On Writing: NaNoWriMo Prep Checklist - Updated for NaNoWriMo 2021

Welcome to a Post All About NaNoWriMo Prep!

So, it's about to start; this great big new adventure of yours. NaNoWriMo is just around the corner and so is the rest of your life. Welcome to NaNoWriMo 2021! But first, NaNoWriMo Prep 2021!

Woah, that sounds very dramatic doesn't it, but honestly, I'm not under-stating it when I say that NaNoWriMo changed my life and turned me from a non-writer to a real writer because it was the first time in my life I wrote every day for 30 days, and that first draft from my first NaNoWriMo turned into my first published book, aka my proudest achievement. Yes, I said it. How I hope my kids don't read this!

So yes, it's well worth doing some work for Preptober, NaNoWriMo Prep, or NaNoPrep, or whatever you want to call it because it could make the difference between you winning or losing NaNoWriMo. But before you get hung up on that ikky-feeling-inducing word "losing", let me quickly say that NaNoWriMo is ALWAYS worth doing, whether you have done a ton of preparation or not, but if you're reading this before 1st November then why not take some time to do a little planning and preparation so you can minimise the yukky-feelings you may also experience if (okay, when!) you get stuck.

What is NaNoWriMo Prep?

NaNoWriMo Prep is exactly what it sounds like. Oh wait, too many abbreviations? Well, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month (which is in November each year and is actually very international so they got that bit wrong but I guess IntNoWriMo doesn't have quite the same ring to it), and Prep stands for preparation. 

So you can consider NaNoWriMo Prep to be anything you do prior to 1st November that helps you write your 50,000 (or however many) words for NaNoWriMo. If you plan on being a purist NaNo-er and are going to write 50,000 words of a first draft of a novel then you may want to do a chapter outline, or even a scene breakdown within each chapter, or you may just want to write a one paragraph summary of what is going to happen in your book.

Maybe you want to include some character development? Maybe you want to just brain storm the novel idea you have in your head with a spider diagram that won't make much sense but will still help? Maybe you want to doodle a map of where your characters live? Or maybe you just want to decide the main character's name? Whatever you decide to do is cool, and it's all part of NaNoWriMo prep.

Now, if you plan on writing a non-fiction book as part of NaNoWriMo (you little NaNoRebel you!) then maybe you want to do a book or chapter outline? Maybe you want to have a bullet point list of everything you want the book to include? You may possibly want to use someone else's Preptober prompts? Maybe you just want to have a so-called elevator pitch ready for your book so you know the things it really has to focus on? There is no limit or no restriction on how much or how little preparation you do, what is more important - and I think the whole point of NaNoWriMo Prep - is that you feel a bit more ready to write come 1st November. 

It's important to also know that NaNoWriMo preparation could also be something that has nothing to do with writing. For me - as a mother of two young children - my NaNoPrep is going to include filling my freezer with food, hiring a babysitter for a few extra afternoons, and cancelling all but the most essential social appointments (theirs and mine, but yeah, mostly theirs!). If you're a parent too, here are some tips for you doing NaNoWriMo while also having children. If this is your first NaNoWriMo I strongly recommend you clear your calendar and prepare your friends and family to forget what you look like... kinda. 

Now let's cracking with some key questions you can answer to help you get some NaNoWriMo preparation done. If you're coming to this on 1st November or later - don't panic - you can still do a little NaNoWriMo Prep by reading this post which has some tips on how you can get ahead before 1st November in as little as 30 minutes.

Your NaNoWriMo Prep Checklist Questions

I can't promise you that it's going to be an easy month, but I can promise you that you will be - or at least feel - a better person for the experience, no matter if you "win" or "lose".

While I've shared my NaNo preparation tips and given you 21 reasons why you should do NaNoWriMo, I hope that the following will help serve as a pre-NaNoWriMo checklist.

So spend a little time thinking about the following questions and answering them honestly. They may prompt you to do a bit more active preparation. Or they may help you see that you're actually already a lot more ready for NaNoWriMo than you realised. All will become clear... 

1. Are You Ready To Give This Your Best Shot?

Do you feel energised, intrigued or a bit flummoxed by the possibility of NaNoWriMo? Are you equally as uncertain that you can do it as you feel revved up to kick its ass? Do you have no idea how you're going to feel at the end of Week 1, let alone on day 30?

Yes, yes and yes? Good news, you're ready for NaNoWriMo.

No, no and no? Good news, you're ready for NaNoWriMo.

2. Are You Ready To Write?

Do you have a computer or a notebook? Have you downloaded one of these writing apps or have you bougt a small army of biros? Are you ready to see the blank page or blinking cursor as an enemy that must be battled on a daily basis?

