So last Monday I wrote about ways you can start prepping your life for the NaNoWriMo challenge beginning in November. I'm a strong believer that your daily habits are what make your life so I super-duper recommend you do build time to write into your life even if it's just for NaNo. BUT, this post isn't about building your life around writing 50,000 words in 30 days. Instead, this post is going to be about what writing things you can do to prep for the word rush. (Note, there may be some overlap but that's because writing draws from your life. The two are connected much as we try to keep them separated.)
1. Have a general idea.
For a long time, I thought I was a pantser (I'd just take off with no outline) and then I went hardcore into being a plotter (outlining), but means have their merits and work better for different people. If you know you're a pantser, at least take the time to think about the general idea of the story. One thing I've done is to come up with a short theme for your novel, something like 'friendship is magic' or something else that you can come back to when you get stuck. If you're a plotter than get to work on your outlines, plan out chapter by chapter, beat by beat, big moment by moment, etc. Do what works for you. What I've discovered works for me is to be a planter. I take a germ of an idea and bury it in a base outline. The story grows based on the nutrients in the soil but the shape of it is still free to shift and move with time.
If you have no idea what you are? Try writing out a paragraph about your novel idea, just a paragraph. If writing that out takes some of the 'magic' out of the story, you're probably a pantser. If that paragraph makes you want to write out more, get to plotting.
2. Find a support network.
This is totally a life and writing thing, but part of what makes NaNoWriMo so much fun for so many people is the interaction with others. When you hit a low point, send out a tweet, hit a forum, shoot off a text, or call a friend who understands. Writing buddies are worth their weight in gold so try to start building your tribe now.
3. Come up with names.
Seriously. Name your characters. The number of times I've been stumped by needing a sudden name is amazing. Then I venture to the internet for help and...3 hours later I know the history of rum but still have no names. Create a list of names now that you can pull from when the need arises. If you already have an idea about your main characters, figure out what their names are and get that taken care of. You may go further than this with profiles or interviews with your characters but seriously, get some names together. (Recommendations here)
4. Decide how you want to write.
I know it sounds simple but decide now, are you going to write in word, scrivener, notepad or something else? Are you going to read the previous day's writing before you start or not? Do you like writing sprints? (Usually started on twitter or Facebook where someone says 'Writing for the next 30, starting at 12:15') I LOVE writing sprints and hop onto them when I see one happening on twitter. It's amazing what that race like atmosphere can do for the writing muscles.
There are also a surprising number of options for writing tools to help you reach your goals with minimal distractions. I like 750words.com and Cold Turkey Writer. 750words keeps track of your words, the time it takes you to reach them and a whole helluva lot more. I like racing myself and seeing if I can hit my target faster than the day before. Cold Turkey Writer takes over your computer until you either hit a certain word count or a set amount of time has passed, it's hardcore for making you focus on nothing but writing.
Start writing today. Right now. Get off this blog post and go write at least 1,000 words right now. I know NaNoWiMo hasn't started yet officially but that doesn't mean you can't start practicing now. You don't jump into a marathon without some training (at least I sure hope you don't because ow) so you shouldn't just leap straight from writing nothing to writing 50,000 words in a month (which is roughly 1,666 a day). Take some time now to write, get in the groove of it. When I'm really stuck I will just stream of conscious write what's going on in my head. The thing is to get those fingers limber and ready for a month of writing dangerously.
I really enjoy NaNoWriMo and have participated for several years. I don't usually go to the in-person meet-ups but I've heard they can be incredibly inspiring and helpful. Regardless of whether you NaNo or not, getting into the habit of writing every day can't hurt if your goal is to be a writer.
So, who's up for a writing sprint?