NaNoWriMo Tips: How to Get Ahead at NaNoWriMo Before 1st November - Updated 2021

This is a post about how to give yourself the best possible start at NaNoWriMo. If you didn't already know I've written a lot about NaNoWriMo, including how I felt after my first year (back in 2012), how you can best be prepared to approach NaNoWriMo, what is a NaNoRebel and the benefits of being one, and here are 21 reasons why you should do NaNoWriMo... and not all of them are as obvious as you'd think!

And of course, if you want to go big in October and get lots of preparation done, or Preptober as it's called, then you can find these writing prompts designed to get you and your book ready for NaNoWriMo.

Today I want to help you get your best possible start in the least amount of time.

How to Get Ahead at NaNoWriMo in Ten Minutes

Tell the people you see most regularly that you are doing it. That's all you have to do. A few emails here, a quick WhatsApp message there and they won't worry about you when you fall off the face of the Earth some time in Week 2.

They may also send you encouraging messages and virtual pats on the back. Or they may give you a wide berth, not wanting to interrupt you and your muse. Either of these results shouldn't be sniffed at.

How to Get Ahead at NaNoWriMo in 30 Minutes

Write a list of things you'd like to write about. Notice I said "things" not thing. While some NaNoWriMo-ers claim to wake up on 1st November with no idea what they're going to write and still come out with 50,000+ words, the average person may find it reassuring to have a list of possible novel or book ideas. 

Writing this list and pinning it somewhere obvious is a great idea so you can keep checking in with these ideas and maybe one of  them will grow on you and that saves at least a few minutes of indecision come the first of next month.

How to Get Ahead at NaNoWriMo in One Hour

If you're happy to set aside an hour prior to your NaNoWriMo challenge, I know you're pretty serious about this. No, I'm not joking. It's more than you need to do.

So. In an hour you can pretty much write a rough chapter plan and maybe name some of your characters. You can give them a handful of personality traits and maybe even write a few sentences of back story.

I know this because this is pretty much how far I got when I spent an hour typing out roughly what order things are going to happen in the novel I'm going to be drafting next month. Yes it was something of an erratic braindump but even just listing what I want the story to "do" and which things have to happen and roughly when, I found myself feeling much more positive about the next month.

Alternatively, if you're writing non-fiction, you can easily write a list of goals you want your book to achieve and sketch out an overview of how the book starts and ends, and what falls in the middle in what order.

I did my hour of prep the other day and I feel much more ready than I did before.

How to Get Ahead at NaNoWriMo in Two Hours

It is well worth discovering how quickly you can write 1667 words before the start of NaNoWriMo, this will give you a realistic expectation of how much time you can set aside each day (or every other day, etc.) before you start. While the result may be a bit sobering, remember that every day will be different and your writing pace will reflect that. 

I also know from personal experience that the more you "write" the faster you learn to type so take courage in knowing your speed is more likely to increase than decrease.

If you'd like to increase your speed, check out these ten tips for writing faster and check out this list of apps for productive, distraction free writing.

How to get ahead at NaNoWriMo in four hours

For as long as I can remember I've always had a great idea for how a story starts and I fall into the trap of thinking that the only way I give that idea all the credit it's due is by starting at the beginning and working through until... wait.. oh, yeah. I don't know what happens next. This was the story of my NaNoWriMo 2013 experience - I came completely unstuck once I'd written 30% of the story and explored that great idea without thinking how it becomes a story.

After moaning about this with my boyfriend for most of November 2013, he tentatively suggested I write a plan. A detailed plan. With a breakdown of chapter and a decided series of events that I could then follow, from beginning to end. I could even go further, he proposed, by writing a breakdown of each scene within each chapter.

"But what about spontaneous creativity? What if my characters want me to go in a different direction? What if they're not happy with what I've decided for them?" I protested.

After raising his eyebrows and checking my temperature, he simply pointed out that any plan I have will not get in the way of my "characters" but rather give me direction when they're feeling lazy and not popping up in my head.

I hate it when he's right.

So that's what I did next. I spent three hours building on the chapter breakdown I'd already written and I now have 2000 words of scene by scene action that should get me through my novel. Plus, I made some notes some relevant locations. I even took some screen shots and printed out a few street maps. I then spent twenty minutes fleshing out my characters and talking to them, telling them that all this planning doesn't mean they have to stay quiet for the next 30 days. They can be as loud as they like... I'm listening... 

How to Get Ahead at NaNoWriMo in Eight Hours

Do all the above. And then read this book. Written by the founder of NaNoWriMo, I found it contained all the enthusiasm and optimistic sentiment that I feel for this writing challenge. It also is packed full of helpful tips and will offer you some guidance on how to approach (and survive) the month. There are even some planning tips, which are much more proactive and succinct than mine.

If you're a fast reader, and that only took a few hours, then I highly recommend you get yourself to the supermarket and stock up on sugary snacks, tea bags and instant coffee.

Still got some time leftover? Wow, NaNo is going to be a breeze for you. Well, sit down, read a book by your favourite author or maybe do some yoga or go for a run. No, actually, that's a far too healthy, silly idea. Instead get yourself down the pub and spend the rest of the time talking to a loved one. They're going to miss you next month...

In case you missed it, here are 21 reasons why you should do NaNoWriMo, here are some great apps for productive writing, and here are some of my personal tips for writing quicker when tackling the first draft of anything, including NaNoWriMo.

Remember to check out this page for NaNoWriMo Daily Inspiration Posts every day in November once you start writing.

Photo of a page of this lovely book.

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Frances M. Thompson

Londoner turned wanderer, Frankie is an author, freelance writer and blogger. Currently based in Amsterdam, Frankie was nomadic for two years before starting a family with her Australian partner. Frankie is the author of three short story collections, and is a freelance writer for travel and creative brands. In 2017, she launched WriteNOW Cards, affirmation cards for writers that help build a productive and positive writing practice. When not writing contemporary fiction, Frankie shops for vintage clothes, dances to 70s disco music and chases her two young sons around Amsterdam.
Find Frankie on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and Google+.

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