National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo for short (NaNo for shorter), is meant to put you under a lot of pressure. It is supposed to have you tracking words and hitting seemingly unachievable goals. It’s not burn-out stressful, but it is often healthily stressful and equally rewarding.
It is difficult, productive, and often, a pretty big deal. For many of us, November is when we pen the project we’ve been planning and what we carry on, revise, edit, and rewrite for months. If you’re doing that 50k, it matters a lot — and what you do leading up to it does too.
My social media feed and many of the blogs I follow have been flooded with Preptober tips, and while trying to correlate those with what it means to be a student, I’ve found that my priorities are often slightly different. I’m taking the PSAT (a pretty important American exam) in eleven days. My GPA this year matters a lot to higher education. Sports, clubs, volunteering alongside trying to make Preptober, quote-unquote “productive” feels almost as stressful as the thought of doing NaNoWriMo.
Despite that, I fully intend to make NaNo work.
Years past, Preptober has been a double-edged sword for me — I’ve loved putting my pretty notebooks to good use and filling them with plotting, but I’ve also found that plotting and then diving straight into writing burns me out. Every time I think: maybe this plot isn’t what I want, I am flooded with the obligation that comes with the hours I’ve put into it.
Every time I think, maybe I’m just a panster (which I am) so I don’t need to plot too much, I remember that NaNo is incredibly stressful for pansters because often, we don’t get days off to collect our thoughts. I know a lot of people don’t do NaNo because it definitely caters more to certain types of writers, but it’s kept me productive past Novembers, so I want to share some tips I’ll be utilizing this October to get me set for NaNoWriMo.
Tip 1: Start Early
I’ve already begun my plotting for this project. First, my loose outline: a bullet list of character arcs and scenes I really want to write. Next week, I’ll be using Post-it notes to organize them into chapters. (Because pen and paper are superior).
An important part of starting early for me is also finishing early. I’m admittedly not the greatest at time management, but I’ve already decided that where I make it to on October 25th is all I’ll do. If I don’t give myself a week to rest before NaNo, I’ll give up in a matter of days, and that’s no good.
This goes for anyone, regardless of what type of planning you choose to do: give yourself time. Step away from the novel.
Tip 2: Broader Goals
NaNo has never worked for me without daily commitment. Just being the type of writer I am, it’s nearly impossible for me to bounce back from anything more than a day off, but Preptober — Preptober’s a different story. I’m going to allow myself to set weekly, or even biweekly goals, with the important bit being the act of actually setting goals and following through.
I live by this for Preptober because that makes it only as high-stress as I want it to make it. In these four days of Preptober, I’ve been working consistently towards my plotting goals, but it’s likely that PSAT week is not going to be too kind to that, so I’ll have to take a weekend after to grind out plotting to get my chapter counts in.
My Preptober strategy works because, on one hand, I’m only doing as much as I can, but on the other, I’m holding myself accountable. This plays into ending Preptober early because even if I tire myself out trying to reach that October 25th goal, I’m giving myself time to recover and dive into the deep end of NaNo.
Tip 3: Getting ahead in school
I’m in a very fortunate position where I enjoy a lot of my classes this year and have an idea of what my curriculum may look like for the rest of the school year. This allows me to spend time voluntarily skimming Khan Academy or even dropping in at lunch and asking my teachers for unofficial syllabuses and assignment guides.
Writing overall is so very self-motivated, and in preparation for the challenge that is NaNoWriMo, you have to be too. Start figuring out your obligations and responsibilities, get your life in order, don’t flunk out of school, and generally, try to make November as smooth as possible.
Tip 4: Minutes, not miles
This is for the month of November itself, but as a runner and a writer, it’s changed my mindset. What made me a better runner was becoming a minutes, not miles runner.
Full disclosure, I don’t think I’m going to use this for NaNo this year, just because of where my priorities lie at the moment.
If it gets stressful, though, don’t think, I have to write 1667 words today, think I have to write thirty minutes today. This is the same way I’ve been recently setting my goals up, not as, I have to run 7 miles today, but instead, I have to run 60 minutes today.
It makes you better, in that you’re not constantly checking on yourself to see where you are; you’re just taking the ride as it is at a pace you feel comfortable at.
Chances are, I may switch to minutes, not word count mid-NaNo anyway, but if this sounds like something that could make NaNo better for you, I highly recommend adjusting your goals towards it.
I am barely scratching the surface of the meaning and importance of Preptober, but a huge part of Preptober is your novel. I have tried pantsing through November so many times to drop by the tenth, so I highly encourage you to start working on Preptober. Or at least planning the rest of your Preptober ASAP and letting yourself chill and enjoy spooky season (as a few of the other lovely JUVEN Writers have dubbed it) the week before NaNo.
Good luck to all you writers; I can’t wait to see what NaNoWriMo 2021 brings for you!
is a high school student in New Jersey. She likes (in no particular order) books, music, science, history, running, and (of course) writing and is always up to learn something new! Find her on Instagram at @writing_stoot.