We have around 360 hours until the start of NaNoWriMo...that is if I did my math right. Chances are that I didn't. With all those hours between now and our month of insanity how should you be getting prepared? Even if you are a panster (or is it pantser? Hum...) getting ready for NaNo will payoff in the long run. Its like training for a cross-country race, you might not exactly know what the terrain will be like, but you can at least be physically fit. So I've complied a list of my top five ways of 'training' for NaNoWriMo.
But first let me give a brief run-through of what NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) is for those who don't yet know and for those getting ready for their very first intense literary journey. Every night (or would that be morning?) at 12:01 AM November 1st a countdown clock strikes 00:00:00:00
For the extremely enthusiastic writers (including myself) this is the signal to start frantically typing out those first precious words of a new novel. A novel that will have hopefully reached 50,000 words in 30 days. During the rest of the next month we enter what I like to refer to as coffee induced a coma. Sugar rushes, emotionally charged heart-wrentching scenes, pots of strong coffee (not decaf), and an overall zombie like state of mind are commonly seen sights.
Beware this quest isn't for the faint of heart. You will often face fire-breathing dragons and charming princes to distract you. These are also known as the allurements of procrastination.
Rules to Live By
1. Eat. Eat real food. Protein is essential to not passing-out. Keep a jar of peanuts close to your writing space, they're a great source of protein. Vitamins and all that other good stuff will keep you healthy. Carrots are also known to boost creativity. Even if you have to type with one hand consume at least two good meals a day.
2. Water. Water is the most important source of life...unless you live in a fantasy world where water hasn't existed for hundreds of years. Cokes don't count and they actually swell the brain and greatly reduce your ability to function. Eight glasses a day (of water not coke) is the recommended amount. If you don't like water then flavor it.
3. Sleep. Even if you become nocturnal taking a 10 minuet cat nap (maybe even with a cat?) can help hold you over at least three hours. At least get four hours of uninterrupted sleep. That is the bare minimum.
4. Human interaction. Our eyes might be bloodshot, but we are NOT zombies despite the possible resemblance. Besides we need people to inspire us, right?
5. Don't skip school. If you don't have an education you will never grow as a writer. If your writing time at home doesn't allow homework then try to finish it all at school.
Disclaimer: failure to follow these rules my cause serious injury or even death.
Okay, now that I've got my dramatic introduction for the newbies out of the way lets get down to business. Here are my top five recommendations for NaNoWriMo prepping.
If you don't already write everyday then you need to start. Start now. Actually stop reading this, breakout a notebook and pen, and write something. The key to NaNoWriMo isn't 20k weekends (even if they are helpful!). If you're going to win you will need to write at least 1667 words every. single. day. To someone who doesn't write much that seems like s lot to ask. I'm going to change that. From now on until October write 1,000 words a day. From October until November write 2,000 words every day. After these two months of consistent writing NaNoing won't seem like such a struggle. If you do write everyday then bravo. Just make sure you're writing 2,000 words or more a day. To be a writer one must write.
At least get an idea of your novels plot a theme. Yes, pansters this goes for you too! Even if you don't have an elaborate spreadsheet and detailed timeline you should at least have a sequence of main events. Get a notebook and sketch them out. Use whatever system works best for you. An outline, a web chart, a picture diagram, sticky-notes. Be creative. Everyone should be able to sum up the theme in one-two sentences. It could be 'Civil war hero turns forty-niner, but soon realizes true love is more valuable than gold.' or 'A boy sets out to sail around the world, facing pirates, tropic storms, and mysterious stranded princesses on his epic journey.'
I don't care if you just write 'tall, brown hair, brown eyes, moody, soldier'. You're still getting a feel for your characters. Even if you only have a vague sense of your characters physical appearance, personality, and background it will jumpstart your story. You won't be in chapter six asking yourself 'now who is this character?'.
Devour other novels in the genre you plan to write. Introduce yourself to new authors and take note of how the action develops and the plot unfolds. Inspiration comes from seeing new things. If something on the page jumps out at you or makes you ask questions write it down. How did the author reveal the lie? Has the main character grown or changed any from the start of the story? Was it good or bad? Asking these questions and in turn answering them will help make you more aware of the same questions in your own work.
Keep a Record
Create a way to track your pre-NaNo, NaNo, and post-NaNo experiences. This can be done through social media or a personal journal. If you don't care for the media route start with a journal. Splurge and go find yourself one with a cover that inspires you and pick up your pens of choice. Map out your NaNo game plan (gel pens make this really fun), paste pictures of your characters, and fill those pages with tales of your NaNo adventures. Make that journal special.
If you want a visible outlet start/use your blog, tumblr, pinterest board, or twitter account. Keep others up-to-date on your NaNo accomplishments and spread the excitement. Maybe you could instal a word-count badge for your blog, or start tweeting #NaNoProblems. Vent your anger about a characters stupid mistake on Facebook, mourn the death of your beloved character with a blog post, pin character quotes and inspiration on pinterest. If people become interested in your month of literary abandonment then you will have the support you need when the going gets tough. After NaNo host a celebration of sorts. Win or loose you've still dared to do something most people would never consider.
How will you prepare for NaNo?