Start Preparing for NaNoWriMo Now

Photo: Jakub Krechowicz, Shutterstock
Photo: Jakub Krechowicz, Shutterstock

Even under normal circumstances, early planning for major events is critical to their success. This year, of course, we are in far from ordinary circumstances, which makes it that much more important for writers to begin planning for National Novel Writing Month (or NaNoWriMo, for short — NaNo, for even shorter) right now.

A couple years (decades?) ago, an amazing colleague spelled out a game plan for succeeding at the challenge of writing a 50,000-word novel draft within the month of November. But like most structured plans, it takes time to get into a groove and properly form a habit. NaNoWriMo should be treated no differently. It may sound easy to some — you’re just writing 1,667 words per day, not training for a marathon — but take it from someone’s who’s done both: the preparation involved in both is, in many ways, is quite similar.

And there’s one big difference coming to NaNo 2020 — a big one — as the nonprofit organisation announced this week:

NaNoWriMo works year-round to make creative writing more accessible to people, including partnering with more than 900 volunteers who host writing events in regions around the world. After conversation with our incredible volunteers over the last several weeks, our organisational position is that there will be no official in-person NaNoWriMo events in 2020.

NaNo has always had a virtual element — anchored by message boards, motivational videos, newsletters and online “write-ins,” — but moving into a completely virtual space might be a drastic change for those who rely on the in-person community to help them meet their daily word quota each November. I often joined in on live events in the past, whether I was “competing” in NaNo or not, just for the silent camaraderie, accountability and support that comes with being surrounded by a group of like-minded writers.

With that caveat in mind, here are some ways to start planning now so you can thrive in November:

Seek out your virtual community now

Expect to take part in more virtual write-ins through Zoom, Google Meet, Discord and other virtual meeting platforms. Make an account with popular ones you expect to use (you’ve likely been forced to do this already at the start of the pandemic), and have an opinion on which platforms you prefer. Look for your local NaNo chapter to make announcements through the NaNoWriMo website on where and when official virtual events will be held (you can find your region here; you’ll just need to create an account first if you don’t have one yet), or start making your plan for unofficial events with friends. In-person events aren’t just cancelled, but are actively being discouraged:

No in-person events will be promoted on our website or forums. Organisers of any “non-sanctioned write-ins” (which we strongly discourage) will assume all liability and responsibility for any such gathering.

Experiment with different writing times

Are you a morning writer or an evening one? Can you write for hours at a time, or do you work best in short bursts of concentration? If you’re not sure, now’s a great time to begin to find out. You can do this alone, but you might consider pairing your experimentation with your virtual meetups to see which times work best for you, your community and your creativity.

Test out your writing environment

Timing is important, but so is location. As the official NaNo blog suggests, test out your writing environment to discover your own ideal atmosphere for effective writing. Just like your writing time should be personalised, so too should your writing space. Do you prefer to write in public or in private? Would it help to find a new space in your home that will be designated only for writing? Do you need noise-cancelling headphones? You can adapt as needed and try new things to shape the setting that’s right for you. By the time November rolls around you’ll be ready to hit the ground running.

Make NaNo-specific plans for your kids

Parents may be facing an additional challenge this year, as the pandemic might mean your kids will remote-learning and in your life full-time again by November. Consider customising their specific study place with your own writing goal in mind, and maybe giving them a private learning area nearby (or far, far away) from your writing space. Whatever your personal writing plan, start thinking ahead now about how to meet your goals if your kids are always around.

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