The Writing Sparrow Episode 8: How to Prepare for NaNoWriMo Without Overpreparing

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Transcript:

Sarina Langer  00:06

Hello, and welcome to the Writing Sparrow podcast. I’m Sarina Langer, and this podcast is all about writing, publishing and marketing your book. You can find transcripts on my website at sarinalanger.com. Let’s get started!

Hello friends and Sparrows and welcome back. It’s the 26th of October 2020, and this is episode eight. Two weeks ago, I talked about my favourite time of the year, the glorious beast that is NaNoWriMo. And this week, I wanted to give you a few ideas on how to prepare for it without completely overwhelming yourself in the process. Because let’s be honest, that’s a possibility. I know it’s a bit late given that NaNo starts on Sunday this week, but I don’t recommend you completely plot everything anyway. And who hasn’t decided to do NaNo last minute? I know I have once or twice.

So NaNo prep, for me at least, is all about the basics. If you plan too much, as I admit I tend to, NaNo arrives and you’ve got this huge list of things to consider and a whole notebook full of ideas and things that you want to fit in there somewhere. And trust me, you’ll really feel the pressure if you do that. And you probably won’t even know anymore where you’ve left what in your notebook, so that just overcomplicates something that’s already quite difficult to start with. So my advice is to keep it simple and stick to the basics so you have just enough to know where you’re going. And hopefully you won’t get lost partway through NaNo, because that’s a nightmare.

Now, the following will sound like a lot, but don’t worry, the most important points are also included in the show notes, so you can always just copy those for your character prep.

Think about the most obvious things like the names, age, looks, you know, obvious things like that, but also consider other personality points like speech habits, like their wants and needs, because that will really drive your plot forward when you’re lost. Things they are afraid of and their strengths and weaknesses, because those things will also help you keep everything informed when you’re not quite sure what to do and hopefully keep you from getting stuck because no one wants to be in that position, certainly not during NaNoWriMo.

Now, of course, there’s plenty more that you can add when you plan your character and get to know them, but this should be just enough to keep you on track during NaNoWriMo.  When you think about your world, you could think about details like the country names, what the countries are known for, what their traditions are, their culture, how growing up there influenced your characters, things like that. Now, I love world building,so I can get a little bit carried away there. But the last thing I want to do is get carried away now and ask you to create an ancient, complex religion that influences that country’s religion at the time of your book. So do keep it simple to start with. Of course, if you’re writing something that’s in our world, you can just google those details if you don’t know them already. You don’t need to come up with those things because they’re already there.

The plot is another thing I can easily get carried away with very easily. But don’t worry if you’re not a plotter, there’s no need to have every last detail planned before you begin your NaNoWriMo project. In fact, I recommend that you don’t overdo it at this stage. Because again, you don’t want to overwhelm yourself. But knowing how your book starts, what causes your character to go on his journey, what happens at the midpoint that changes everything, and how your book ends will hopefully keep you from drawing a blank partway through NaNoWriMo. Because that’s the last thing you need, trust me. 

Finally, figure out your necessary daily word count to reach 50,000 words and realise it’s not that bad. If you write every day, it’s only 1,666 words a day. Sounds like a lot at first glance, but it’s not even 2000 words a day. It’s not that bad. You can totally do that. If you take the weekends off like I do, it’s a little more at 2,380 words a day, but that’s still not even 2500. Totally doable. Make a strong tea or coffee or whatever helps you focus, get the words down and get writing. And as I’ve already said in the last episode, it doesn’t matter if you don’t reach 50,000 words. I am back at the day job now three days a week, and I’m working from home Monday and Friday. I take the weekends off on top of that. So I’ve a feeling I maybe won’t make it this year. And I’ve made peace with that because by the end of November, I will have made progress and quite possibly more than I would do without NaNoWriMo motivating the next month. And really, that’s what matters.

Ultimately, NaNoWriMo is all about getting into writing habits and starting or finishing your work in progress. So those 50,000 words? Great goal, but don’t worry if you don’t get there, that’s fine.

Your action step for this week is to jot down a few notes about your characters, a few notes about your worlds, and to keep it simple so you don’t overwhelm yourself next month and add any extra stress to yourself. You don’t need that. Nobody needs that. I definitely don’t need that, and neither do you. And most of all, take a deep breath. We’ve got this NaNonite, let’s go smash it.

Although, having said that, there is another thing that you might like to do, which might just help you keep focus during November. It’s something that I quite like to do, and that’s to set rewards for myself at various stages throughout the month. I tend to set the first one when I reach 15,000, another one for when I reach 30,000 words, and something, not one, not massively extravagant, like not a holiday, you know, but something that I really want to motivate me to get to 50,000 words. It can be anything you want, as long as it keeps you on track and motivates you enough to keep pushing forward, even when NaNo, eventually, let’s be honest, gets a little bit harder to follow through. So, it can be a book or a candle, or maybe even just some time to yourself, whatever helps you keep focused. And when you reach those milestones… you can set them to whatever you want, so 15,000, 30,000, and 50,000 are just what I like to set them to, but you can do as many or as few as you want or not at all if that’s more your thing, whatever you like. And then make sure that you also hold yourself to them when you reach them. So if you get to your first reward, whatever it is, wherever it is, make sure you treat yourself to it because it’s really good motivation partway through the month. And if you don’t hit one or two milestones, don’t get yourself those rewards anyway, because then what’s the point of having set them in the first place?

Okay, are we ready? Just a few more days. Let’s calm down, join my cabin if you haven’t already if you’d like, and let’s get excited for NaNo and let’s show our works in progress who owns whom!

If you enjoyed today’s episode, maybe learn something along the way, hit the subscribe button. You can also connect with me on Twitter @sarina_langer, on Instagram and Facebook @sarinalangerwriter, and of course on my website at sarinalanger.com. Until next time! Bye!


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