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Rejoice, writers! National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is almost upon us. For those of you who are unfamiliar with this, NaNoWriMo is a one-month writing event in which people write—and accurately log—fifty-thousand words for the sake of writing a novel. For such a grueling-but-rewarding journey, participants need to train their minds and bodies to survive this thirty-day marathon of the writing world. Writer’s Relief has compiled a list of seven essential steps to adequately prepare yourself for NaNoWriMo and all the trials, temptations, and rewards that come along with it.
Prepare mentally. You want your brain to be in a writing mood before NaNoWriMo starts. Forcing yourself to write for an entire month is going to make your brain think it’s work, not fun, and you may find yourself procrastinating at every opportunity. Starting now, make writing a part of your daily routine. Pick a few topics you enjoy, and begin training for November. That way it won’t be a shock to your system when NaNoWriMo begins!
Clear your calendar. Let your friends and family know that you’ll be “offline” for the month of November. Don’t beat around the bush either; tell them how important NaNoWriMo is to you, and show them your schedule so they know what days are absolutely off-limits. It’s crucial that you do all this in advance because when November rolls around, the last thing you want is a flurry of party invites and game nights tantalizing you right out of your writing mood.
Create an outline. No matter how straightforward it sounds, writing a book in only thirty days is nearly impossible without a detailed outline. Many writers go into NaNoWriMo thinking they can easily write throughout the month, but a deadly foe—writer’s block—often sneaks up and stops them long before the thirty days are up.
Think of it as entering a vast jungle without a map; not too smart, right? And, sure, your outline will probably change while you write, but that’s part of the fun! You’re better off getting excited by your changes and wanting to write than feeling lost and finding yourself frustrated and lacking motivation.
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Draft notes. Similar to the outline, you want to know your characters and settings on a very deep, personal level before you begin. Start a character sheet by listing everything you could possibly need to know about your character: his/her height, weight, favorite foods, greatest fears, etc.
Next, start drafting descriptions of the physical settings that will be in your story. Picture them in your mind, then try describing different parts of each setting on paper. This will save you lots of time when NaNoWriMo heats up!
Stock the fridge. No, not with Häagen-Dazs and Mr. Pibb. You need to stock your refrigerator with healthy snacks and drinks to keep your brain functioning properly. Soda and chips might sound like a great way to keep you awake, but a sugar-high crash lasts for a lot longer than the boost. Keep a few PowerBars handy whenever you start feeling lethargic, and drink plenty of fruit juice to stay hydrated. Maintaining a healthy diet will keep you focused and alert for the long writing journey ahead of you. Avoid quick-fix solutions such as energy drinks, sweets, and fast food!
Exercise! We can’t stress enough how important it is to maintain your physical health during NaNoWriMo. Long hours spent hunched over a keyboard are not good for your back, and the bright white of your screen will make your eyes feel like they’ve been staring into the sun. Take a half hour to an hour each day to exercise your muscles and get outside; an unhealthy body will make you feel sluggish, sore, and reluctant to do anything your brain perceives as “work.” Even if it’s just a few jumping jacks or laps around the room, exercise should be an integral part of your NaNoWriMo experience.
Set rewards for milestones. Considering the length of the task at hand, you want to make sure any rewards you set for yourself are reasonable, but still scarce enough to make them a challenge. Don’t reward yourself for each chapter you finish; instead, space out your challenges by telling yourself, “After chapter one, I’ll get X. After chapter five, I’ll get Y. After chapter fifteen…” and so on.
Once you’re done preparing your body and mind, take some time to prepare for what happens after NaNoWriMo is over. We at Writer’s Relief can’t tell you how important it is to just sit down and take a break after November; it’s going to be very difficult to adequately edit your work when you’ve been so recently and heavily invested in it. And, of course, once your new piece has been polished, revised, and thoroughly read, send it to Writer’s Relief for help making submissions to agents and publishers! Good luck, writers!