Top 10 #NaNoWriMo Prep Tips

As you may already know, I am a NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) enthusiast. So when October rolls around, that means it’s prime Prep Season, and I start to get a little giddy.

Additionally, since I am a confirmed NaNoWriMo Rebel (aka Cheater), this also means it’s the time of year when I start pondering which of my WIPs I will bring into the wonderful world of NaNoWriMo, scrubbing and polishing and writing additional words to create a much more completed manuscript.

Basically, it’s house-cleaning for my mind – and my hard drive full of ideas.

Which brings me to today’s Top 10 List. If you’ve never participated in NaNoWriMo, here are my 10 prep tips for a month of writing and creativity-fueled mayhem.

10 – Participate in #NaNoPrep

Check the official NaNoWriMo website and you’ll find a hotbed of activity happening across the U.S. this October. It’s NaNo Prep, with the accompanying Twitter hashtag (#NaNoPrep), and you can probably find at least one local activity to join for in-person advice and support as you plot your novel.

9 – Study up

Even if you can’t make it out to a live event, there’s tons of advice – both written and video – available for anyone interested in learning more about novel structure, character development, plotting, or simply NaNo survival. Study the NaNo Prep Resource Library for more information.

8 – Choose a side

Are you a Planner or a Pantser?

Here’s how NaNoWriMo officially describes the two:

screen-shot-2016-10-04-at-9-38-55-amI am a reformed Pantser, which means I am absolutely vehement about outlining prior to November 1st. If you’re a combination of the two, you may be a “Plantser,” which is someone who likes planning and organization, but also wants to leave room for spontaneity in their writing. And that’s basically how I view outlining, so if anything, I am probably more Plantser than strict Planner. After all, who wants to only stick to the map when you can go off-roading now and then?

7 – Show your flair

Every year, NaNo HQ creates new participant flair: buttons and badges you can use on your website and social media pages. I like to add their banners to my Twitter and Facebook pages, to show that I’ve committed myself to another year of noveling mania. Sometimes I even get creative and design my own headers, using the official theme as inspiration.

Here’s this year’s badge:

nanowrimo_2016_webbadge_participantI get the feeling there are going to be a lot of space-themed stories this year, and more than a few robots as well!

6 – Ponder participation

Every year, I tell myself that I will join in on all the fun local activities that take place in San Diego. And then, every year, I usually get caught up in my writing and figure “Eh, why bother leaving the house?”

This is, to my mind, a mistake. Writing is an inherently solitary activity, but NaNoWriMo is definitely about the social side of writing. It encourages participants to step outside of their homes and coffee shops, to attend write-ins with other writers, to race one another (online or in person) with word sprints, and to make writing fun.

November is National Novel Writing Month. That means everyone you meet could be writing a novel. How flipping cool is that?!

So yes, please, find your local writing tribe and force yourself to leave the house to meet some of them.

This year, I am absolutely going on the Lesser Train Escape, one of the San Diego group’s signature activities, where Wrimos board the train in Oceanside and ride together to LA, writing (or talking about writing) along the way. It’s really affordable ($10 for a day pass), and it’s a fun one-day activity that won’t take you too far away from your writing desk. What kinds of activities will you pledge to participate in this year?

5 – Grab some gear

I, personally, am inspired by having nice writing gear. And NaNoWriMo’s stuff is good quality, whether we’re talking t-shirts, mugs or writing utensils. If you really want to help motivate yourself to stick with your novel, I would highly recommend supporting the NaNoWriMo folks with a purchase from their Store.


This year’s t-shirt is space-themed (and only costs $16.67 – which is based on the number of words you need to write every day in order to hit 50K by the end of the month), but if that doesn’t get your motor running, you can always grab one from NaNos past!

4 – Pack your Survival Kit

What do you need to help you succeed as a writer? The essentials will make up your “Survival Kit.” Here are some suggestions for what to include:

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  • A favorite mug + your beverage of choice
  • Laptop, tablet or desktop computer
  • New notebook, for doodling, sketching, brainstorming and dreaming
  • Several pens (just in case!)
  • A copy of No Plot? No Problem! and/or Ready, Set, Novel!
  • Epic novel-writing playlist
  • Timer (for word sprinting, and to remind you to get up and stretch every hour)


3 – Set up Scrivener

If you’re a serious writer, you’re probably already familiar with Scrivener. If this is your first NaNoWriMo, you may be shaking your head right now, wondering what on earth I’m talking about. Writing software? Isn’t Microsoft Word good enough?

My answer is: yes and no.

Scrivener is basically the Porsche of writing software. It’s fast, it’s stylish, it’s full of bells and whistles that your average family sedan just doesn’t have. And it’s extremely helpful for large projects, like novels, because it will help you organize your writing in ways that Word can’t.

I have become a convert, and do almost all of my writing in Scrivener these days.

It takes a little getting used to, and some setup time to make sure you’ve got things the way you want them, but once you have your software set up, everything will just flow. I love the simplicity of being able to drag and drop chapters, rather than having to cut and paste and fumble for the right place to put things. Plus, Scrivener saves your work automatically. And it’ll even save multiple versions of the same project, if you want to move things around and you aren’t sure whether your cuts will actually work.

In short, it’s really worth the price and during NaNoWriMo they offer a 30-day trial period to participants. So give it a whirl and see what you think!

2 – Start your outline

Okay, so how the hell do you create an outline, anyway?! Never fear: I have written two blog posts on this very subject, to help illuminate my own process and give you some ideas about how to avoid the feeling that writing an outline will kill your creativity.

I would also recommend K.M. Weiland’s Outlining Your Novel (and the accompanying Workbook) for those who want extremely detailed instructions (and lots of good reasons) for outlining.

1 – Join me!

Never won NaNoWriMo before? You need to start cheating! Join my mailing list to get a free copy of my book, NaNoWriMo: A Cheater’s Guide, as well as a word tracker and weekly tips for getting that novel done.



  • NameKate Krake

    I’ve signed up for this year (haven’t participated for the last couple of Nanos) but still feeling a little bit of the “should I or shouldn’t I” commitment fear. This post got me all excited and nostalgic about the years I did embrace the Nanowrimo crazy!