Sandra Gerth - author of the Writers' Guide Series

10 tips to prepare for NaNoWriMo

It’s the first of October today, which means that we have just one more month until NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) begins.

What is NaNoWriMo?

For those of you who haven’t heard of it before: NaNoWriMo is an international writing event that challenges you to write 50,000 words of fiction in November.

How to win NaNoWriMo

As someone who participated—and won—several times, I can tell you that when it comes to NaNoWriMo, preparation is the mother of victory.

Here are 10 things you can do this month to prepare for NaNoWriMo:

  1. Clear your calendar as much as you can. Take a look at your calendar and your to-do list for November. Are there any tasks that you could do now to free up the time in November?
  2. Plan your story. If you’re a plotter, plot out the major turning points in your novel in advance. You’ll need to get a lot of writing done every day, so knowing what you’re going to write will help. If you’re a pantser—also called a discovery writer—you might want to at least think about your characters, their goals, and the obstacles they’re going to encounter.
  3. Get to know your characters. The rules of NaNoWriMo allow you to flesh out your characters ahead of time. You could create character profiles for each of your main characters, detailing their backstories, character traits, appearance, and other interesting information.
  4. Do your research ahead of time. Make a list of any topics you need to research, for example, details of the setting or your characters’ professions. Research everything you might need before November 1.
  5. Improve your writing skills. If you feel that your writing has certain weaknesses, find ways to work on it. For example, you could take an online course on writing dialogue or practice writing vivid descriptions or read a book on important aspects of the writing craft such as Show, Don’t Tell.
  6. Let your family and friends know you’re going to do NaNoWriMo. Not only will that give your friends and family members a chance to support you and cheer you on, but it’ll also let them know why you’re going to be a hermit in November.
  7. Connect with other NaNoWriMo writers. The sense of community that you get from so many writers doing the same thing can be a wonderful encouragement. If you don’t know any writers who are doing NaNoWriMo this year, check out the NaNoWriMo forums. There are groups for each region. You could also search the hashtag #NaNoWriMo on Twitter.
  8. Familiarize yourself with the NaNoWriMo website. If you haven’t signed up yet, create a free account and explore the website.
  9. Prepare your writing tools. Make sure you have all the resources you need to hit the ground running on November 1. If you haven’t found your ideal writing tool yet, try out different options such as Scrivener, Write or Die, or dictation software. Bookmark the websites you’ll need, and keep your research material nearby.
  10. Figure out when you’ll get your writing done. In order to win NaNoWriMo, you need to write an average of 1,667 words each day of November. Do a dry-run in October to find out how much time you’ll need to get 1,667 words written. Then take a look at your calendar for November. Set aside time to write every day. If there are any days with other commitments that will make it impossible to find time to write, plan how you’ll make up for it. For more tips on finding time to write not just during NaNoWriMo, take a look at my book Time Management for Writers: How to write faster, find the time to write your book, and be a more prolific writer.


Are you up for NaNoWriMo this year? Are you doing anything to prepare? Please leave a comment and check back for more NaNoWriMo tips and tricks!

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2 thoughts on “10 tips to prepare for NaNoWriMo”

    • There’s absolutely no reason to be terrified! Even should you end up not making 50,000 words, you’ll still make progress. So what if it takes you a little longer to finish the novel. What’s important is getting started. Best of luck!


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