Prepare yourself for the marathon that is NaNoWriMo

To many people, October is pumpkin spice, cable-knit sweater, and soup season. In the NaNoWriMo community, October is (drum roll) Preptober. In the weeks and days leading up to NaNoWriMo, a lot of us are getting our stories and lives in order. Large chunks of time and a tremendous amount of brain resources will be expended. 

While Preptober isn’t necessary for a successful NaNoWriMo, it is easier on the author and their friends and family if certain steps are taken beforehand. 

Prep your story.

The NaNoWriMo site ( has some amazing story development tools they offer for free. They take the aspiring and veteran author through exercises to brainstorm ideas, plan their plot, build their story world, develop multi-faceted characters, and throw in some intriguing conflict. 

Many authors use Preptober to decide if the story needs an outline, a mind map, a wall of post-it notes (or index cards) with plot points, or a spreadsheet to organize the ideas. 

Committing to 1667 words per day runs smoother when all the research is complete in advance. Consider your characters deeply, so thinking like them is natural. Look for answers to questions like: 

  • What is their inner conflict? 
  • How does that conflict affect their life? 
  • How have others overcome the conflict? 
  • Does your character have a big dream? 

The more you know about your characters and their world, the easier it will be to write their story. 

Once you have the basics of your story, make a promise to yourself tangibly. Add your story details to the NaNoWriMo site. This way, you’re all set for adding your word count on Day 1.

Prep Your Office Supplies.

Have post-it notes, paper, pens at all times. When an idea rises to the surface, you can jot them down quickly, and they’re at your fingertips when you’re in story writing mode. 

Prep your mind. 

Writing a story in a month can be mentally taxing. It is hours and hours of flexing the creative mind. One way to boost creativity is by working with a writing playlist. Some people write playlists for their characters, scenes, or just to catch the vibe of the story they want to write. 

Another way to prepare the mind is to create a mood board. Gather images for inspiration and create a private Pinterest Board. Are your characters playing a game? Get a picture. Are they having a dinner party? Grab a picture. Are they hiking a mountain? These pictures will help you visualize the story. Anything that will help you fall into your story world will help when the mental gears refuse to grind. 

Prep your time.

In the weeks leading up to NaNoWriMo, plan. Plan on declining invitations—or making alternative writing times to keep up the word count. Plan on being a little tired. Remember your brain is running a marathon. 

Prep Your Meals

If the mind is hungry, it will be stingy with the words. The brain needs glycogen. Also, the last thing people want to do when they have shifted all their creativity into a story is decide what to eat for dinner. In the weeks leading up to NaNoWriMo, gather recipes and buy the ingredients. Also, don’t feel guilty if meal prep includes a couple of frozen meals. 

Prep For Celebrations

Celebrate the steps along the way. The NaNoWriMo site has badges for key milestones. However, there are other things to reward. Finishing a chapter, writing a rough scene, staying focused for a certain amount of time, achieving a word count in an allotted amount of time. Some of us need something more tangible, like stickers, or a snack. 

Find a friend

Writing doesn’t have to be a lonely art, especially with NaNoWriMo. The site has ways to connect with people in your area, genre, or areas of interest. There are even writing sprints in the Clubhouse app, Discord, and Twitter. 

Preptober is an exciting windup for NaNoWriMo. Taking care of the physical, mental, and creative energy beforehand is something you will appreciate. 

*Update to last month’s NaNoWriMo article. Because of the hazards of the Coronavirus Delta variant, NaNoWriMo will not take part in, nor endorse, in-person write-in sessions. They will take place virtually via Zoom and Discord. Participants in NaNoWriMo can find these sessions by contacting their municipal liaison on the NaNoWriMo site. 

Picture of Merri Maywether

Merri Maywether

Merri Maywether lives with her husband in rural Montana. You can find her in the town's only coffee house listening to three generations of Montanans share their stories. Otherwise, she's in the classroom or the school library, inspiring the next generation's writers.

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