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Preptober: The Busy Writer's Guide to Surviving NaNoWriMo

It's officially October, and you guys know what that means! Aside from my favorite seasonal activities, I mean (hello, pumpkin patches and haunted houses, who's with me?) We're in the final countdown to this year's NaNoWriMo, and like so many writers, I've got about a thousand things to juggle.

If you haven't been introduced to the wacky, wonderful world of NaNoWriMo, thank you for letting me drag you into it. National Novel Writing Month, often shortened to NaNoWriMo or just NaNo, is an event to encourage creative writing around the world and takes place every November. The goal? 50,000 words in 30 days. No editing. No rereading. No going back. Just writing. It sounds like a lot, and it is, but it's an absolutely incredible event that does wonders for any writer, whether you're a veteran or just giving it a try.

(Interested in taking the challenge? Learn more and sign up at

Like most writers who join NaNo, I've got a busy life to get in the way of writing. Day job, family, the Thanksgiving holiday, and the general responsibilities of adulting can set back my word count, so I like to take advantage of so-called "Preptober" to try to reduce that as much as possible. Read on for my personal list of tasks to help get me organized and ready to write, and survive 30 days of chaos with as much of my sanity intact as possible.

1. Prep Your Novel

Sounds obvious, but I can't stress enough how crucial it can be to be sure you have your planning done ahead of time. Even if plotting isn't really your thing, consider giving a little bit of basic planning a try. Having even a rough idea of where you're going throughout the month can make things run all that more smoothly. Being a major planner I like to have detailed outlines and timelines for my story ready to go, along with a day-by-day planner to keep track of my writing and word count goals.

2. Have Inspiration on Hand

We all know writer's block is going to rear its ugly head at some point during NaNo. It does seem to like to pick the least convenient times, doesn't it? Take time in October to make sure you've got some inspiration ready to go when the time comes. Music playlists, Pinterest boards, or a list of emergency writing prompts can save you valuable writing time and a lot of frustration. Whatever gets your creative wheels turning, make sure it's ready at a moment's notice!

3. Research and Resources

Even if you're writing speculative fiction, sometimes research is just necessary to make your brilliant idea work. October is the perfect time to figure out just what research needs done and do it, so you don't find yourself scrambling for it in the middle of a chapter. Get your facts and notes organized and easy to access, and bookmark your favorite resources in case you need to reference them quickly. Even if your story doesn't need much real-world research, it's always helpful to keep resources like name generators or writing prompts on hand in case.

4. Organize, Organize, Organize

The last thing you want during the chaos of NaNoWriMo is to have to stop because you can't find your favorite pen or where you wrote down the idea for that crucial plot point. Get your writing space clean and organized so the writing process is as streamlined as possible.

5. Adult First, Write Later

As much as some of us may wish writing was the only responsibility we had in the world, it's just not how life works. One thing that takes a huge amount of stress off of me during NaNo is making sure as much of my other responsibilities are taken care of ahead of time as I can. I like to get any projects I have in editing to a good stopping point so I can put them aside during November, and get posts for my social media and this blog (at least, posts easy to do ahead of time, like writing tips or book reviews) ready so I only have to pause writing long enough to hit a button. Things I can stock up on, like pet food, basic groceries, and toiletries, I do, so there are no rushed trips to the store to make sure the dog gets dinner. Any work you can get done in October, do it. Your writing will thank you when you end up with the extra free time.

6. Don't Forget to Eat

I don't know about the rest of you, but I know I've certainly been there: I'm writing, I'm into the scene, and suddenly I realize I haven't eaten all day. I need something quick and easy to keep from losing the flow, but all I have in the fridge requires time and attention. Stock up on easy snacks to fuel yourself through writing sprints, and if you're the cooking type prep a few meals to freeze that can be heated up later on.

7. Indulge in your Reading List

Yes, I did just say that getting books is a vital part of prepping for NaNoWriMo. Or, you know, if you want to save the money and have a little more self-control than me, put together a stack of books you've been meaning to read but just haven't gotten around to. There's nothing better to refresh your inspiration after a full day of writing than sitting down to read.

8. Treat Yo'self

50,000 words is a lot. It really is. You're going to hit a wall and think about quitting, and it can be beyond difficult to drag yourself through to the finish line. Set up rewards for yourself at regular intervals, like every 10,000 words or every week of consistent writing. Whether it's a break to catch up on your favorite show, a book you've been dying to buy, or an extra slice of pumpkin pie--whatever motivates you to keep going.

What about you guys? Are you participating in NaNoWriMo 2019? What are you favorite ways to get ready?

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