A NaNoWriMo Checklist

You’ve decided to take the plunge and participate in NaNoWriMo. You’ve done some prep work and created a few characters, come up with a setting, and done a bit of background research on cool careers or other things you might include in your book. Now what?

November 1st looms, so now is the time to take care of a few last minute things and get ready to start typing. Here’s a quick to-do list, both for these final days leading up to your novel-writing marathon, and to keep in mind as the month progresses.

Stock your kitchen and your bathroom. Make sure your fridge, freezer, and pantry are filled with healthy, easy-to-prepare foods. Yes, it’s important to lay in a supply of coffee or tea, chocolate, chips, and cookies, or whatever your favorite snack foods might be, but brains work better on a healthy diet, so make sure you add nuts and fruit and other tasty treats that will charge your creativity and keep you from crashing. You also want to make sure you have sufficient toilet paper, tissues, aspirin or other pain reliever of choice, etc. Nothing like discovering you’re out of something vital when you’re on a writing tear at 2 a.m.

Inform your friends and family of your plans. Make sure they know you won’t be quite as social as usual during the month ahead. Assign temporary chores to your kids and spouse to keep the household running smoothly (with promised bribes to be delivered in December if necessary). Arrange a signal — closed door, special article of clothing you’re wearing — so they know when you’re deep in NaNo territory and not to be bothered for anything less than fire or spilt blood.

Show your internal editor the door. You’re not going to want to edit at all in November. What goes into your novel document, stays in your novel document. No erasing, no deleting, no backtracking. If you change a major plot point, put a note in brackets mid-text and continue as if you’ve already altered the early part of your story. Don’t waste time making changes or worrying over the beauty of your sentences. Your internal editor is more than welcome to come back once NaNo is over, but for now, they should take a hike.

Mark your calendar. Whether you have a paper planner, a wall calendar, or an electronic calendar, you want to mark that baby up with your NaNo goals, with the obvious 50,000-word goal in bold on November 30th. It’s a good idea to try and work ahead if you can, to leave yourself a cushion in case something keeps you from your writing for a day or two, so aim for more than 25% of your total goal the first week. Add in any local write-ins or NaNo events you plan to attend. Check off those goals when you hit them, adding gold stars or stickers or big, fat exclamation points — whatever makes you smile.

Organize your tools. Are you going to write your entire NaNo novel on your computer? Terrific! Make sure you’ve got a system in place to back up your work, whether you have your entire hard drive backing up, you’re saving to the cloud, or e-mailing yourself the document at the end of each day. There’s nothing scarier than losing several thousand words when you’re up against a 30-day deadline. Even if you prefer typing, you should get a small notebook and pen/pencil to keep with you at all times. That way if inspiration strikes while you’re standing in line at the DMV or waiting at the dentist, you can scribble your thoughts even if you don’t have your laptop handy. Finally, make sure you have a comfortable seat. Add a lumbar pillow if necessary You’re going to be spending a lot of time typing — best to be cozy. And don’t forget to get up and stretch regularly!

The countdown has begun. In less than 48 hours, you’ll be off and running. Good luck, and happy writing!

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