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10 steps to help you prepare for National Novel Writing Month 2009


 Photo: jekinthebox/Flickr

As a writer, participating in National Novel Writing Month is one of the most challenging - and rewarding - things you can do for yourself.  The stakes are big but the reward is even bigger: a first draft of your novel.  But are you ready?  It's one thing to plan to write a novel in a month, it's another to prepare for the journey.

Here are ten steps you can take to make your NaNo experience go smoothly.

  1. Alert friends and family: tell your friends and family about NaNoWriMo and explain what it means. Let them know that taking on this challenge is important to you and, for the month of November, your writing will take priority.  Someone else can cook the Thanksgiving turkey this year.
  2. Ask for accountability: friends, family, co-workers, running partners, the cashier at the grocery store - tell people about NaNo and ask them to hold you accountable for reaching both your weekly and month-long goal.  Knowing that you will be asked about your progress at ever turn will either motivate or annoy you into reaching that daily word count.
  3. Select the genre of your novel: don't start the challenge cold.  Select a genre - mystery, western, sci-fi, romance, etc. - so that you will have an idea of what kind of book you are going to write.
  4. Create a brief storyline: the key word here is brief.  Have a beginning, middle, and end in mind and write towards those points throughout the month.  Deviation is natural, but having a plan up front will give you confidence.
  5. Define the specifics: create your characters, motivations, settings, timeframe, etc.  Once again, be brief.  You want just enough information to spark ideas as the story moves forward.
  6. Post excerpts of your story: add your daily words to your NaNo profile as you go.  One of the most difficult aspects of being a writer is finding the courage to share your work with the world.  You've already found the courage to write a novel in a month; take that extra step and share your work.
  7. Turn off your wifi connection: Google, ebay, and World of Warcraft will all still be there at the end of November.  NaNo is about giving yourself permission to write, nonstop, for a month.  Honor that commitment by putting a hold on your other activities for the next 30 days.
  8. Clean the house: Do it now because you won't have time this November.  Married with kids?  Ask the family to pitch in for the duration.  But, regardless of whether or not you've got help, don't let your writing suffer this month because the dust is beginning to accumulate.  Deal with it in December.
  9. Reward yourself: set up a reward-system.  Snacks, an hour of your favorite television shows, a glass of wine...whatever motivates you to stack up those words.  Have both daily, weekly, and one over-the-top reward available.  It may sound like a small thing, but positive reinforcement will be key, especially after the first few days.
  10. Relax: You can do this!  Use the energy and community of the writers around you.  Attend write-ins. Read the forums.  Find buddies and check in with them on a regular basis.  This is your month; take a deep breath, embrace the opportunity, and go for it!

For more info: Thanks to Mary Eagan for the above-listed steps.  If you'd like to participate in this year's National Novel Writing Month, it isn't too late to join.  Visit the NaNoWriMo website and join the Central Iowa region.