This November will be my ninth (holy mother of God, NINTH?!) year doing NaNo as a participant and my sixth year of doing it as an ML.
October 1 typically heralds the beginning of “NaNo Season.” That’s when the site relaunches (or, well, relaunches within a few days of that date) and most people start gearing up in earnest for November 1. You can spend hours on the forums pre-November, talking about your genre, brainstorming with other writers, scouring the adoption threads for ideas, and sharing your playlists and writing technology.
But amid all that shiny new excitement, you still have to get ready for November 1. And prepping for NaNo when you’re both participant and ML means your to-do list gets doubled.
So here’s a glimpse into a bit of what my life looks like when National Novel Writing Month rolls around.
As A Writer
I know a lot of people work better by finding their ideas at the last minute (*coughSerenacough*) but personally, I need to start hashing out a story earlier. If NaNo rolls around and I don’t have at least the hint of a road map, I’ll end up flailing by week 2.
This means I spend most of October doing character bios, outlines, research, and other plotting-related things. And if I don’t have a story idea, I’ll scour the NaNo adoption threads until I find a plot, character, or dare that jumps out at me and I’ll start developing that one.
Even if I don’t have a full outline, I’ll usually have a pretty good idea of the beginning of the story, one scene in the middle, and generally what the climax will be. That’s typically enough to get started and keep me on track.
And I usually FORGET to do this until the first week of November, but I also try to get a playlist made. Music’s great for helping keep me focused, and when I’m writing in a room with a bunch of other people, it’s practically a necessity.
As An ML
When you’re MLing, NaNo season starts earlier. “A little earlier” or “much earlier” depends entirely on how much planning you need to do.
Bekah and I usually have our first meeting by mid-spring or early summer, making lists of where and when we’d like to have write-ins. After six years of doing this, we’ve gotten pretty good at determining what days work best and how to work around Thanksgiving travel plans.
Then we start contacting locations and getting the write-ins set up. Usually we try to have a kickoff (a midnight kickoff if November 1 is on a weekend), two write-ins a week, and a last chance write-in, plus the TGIO in December. We’ve also got to plan a mid-month get together, where everybody joins up and…doesn’t write. It’s a chance to take a break from the madness and hang out. It’s a lot of fun.
In addition to the write-ins, we also make an annual pilgrimage to Michael’s in September or October to stock up on fun Halloween items we think will be good for participant gifts. In previous years, we’ve made mini Boxes of Doom, NaNo survival kits, and goody bags, just to name a few. So not only do we have to set up a time to acquire the stuff for those things, we also have to set up a time to put together those things.
Fortunately, we have a very helpful region, and the past few years we’ve had no shortage of volunteers willing to help us paint coffins and stuff goody bags.
And of course, on top of all that, we’re both trying to get our own NaNo novels ready to start writing at midnight on November 1.
It’s a lot of work, but in the end, it’s totally worth it. And I wouldn’t trade this time of year for anything.
How do you prepare for NaNo?