’t involve writing?

Here are a few things you can do. We’ll do them, too. 

Don’t write any fiction (at all) 

Take a deep breath! It’s going to be okay! 

One of the hardest parts about the week before NaNo is dealing with how excited you are for November to hurry up and get here already. It never really goes away no matter how many times you’ve done it before. That excitement will really tempt you to write anything and everything, even though you won’t actually start your new project until midnight on the 1st.

Don’t do it. Don’t even think about it. Why? Because that itch to write isn’t going to go away even after you update your word count for the first time. If you wait until Sunday morning to write, you’ll probably end up writing more on your first day than you will any other day in November—and that’s not a bad thing! Your brain isn’t going to get much opportunity to get a good rest this upcoming month, so let it rest now. Let your anticipation motivate you. Besides, you don’t want to accidentally start a new project only days before you’re going to start another one. Bad idea. 

Block out two hours every day for a few mindless activities

There are a few reasons you’ll want to start doing this right away. Remember: during NaNoWriMo, you’ll have excellent writing days and absolutely awful ones. It might not take you two hours a day to write 1,667 words. Or it might take you longer. The first reason you should start blocking out time now? When November hits, you’ll already have started training yourself to block out writing time, even though you didn’t use it for writing the week before.

The second? Do something mindless with that time. Tweak your resume or rearrange your furniture or play Minecraft or something. At first you’ll feel bored and probably a little guilty for wasting two hours of your day doing nothing. But again: once November hits, you’ll have something to do with that time, and trust us, you’ll be grateful for it by then.

Read, read, read

Participating in NaNoWriMo does require some sacrifice, and reading is going to end up being one of those things you’ll have to give up for a month. So while you still have some free time (two hours every day at least), read as much as you can, while you still can.

Reading can help distract you from how badly you want to start writing (it’s going to get particularly difficult around Wednesday or Thursday, but if you can make it through that, you’ll be okay). It can also inspire you, though. Along with all the pre-NaNo excitement comes a few spells of doubt. Do I really want to do this? Do I really have time for this? YES YOU DO! And it will be worth it. That book you’re holding? Someone somewhere took the time to write that. If they can do it, so can you!

You’re almost there. It’s almost time! Are you ready? How are you gearing up for our favorite writing month?

Image courtesy of Novelty Revisions.