If you’re wondering how to get prepared for NaNoWriMo, then Preptober is the time to do it. Preptober is an affectionate renaming of the month of October and is dedicated to getting prepared for November’s writing challenge. In this post, I’m going to be exploring how to ensure this Preptober sets you up for novel-writing success.
Although it may seem premature, Preptober’s the perfect time to really iron out a plan for the upcoming task because completing a novel in 30 days is no mean feat.
If you’re planning on taking part in this year’s NaNoWriMo challenge, you might want to start thinking ahead around now. Taking the time to plan carefully before November 1st could pay dividends by the end of the month.
What can you do for Preptober?
To get yourself ready for writing your novel, there are plenty of things that’ll help you hit the ground running. Preptober isn’t about doing any hardcore chapter work or lengthy prose writing.
Instead, you’ll want to focus on getting yourself mentally and physically ready for the road ahead. Fortunately, there are plenty of tools and strategies you can use to get your novel off to a good start.
As soon as October arrives, you’re in full Preptboer mode. With that in mind, you should take some time throughout the month to work on some of the following tasks.
Write down your motivation or goal
It’s really important that you clearly state your intended goal for NaNoWriMo. If you take the time to write this down and display it somewhere prominent, it’ll make a big difference on those days when motivation dips.
Ask yourself what you really want out of this challenge. Is it to simply get a first draft done? Is it to make your family proud? Do you want to have a completed version of your narrative idea? Are you planning to pitch your novel to publishers at some point? Do you want to share your work with your followers? Or do you want the satisfaction of knowing you worked hard enough to complete an entire novel?
Whatever your goal or motivation for taking part in NaNoWriMo, make sure you write it down and stick it on a wall near your writing space. That way, when you feel like giving up, you can remind yourself why you started.
Set up your writing space
Next, you’ll need to work out where you’re going to do your writing. This is more important than you might think. Establishing a specific space in which you can complete your word count each day can make a huge difference to your ability to be consistent.
If you’ve already got your home office or workspace set up then now’s a great time to clean and organise it. Declutter your desk and reorganise the room so that it’s a calming and distraction-free environment. Removing any distractions is really important, as you want to use your space as efficiently and productively as possible each day.
If you haven’t got a dedicated space to write in at the moment, then Preptober is the time to try and set one up, if possible. That may mean claiming the kitchen table for a couple of hours a day or finding a small desk or laptop tray to use in a quiet part of your home.
However it works for your situation, setting up a writing space of some sort during Preptober will help you greatly when it comes to actually working on your novel in November.
Chose and organise your creative tools
There’s a wealth of useful tools for writing, but more importantly, there are some fantastic creative tools for planning too. Work out which ones will serve you best for writing and you’ll see faster progress with your word counts. Everyone’s different so it’s worth researching your favourite tools. I’ve listed some of my favourites below.
Trello is a fantastic and simple way to organise and plan your novel. You can use it to create a variety of organisational boards, to which you can add cards and documents. I use it to plan my novel work into different sections, including development work on characters, worldbuilding, settings and plot points.
If you enjoy visual planning, a large whiteboard-style tool like Miro will be really helpful. You can use their templates for rapid mind mapping and project planning. Or, you can draw your own custom set of plans from scratch. It’s very useful for designing a high-level overview of your story, as well as designing boards that’ll help you see how your ideas connect together.
For simplicity, you could use Google Docs, Slides or Sheets to organise your planning. Sheets and Docs in particular are useful for building character profiles and potential dialogue lines prior to incorporating them into your story.
There’s also dedicated writing software such as Scrivener. However, this is a paid tool that you might want to do some reading into first. Some writers love it, others really don’t. As with anything, do your research to see what works best for you before setting up your creative planning toolkit during Preptober.
Establish a writing schedule
October’s a good time to work out some kind of writing schedule. Look at your existing commitments and see when you’ll realistically be able to fit in your daily writing time. Try to be flexible and considerate about this.
NaNoWriMo is a big commitment, which is why it’s vital to establish a schedule or timetable of sorts in the month preceding. Think about how much time you can devote to writing on a daily basis, and pencil that into your day. You’ll need to make sure this doesn’t get in the way of other family members or any work commitments. So, be sure to consider the time of day you select wisely. Explain to the other people in your household about your plans, to make sure they’re on board and won’t interrupt your routine too much.
If you find you write best in the mornings, try to set a writing schedule for first thing and then the rest of the day you know you’ve hit your target. Likewise, if you work better in the evenings, ensure you’ve set your writing schedule for a reasonable hour with enough room around it for real life.
Make sure you add your scheduled writing time to your calendar for November. Making it real makes you more likely to stick with it. You can also set up your novel on the NaNoWriMo website, which has a word count tracker you can add to each day if you enjoy seeing a progress report with your stats on it.
