Happy Halloween! Or as I like to think of it, NaNo Eve! As the rest of the country is mixing the ingredients for a perfect sugar coma, writers are getting their ducks in a row for a month long frenzy of wordy abandon. Plotters are putting the finishing touches on their outlines. Pantsers wonder if maybe they should have given this outlining how thing a try. First timers nervously plan out their month, patching themselves up for a great and terrifying adventures. Veterans are gathering their rituals and supplies for another year in the writing trenches.
As a veteran of five-plus NaNo’s, I’ve got a few of my own tried and true standbys but things change year to year depending on what’s going on in my life and my writing. So here are the 4 things I’m doing prep in the last minutes pre-NaNo this year:
1. Clean the house.
This may sound irrelevant, but pre-cleaning your home before NaNo starts minimizes distraction once you get into writing. I can’t tell you the number of times I was planning to do yoga and then as soon as I got down on the mat, all I could think about was the dust bunnies under the couch that I could suddenly see from that angle. Same goes for when I hit a hard spot while writing: suddenly everything becomes a distraction worthy of my attention, including the pet hair on the couch. While I have no illusions that the place will stay clean all through November, starting with a clean slate (har har) gives me some peace of mind going in.
2. Go Grocery Shopping
Again, this may seem irrelevant, but I’ve learned that properly stocking the fridge and pantry is integral to top NaNo-ing. The weekend before November, I hit up the store for NaNo-specific supplies: cider for cozy drinks, wine, coffee, chocolate, and easy meals like frozen dinners and ready-made chicken. Because the last thing you want is to run out of steam while writing and realize you don’t have the supplies to refuel. I also stock up on little treats to reward myself with at word count goals. At-home spa treatments are my favorite mini-rewards: masks, foot treatments, bath bombs, new nail polish colors etc. Stock up on whatever little jolts you might need to keep going, now.
3. Review My Brainstorm Materials
I’m not a strict planner. In the past, I’ve created a detailed outline that I planned to follow step by step through November. But as I began to write, it felt forced, characters evolved, and things changed as I learned more about my story. So this year, I didn’t prep as strictly. But I have been gathering notes, pinning reference images on Pinterest, and identifying the major plot points that I’ll need to reach to move the story forward. In the last few days before NaNo, I’ve been re-reading my notes, looking at my Pinterest, and reminding myself why I’m excited to write this particular story.
4. Write the First Line.
Sooo, some NaNo purists might argue that this is cheating. I counter that it’s only cheating if I count this first line towards my final word count, which I don’t plan to do. Instead, I think of this as a running start to the month, like a little jog up to the starting line of a marathon. Writing the first line pre-NaNo takes the pressure off when I sit down at my computer on November 1st. Instead of having a scary blank page staring at me, I have a way into the story. It counters the chorus of famous first lines echoing in my brain, taunting me that I’ll never write something as good. This way, I can skip the first line agony and dive right into the story, reminding myself to worry about it in the edit stage.
And with those four steps complete, I’m ready to go! How did you prepare for NaNo this year?