Yes, yes and yes? Great! You're ready for NaNoWriMo.

No, no and no? That's still great and you're still ready for NaNoWriMo.

3. Have you Made Time to Write?

Have you cancelled all unnecessary social engagements? Have you told at least one person who you speak to regularly that you're about to do something amazing in the month of November? Are you prepared to grow grey shadows under your eyes and become used to the caffeine shakes?

Yes, yes and yes? Fantastic. You're ready for NaNoWriMo.

No, no and no? That's flipping fantastic, because you're still ready for NaNoWriMo.

4. Do You Know What You're Going to Write?

Do you know how your draft begins? Who are the people or the topics you're going to obsess with for the next 30 days? Do you know how it all ends?

Yes? You are more than ready for NaNoWriMo.

No? Welcome to my club. Sorry, but you are definitely still ready for NaNoWriMo.

4. Do You Know Where You're Going to Write?

Is that space clear of clutter and excuses? Have you hidden the TV remote and favourited all of your best writing music and playlists? Have you tested how comfy the chair/sofa/bed is for a few hours at a time?

Yes? You're more ready than I was on my first year.

No? You're still more prepared than I was on my first year!

5. Have You Written a List of 10 Things You Will Look Forward to in December?

Have you included your favourite cake? Did you make sure an afternoon or evening with some of your favourite people were on there? Did you forget to add hot bubble bath / lazy bike ride / lunch at your favourite restaurant?

Yes? You're a step ahead of me!

No? Then we'll just look forward to doing anything and everything that isn't writing 1667 words a day in December, right? 

6. Have You Tested How Quickly You Can Write 1667 Words?

Did your fingers ache? Was it less than two hours? Were you amazed at how quickly the time went?

Yes? NaNoWriMo is going to be a breeze for you? 

No? NaNoWriMo is still just as likely going to be a breeze for you too.

7. Have You Stocked Your Kitchen Cupboards?

Did your remember tea and biscuits? Did you make sure you bought all the things you can cook quickest and easiest? Did y ou also get some chocolate...? For extra writing energy, of course.

Yes? Wow, you're more ready for NaNoWriMo than I ever will be... and also, what's your address?

No? Hey, you're still ready. Consider it also a new health regime. I actually lost 2 kilos doing my first NaNoWriMo... 

8. Have You Made Friends With My NaNo Profile?

Yes? I'm going to stalk you every day to make sure you're still writing.

No? Well, that's rude! But it doesn't matter I'm probably going to waste valuable writing time trying to find you and stalk you anyway instead of doing my NaNoWriMo word count!

9. Have You Chosen Some Motivating, Soothing and Heart-Warming Writing Affirmations?

Each year I'm always taken aback by how much of a journey doing NaNoWriMo is and I'm taken by surprise just how much of a rollercoaster it can be. As is any and all stages of any writing journey. 

Since I started using affirmations, and specifically created WriteNOW Cards for my own writing journey, I have found having a small selection of super effective writing affirmations ready for the hard writing days is really key to not just surviving them but also thriving through them. That's not to say that affirmations instantly get rid of the anxiety or stress that pops up on hard writing days, but they nearly always help.

Take your pick from the best writing affirmations on WriteNOW Cards' Instagram page or just write your own so you can have helpful, encouraging, mood-boosting conversations with your future self. You can also buy a pack for yourself here.

So got your writing affirmations ready?

Yes? Great, let's move on to the last step in this NaNoWriMo Prep checklist!

No? Don't worry - there will be new positive quotes and affirmations being shared on WriteNOW Cards' page every day in October and November this year!

10. Have You Found a Way To Be Accountable (Publicly or to Yourself)

There is much to be said for having an accountability partner at any time on your writing journey, but it's true that it doesn't work for everyone. However, the beauty of NaNoWriMo is that when you sign up - even if you don't get followed by or follow anyone else - you are creating an accountability channel for yourself to tap in your daily word count and just take responsibility for your own progress.

Using the NaNoWriMo hashtag on social media and sharing your own word counts or experience - even anonymously - is a great way to feel part of something and honestly, that feeling is really motivating and helpful to keep you focused.

If you want to keep it offline I recommend just having a spreadsheet, diary or calendar page where you can write your daily word count, or share that you are going to do NaNoWriMo 2021 with a loved one or a friend and ask them to check in with your progress.

Got your accountability channel set up?


No? Well, that's just fine because that can start come 1st November or whenever you get a chance to start. See, no excuses! My friend, YOU ARE 100% READY FOR NANOWRIMO!!!!!

In case you missed it, here are 21 good reasons you should do NaNoWriMo in 2021, and you can find loads of other posts with NaNoWriMo and writing inspiration here.

Image: Source

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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