Devise and refine your story concept
With your tools set up and your schedule in place, you can turn your attention to the novel itself. Preptober is the perfect opportunity to really fine-tune your story concept. If you’ve only got a vague idea of what you want your novel to be about at this point, you’ve got a few weeks to refine your narrative.
Take the time to consider the message you’re aiming to deliver in your storytelling. What do you want your readers to experience through your characters? Try to pin down the main emotion, action or event that you want your readers to experience in your story. That way, you’ve got a central thread to refer back to when you feel your daily writing going off on a tangent.
Develop your characters
Strong and well-developed characters are the centrepiece of good storytelling. Use Trello or a template to build detailed character profiles and backstories for each of the heroes and villains in your tale. Check out this character writing checklist for some ideas of questions that’ll help you design personalities for protagonists, antagonists and supporting characters.
If it helps, you can also design mood boards for each character using Pinterest, for example. Being able to really see and feel your characters for who they are will help you to tell stories from their perspectives much more effectively.
Preptober is a good time to work out what each of your characters really struggles with. What is it that makes them unique? Explore their main motivations in the story. What are their flaws, and what’s stopping them from getting what they want? Putting in the time to fully develop your characters will make a huge difference to the impact of your writing when it comes to NaNoWriMo.
Design narrative maps
You can do this on paper or with a visual planning tool like Miro, or even an interactive fiction tool like Twine. Designing a narrative map can be incredibly useful to give you a sense of where your story has the potential to go.
Narrative maps involve plotting choice points, but you could design one for a novel in terms of dramatic events in the story, and the resulting consequences. You could divide your story up into three acts, and then map the events in each segment, to see how your pacing looks.
You don’t have to design narrative maps, but they can be very helpful in terms of defining scope. They’re also a great way to fully understand the outcomes of your plot twists and to give you a sense of flow in your storytelling.
Putting in some work on your novel’s worldbuilding is another crucial piece of preparation for NaNoWriMo. If you have a strong sense of the environment and genre of your story, it’s far more likely to feel authentic to the reader.
Depending on the type of story you’re writing, you might want to approach this in a number of ways. Creating mood boards in Trello, Miro or Pinterest is one way of getting a visual vibe for your story’s world. There are also websites such as WorldAnvil, which you can use to fully build and develop an intricate and imaginative world setting for a story.
Similarly, developing a document that outlines different elements of your novel’s world could be something that proves highly useful later into November. Having guidelines to refer back to when you’re in the midst of writing makes all the difference.
Write up a timeline in Google Docs to help you remember what happened in your world’s history. Develop maps of cities, towns and other notable locations. Fill your story’s world with history, people and interesting details. They’ll make a real impact when you introduce them to your readers that way.
Plot basic scenes
Now you’ve got an idea of your plot structure and events, you could begin outlining some key scenes. Again, this doesn’t need to involve any heavy-duty writing, but it can lay the foundations for when the time comes.
Create a set of cards or notes that feature different dialogue exchanges between characters. You can always reorganise and cut these as needed, but it’s helpful to practice and see how your characters interact with one another. These scenes can then be added to your story as you see fit later in the writing process.
If there are any major plot events, now’s a good time to outline them in scene card format. That way, you can refer to your plans when the time comes to ramp up the tension or bring things to a satisfying conclusion.
I like to do this in Trello, with actual cards, but you could use whatever software or pen-and-paper methods that work best.
Rest and recharge
Once you’ve prepared a few of the elements above, it’s time to take a well-earned rest. You’ll need to gather your energy ahead of November getting underway because the commitment to daily writing is a big one.
Make sure you get as much relaxation time in as you can. Use your spare time to read lots of fiction too, if you can. It’s the best preparation for kickstarting your creative writing skills.
Don’t be tempted to start writing too early. You’ll only end up burnt out by the middle of the month and you’ll be less likely to reach your end goal. With sensible and steady preparation efforts in October, you’ll feel much more confident in your novel’s theme, structure and pacing during NaNoWriMo.
Preptober planning for NaNoWriMo
There’s a lot to think about if you want to reach the 50,000-word target by November 30th. I’ve taken part in NaNoWriMo in previous years, and the first time around I did so without a plan of any kind. Instead, I signed up on October 31st and just committed myself to bashing out 1500 or so words every single morning.
In hindsight, this probably wasn’t the wisest way to approach NaNoWriMo! I did achieve my goal and completed the full 50,000 words of a first draft in 30 days. However, in the years since, I’ve been able to see where a robust plan could’ve come in extremely handy when my story veered completely out of scope. Having revised and edited the first draft of my manuscript a few times since then, I can definitely see where writing without a structure or guideline was detrimental.
Preptober planning definitely makes a big difference, especially if you’re hoping to have a finished draft that you’re happy with.
If you’re taking part in this year’s challenge, let me know in the comments. I’d love to hear from you if you have further advice or tips for new NaNoWriMo writers. Please share this post or give it a pin if you’ve found it useful.