How I'm Preparing for NaNoWriMo 2018

It was the fall of 2008. I was a few months into my full-time internship and living away from Chicago for the first time. I’d been writing my whole life, but in college it was much more sporadic than usual. I was ready to write more. I had a retelling of Snow White I’d been working on for literally years, but never finished it. A friend of mine from high school mentioned one day “Have you ever heard of this this called National Novel Writing Month? You should try it.”

Okay, I don’t remember if that was the exact quote. But you get the idea.

Looking back on it, that novel was awful. Like… it should never see the light of day awful. But, it was a start.

Since then I’ve participated in NaNoWriMo every single year. 10 wins. 1 Loss. 8 fantasy. 2 contemporary. The first was to complete what I’d already started, the rest were brand new novels starting from scratch.

Now it’s 2018 and low and behold - I’ve come back to that original Snow White novel.

Funny how life works, isn’t it?

Yet, nothing could be more different than that first attempt 10 years ago.

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My relationship with NaNoWriMo is vastly different than it was ten years ago. The months leading up to November I lived in the forums looking for inspiration, grabbing character names, and finding writing buddies. When they started the word sprints on Twitter I was there for them all! I searched for write ins (but rarely went due to schedules and some minor social anxiety) and even put together one with a couple of people.

Now… not so much. Instead of going to the forums for ideas and brainstorming, I go to my small writing group or other people I’ve connected with who are also writers. For me, it’s much more effective and helpful. If I need the motivation, I’ll jump in on the writing sprints on Twitter, but not the way I used to.

In fact, I’m not even starting a book from scratch this year.

I used to have a hard time with my changing relationship. Isn’t the point of NaNoWriMo to write a new book? Isn’t part of the joy of NaNoWriMo the community that comes along with it?

Last year, I was listening to the Writing Excuses podcast and they were discussing NaNoWriMo. One of the hosts pointed out that the intent of the event was for new writers. The people who have always said “I’ve always wanted to write a novel” but never did. Experienced novelists of course can participate too, but the purpose is going to be different for them.

When I listened to this perspective, the weight of my changing relationship with the event I loved so much was lifted. It’s okay if I don’t interact on the website as much as I used to. It’s okay if I don’t jump at each Twitter notification that a writing sprint is starting. It’s okay if the book I work on isn’t a brand new project.

This year, I’m focusing on my revisions and rewrites for White Rose. It’s the original Snow White retelling that I started all those years ago. (For those of you freaking out that I’m trying to resurrect a terrible old project full of teen angst- you can calm down. I started this book from scratch last year and the only things that are the same are a couple of character names and maybe one or two plot points. It’s a vastly different book than it was!) I’ll be rearranging scenes, rewriting chapters, and piecing together what’s decent enough to salvage for the new draft.

To be honest, I’m not sure how I’m going to keep track of my word count this coming November. It’ll be an adventure!

How am I getting ready? A couple of different ways.


A Lot of Help and Guidance

While I wasn’t picked for PitchWars, I am fortunate enough to have made some great connections with people who believe in me and my book. I’ve been given tips, resources, worksheets, and excel documents to help me organize my thoughts and look at my novel from an objective perspective to figure out what I need to do moving forward. Pretty much all of my prep resources have been given to me by other people and goodness it’s helpful.

I have writing friends who are loving and patient enough to listen to me ramble about my characters and plot lines. Even if they don’t have suggestions, it’s useful just to have them there to be like “yes, what you’re saying makes sense” or “I understand your pain.”


Character Profiles

I’m attempting to make a detailed character profile for each of my main characters before November. Eventually, I want to have them for my minor characters as well. If I can get them all in before November, that would be great! But, I have so many that I know this is probably an unrealistic goal. I have a couple of them done and it is so helpful for me to dig deep into the characters so I can figure out their story lines and how I need to change things for them in my manuscript.


Detailed Outlining and Scene Trackers

I’ve always been an outliner, but the last few years for my first drafts they’ve been pretty loose ones. When I go into revisions though, I want to have a fully laid out plan so I know exactly what I need to fix and do.

It’s tedious and time consuming, but having everything laid out for me is opening my eyes to what’s broken and how to fit it in this draft. I’m seeing what scenes need to be cut, combined with others, rearranged, and added. If I had done this for a rough draft, I would have been completely overwhelmed. For a rewrite revision? It’s gold.

By the time November is here, I want to have this outline sketched out in Scrivener. That way when I’m ready to write, I can jump in and not worry about “so what am I doing next?”

Or at least I won’t be as much - hopefully.


Honestly… that’s pretty much it. The list is short, but each one of them are so time consuming and helpful, I’m feeling confident for November.

Who else is prepping for NaNoWriMo? Any tips? What kind of project are you working on for November? How are you preparing?

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