Your Complete Guide to NaNoWriMo Readiness

Last year, I skipped NaNoWriMo for the first time in twelve years, and I’ll tell you what, it just didn’t feel like fall. So this year I’m back with a vengeance. 60k or… or nothing, because there is no possibility that I will lose. BOOM! And because I’m out of practice, I’m reposting these important NaNo prep tips that I wrote back in 2013.


The debate between plotters and pantsers will be raging, as it does every year, in forums and blogs across the writerverse. People will be vehemently defending the merits of outlining in advance/discovering their novel as they write it, and in many cases judging the other side, even going so far as to declare how “real writers” do it.

I think a lot of time is wasted on this argument that could otherwise be spent on important pre-NaNo activities like shopping for the best price on Fun Size Baby Ruths. The way I see it, you’re probably going to fall naturally into one category or the other, and letting your brain work how it works is more important than how someone else wants to tell you to do it, or how your favorite writer happens to do it. So just figure out which one you are, and be that.

But plotter or pantser, NaNo requires a lot of preparation that has nothing to do with the actual content of your story. There are two reasons you don’t write at this pace year-round. The first is that it’s only suited to first drafts, and if all you ever wrote were first drafts you wouldn’t be getting very far. The second is: you don’t have time.

Well, you don’t have time in November either. That’s why you need to spend time beforehand setting up as many things as you can to run on auto-pilot. Things like:

Soundtrack
You’re going to need a playlist that can, among other things, energize you when you realize how much your novel sucks and don’t see the point in typing another word of it. How big a job this is depends on how much you think your novel will suck, but it never hurts to be on the safe side and get your music in place ahead of time. I like to have theme songs for all my characters, and a theme song for the story itself, and then some theme songs that are just for snacks.

Speaking of snacks
Stocking up on candy and caffeine is of course the top priority, but it can’t be the only one. Some of us have families depending on us for their survival, and all of us have ourselves depending on us for our survival. Take it from someone who’s been there: if week 2 finds you weeping softly in a junk-food-and-takeout-induced stupor, unable to focus enough even to remember your protagonist’s name, or your dog’s name, or your own name, this is bad for your word count. Somewhere along the line you’ll want to mix in something healthy and home-cooked. Something with vegetables.

I use a nifty app called MealBoard to plan my meals in advance and then generate shopping lists for me on the fly. When November 1 hits, I know what’s for dinner all 30 days, I’ve bought as many ingredients ahead as freshness will allow for, and I can get the rest each week with a list generated in the grocery store parking lot, solving plot problems as I walk up and down the aisles rather than thinking about what I need.

Also, NaNoWriMo is just one of the many experiences that can be improved by a slow cooker. Cooking Light has a great list of slow cooker recipes that I go back to again and again. But if even reading a recipe is too time-consuming, that’s fine too. Just throw in a slab of meat and whatever vegetables are in your fridge, add a cup or two of liquid (wine, beer, cider, and stock are all your friends here), shake in whatever spices strike your fancy, and there you are. You can do all that while your morning tea is steeping, and that’s the last time you have to think about your dinner until you’re actually eating it.

Household maintenance
This one is easy: clean really, really well right before Halloween. Then adjust your definition of “clean” for 30 days. If you’ve got a family member or roommate who objects to the new standard, be sure they know where the vacuum is kept.

Oh and by the way, it’s holiday season
If you’re American, maybe you’ll be hosting Thanksgiving dinner or traveling for the holiday. If you celebrate Christmas, maybe you’ll type your last word only to look up and discover, with much panic, that it’s only 3 weeks away. Plan, book, and buy what you can in October.

And speaking of holidays, Halloween is an important one for NaNo. Have more candy than trick-or-treaters. Apply leftovers to noveling.

So get moving, people. November, much like winter, is coming.


I have a fresh NaNo account this year. Buddy me at jen_rasmussen!

5 words on the street

  1. I’m not noveling now, but I may do something with poetry. A pome per day? I joked about haiku on FB, but I wouldn’t want to restrict myself to one form. Maybe just one per day, any form, can repeat obviously, since I don’t even know 30 forms. They’ll be crap, but as with the NaNo, even if a couplet can be saved for later, that’s a Good Thing. :)

  2. I quote:
    0 results for “jen_rasmussen” in Authors

    Dunno how NaNo will work out because I just started an online writing course that runs from now through the next six weeks.

    Storied Women

    And I feel late on my first assignment because life.

    BUT! I’m also writing My Novel and am all excited about it even after many long weeks of not really writing much (because life). And I’ve been going to Shut Up And Write meetups. And my gal is very serious about publicly mocking me if I don’t keep up with both to the tune of at least 50,000 words by the end of November. So I’ll be sort of cheating and sort of not, and also I’m not very sanguine about it anyway because I’m finally running out of money and need to go find a job, and that takes time. And five of my gal’s children live in the house too.

    Man I always have a load of excuses.

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