Mental Health Monday–NaNo Prep Tips; It All Starts with a Goal

I’m kicking off my new blog series where I focus on a different writerly topic every month with NaNoWriMo Prep!

How does this connect to Mental Health Monday?

Well, whenever a challenge presents itself, it is often helpful to tackle it strategically in order to keep stress and mental anguish as low as possible.😉

Those of you who are familiar with NaNoWriMo (National November Writing Month) know that it’s a marathon for writers. Instead of pounding out miles with our sneakers, we pound out words with our fingers.

It’s important to remember that you’ve got to exercise your writing muscle before November 1. Here are some helpful tips that’ll get you warmed up and ready for the race.

1. Identify a goal.

The goal for NaNo is pretty simple, right? Write 50,000 words in 30 days. But how are you going to break down that hefty wordage into manageable chunks? If you divide 50,000 by 30, you get: 1667. That means you’ve got to write 1667 words a day to stay on track. Or 3333 every other day. Or 12,500 a weekend.

  • Take a look at your schedule. Do you have time to write every day, every other day, or weekends only?
  • Take a look at your writing preferences. Do you like to write here and there or in large chunks of time?
  • If you’re worried about letting time slide by, literally schedule writing time in your day planner.

2. Prepare a space. 

Do you have an office, a library, or a corner of your apartment that’s designated for writing? Or do you sit on the couch with your laptop and pound out words with your feet up and your back melded to a cushion?

  • Consider clearing off your writing space. Get rid of clutter. It’ll fill your mind and block your creativity–things you don’t want to happen while plopping out massive word counts on a daily basis.
  • Consider developing an inspiration wall. Collect things that spark your creativity or make you feel all energized and warm and fuzzy. Put it up on a cork board or poster board. If you’ve got a story idea in mind, print pictures of characters, settings, or clip magazine photos of the same. It’ll help you visualize the world you’re creating.
  • Consider adding a pleasant scent, either with fresh flowers, a scented candle, or sachet. Just like our writing, we need to engage all the senses, not just our eyes.
  • Don’t forget the tunes! Do you like Metallica or Vivaldi? Make sure your ipod, CD player, or Pandora station is ready for you.

3. Gather supplies.

  • Do you write in notebooks? Use post-its? What kind of pens, pencils, markers do you use?
  • Keep bottled water nearby. Set your favorite mug by the computer. Collect your favorite teas or coffees. Have them handy so you don’t have to waste time “getting ready.”
  • Writers need snacks. Salty, sweet, healthy, whatever floats your boat, get yourself a cute basket and fill it up so you’re ready to go the moment you sit down.

4. What’s your story going to be about? 

Here may be the trickiest part. Are you a panster, thriving off the thrill of not knowing what’ll happen next? (Psst, that may be tricky during NaNo if you get stuck…just saying.) Maybe you’ve got an idea or an “old” manuscript you haven’t been able to develop.

  • Consider mapping out a loose plan. Draft an outline so you have something to follow while you’re whipping out the words.

5. Schedule time to relax.

NaNo can be a pretty nerve-wracking and brain-numbing month. Be sure to allow yourself time to chill out or you’ll get so stressed writer’s block just might get you.

  • Keep a novel near by to read a chapter here and there, the break will allow your brain to recharge so you can be fresh and alert to reach your goal.
  • Keep a sketch pad next to you if you draw.
  • Keep your walking shoes nearby. Exercise will help you stretch our your muscles and your mind. You just may figure out that sticky plot point while the wind whips through your hair.

All right, well that’s a good start, I think. Don’t want to overload y’all with too much information. We’ve got the whole month to prep, after all.

How about you? What tips do you use to prepare for NaNo?

Don’t forget to check out Lydia’s Medical Monday and Sarah Fine’s blog for more writerly information!

18 comments on “Mental Health Monday–NaNo Prep Tips; It All Starts with a Goal

  1. Doris says:

    Great tips.

    Last year was my first experience with NaNoWriMo, it became quite stressful when I got behind. Then I got stuck and couldn’t complete the 50K words.

    Hopefully I will do better this year.

    Thank you, Laura.

  2. I’m still debating Nano. I want to but I also don’t need the pressure. Still debating…

  3. Sheri Larsen says:

    #4 is my challenge and the exact reason I didn’t partake in NaNo last year. Hmmm…I’ve just started a new YA novel. Maybe I’ll take your advice. Great post!!

  4. Vicki Tremper says:

    Thanks for the awesome advice! I’ve always wanted to do NaNo, but I can’t see my family giving me the time. And I’m not sure I’m in the right place with my other work, to take the entire month off to do this. Maybe your posts this month will help me see a way. Thanks!

  5. Lydia K says:

    It’s like going to battle! You are going to be so prepared.🙂

  6. LOL! Last year I made my 50k and THEN stalled. Le sigh.

    My project this year is half art, half writing, so no NaNo for me.

  7. I’ve never tried this, it sounds hard but great tips here!

  8. Linda Gray says:

    This is good stuff, Laura! It’s as if you read my mind and answered my question (I actually asked this question about NaNo on my blog today!). My favorite of all your suggestions: an inspiration board. I got excited the moment I read that, because what I fear most about NaNo is getting stuck, or sidelined in an unproductive tangent (because try as I might, detailed outlining never fails to kill my creativity). Thanks!

  9. Catherine Johnson says:

    Since I’m doing PiBoldMo and not NanoWriMo maybe I should come round with virtual foot massages keep you all calm😉

  10. Sarah says:

    Very well-organized approach! I don’t do NaNo, but this is a nice way to think about large writing goals whenever they come up!

  11. Kerri says:

    I love the stress of NaNo! I usually procrastinate if I’m going to do it until the day it starts. Then I dive in like a crazy person. Okay, now you have me thinking about this lol! Great post!

  12. Donna Hole says:

    Awesome tips; thanks for sharing them. I bet they help you, and probably others as well.

    I don’t torture myself into thinking I can pound out a novel in 30 days. Shoot, most of the time it takes me several hours just to get out 500 words🙂

    But I do wish everyone luck who is participating, and I think having such an indepth plan will help.

    Thumbs up!


  13. Karen Lange says:

    What a great list! I appreciate it, and the work that went in to putting it together. Have been toying with doing it, but really need to look at my schedule to see if it can work. Thanks for the inspiration!🙂

  14. EArroyo says:

    I’ve never participated in nano. I don’t think I will, but these goals are great to get started…now. Thanks,

  15. kendallgrey says:

    These are excellent tips, Laura. I did Nano for the first time last year, and I think I’m gonna try it again this year. I’ll look for you!😉

  16. I’ve got an awesome solution for avoiding the stress of NaNo. I don’t do it.🙂

    Okay, true the timing never works in my favor as to when I’m ready to start my first draft. Plus we usually go away on vacation during November.

    Great suggestions for anytime you want to write, Laura.

  17. aparnanairphotography says:

    You mentioned that it is important to create a space. What happens if there is dirty laundry everywhere to the point that you’ll have to order an excavation in order to even find your desk, the maid has given up on your house and there is a film of dust covering your computer, and the entire house smells like curry?

  18. Nano is a blast but it helps to be prepared! Great organizing tips!!

    Good luck with Nano!

    Angela @ The Bookshelf Muse

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