Friday Links: New Year Booklists

New year booklists are one of my favorite things about January. If December brings lists of the best books of the previous year, the new year’s lists focus entirely on anticipation. These lists give me something to look forward to, rather than reminding me of what I wish I had a chance to read already. So this week’s Friday Links offer up lists of a ton of great books coming out in the months ahead. Be warned: your to-be-read lists might explode as a result. Mine certainly looks unreasonably long, as there are some fabulous sounding titles on the horizon. I’ve tried to include a good mix of genres and so on, and of course not every link leads to book recommendations. But there are a lot of new year booklists out there. I hope these will be sufficient to inspire you.

New Year Booklists: Piles of books to read in 2019

No Time to Read

I also want to point out that, for those of you hoping to read more books this year, the upcoming 24 in 48 Readathon provides a great chance to get a jump start on that TBR. It takes place the weekend of January 26th and 27th, and the idea is to read for 24 hours out of a 48-hour period. It’s the sort of readathon that encourages you to get some sleep, go for a walk, and live your life, even as you put in some serious reading hours. You’re also free to join in for fewer hours if you’d rather, or if you have a busy weekend. Sign ups are open over at the readathon website, and you can find more complete details there regarding how the event works. It makes for a fun, weirdly social weekend considering that it revolves around reading a lot.

With that, I’ll head right to this week’s Friday Links. Wishing you a fabulous weekend, filled with lots of reading and writing time. Enjoy!

New Year Booklists and More:

Most Anticipated: The Great First-Half 2019 Book Preview. – This bi-annual list features a huge collection of books releasing in the coming months. Always an excellent roundup, filled with titles that might otherwise not be on your radar.

105 Books Sci-Fi & Fantasy Editors Can’t Wait for You to Read in 2019. – Pretty much what it sounds like. Tons of great-sounding titles.

The Most Anticipated Crime Books of 2019, Pt. 1. – Enormous list of mysteries, thrillers, etc.

2019 Preview: Most Anticipated Romance. – A terrific list of upcoming romance novels, including titles by TKA clients Nalini Singh, Alyssa Cole, Melonie Johnson, and Cat Sebastian.

28 Young Adult Books Coming Out in 2019 that Will Seriously Get You Pumped for the New Year. – Like the title says…

How to Make Your Imagination Work Harder. – Great advice from Danny Gregory for anyone feeling a little overwhelmed, burned out, or possibly even blocked.

What We Gain from Keeping Books–and Why It Doesn’t Need to Be ‘Joy’. – In the midst of the backlash from booklovers against Marie Kondo’s method of cleaning out bookcases, a lovely look at what books do for us.

Yay, Yea, Yeah, or Yes? – A quick look at these often-used, but only sometimes interchangeable, words.

Setting Writing Goals for 2019

Setting writing goals at the end of December helps you get the new year off the a great start. Resolutions get a bad rap. Everyone knows how fast they fall by the wayside. But goals? Those can be set at any time. I just happen to like setting new ones at the beginning of the year.

Setting writing goals for 2019

Before you set your new goals, think about this year’s writing. Maybe you’re coming off of NaNoWriMo and my December Writing Challenge and want to keep that momentum. Maybe you’ve finished drafting a novel and need to revise. Do you feel ready to shop a project to agents? Are you just starting out and hoping to finish a first manuscript? Your recent progress and writing habits help set the stage for your next steps.

Don’t just consider one side of your writing. Some things will be going well, others will have frustrated you. Take in the entire picture. Consider what writing habits need rethinking, and which work for you. Did you set goals for 2018? Be sure to review those. See what you accomplished and take a minute to pat yourself on the back. Are there any goals you didn’t meet? Some may still apply while others may have changed over the year.

Once you’ve got a good idea of where your writing stands now, it’s time to look forward. Goals should challenge you, but you should also be able to achieve them. Overwhelming yourself might result in you giving up, but going easy won’t necessarily help you progress.

Tips for Setting Writing Goals:

Choose several goals of varying size and difficulty. The smaller goals will be easier to achieve and provide a sense of accomplishment, while the larger ones will keep you moving forward all year.

Stagger the dates when you aim to achieve your goals. You might have one or two large goals that you plan to complete by the end of the year. A few medium sized goals might take you only six months, while small goals might need one month or three months, depending on their difficulty. You can stagger the start dates, too, so that one small goal starts when an earlier one has been finished.

Consider goals that escalate. For instance, if you finish goal #1 – Revise your manuscript for submission, you’ll be ready for goal #2 – Research literary agents.

Take on goals that you can control. Some things regarding your career will be at least somewhat out of your hands. You might want to sell your first book to a traditional publishing house in 2019, but part of that relies on editors. Make your goals things that involve your actions only, such as querying a specific number of agents, writing a certain number of words per day or per week, or taking a good class to help you improve your writing.

Keeping Your Goals

Once you’ve set your goals, and the dates you aim to complete them, consider what actions you need to take. Write down a few steps required to achieve each goal. I like to keep a spreadsheet for my goals each year, so I can see my action plan at a glance. You might prefer a chart on your bulletin board or something in your planner. I recommend putting reminders in a few places, so you see something goal-related every day. You might also set some more formal reminders in your calendar app so something pops up periodically. Whatever keeps you focused.

Finally, schedule a quarterly check-in on your goals. Plan to review your goal list at the end of March, June, September, and December. This enables you to see your progress. Maybe you’ve finished something early and can start another goal sooner than planned. Maybe something needs a later date because of unforseen circumstances. You can also adjust your goals if you need to do so. Remember, you set the goals, so you can do what you want with them. Add, subtract, rearrange. Consider them a tool to get you where you wish to go. Good luck setting writing goals and achieving them, and with all you do in the year to come.

Friday Links: Year’s End Review

I’m squeezing my year’s end review in with Friday Links today because, in many ways, I’ve already started to tally up 2018. I discussed book lists for the year, plus some of my own favorites, which leaves some thoughts on the year overall.

year's end review over coffee

It’s been a lovely year for book deals and for reading wonderful new books by my clients. On the submissions front, I fared a little worse, having a hard time getting through all the projects coming across my desk. One of my first goals for 2019 involves catching up there and continuing to work our new query system. But goals call for a different post.

Outside my little book bubble, the world continues to rage and distract, from politics to tragedies to the loss of various public figures whom we’ll miss. Put this way, it sounds much calmer than if I go into specifics, so I won’t. We all know the chaos brewing. May we find a saner middle road in the year ahead. I hope to post a much more positive year’s end review come next December.

On the personal side of things, good and bad news seemed to take turns. This year saw close friends moving away and others coming to visit. My parents continued to get older, as people do. I managed some great travel for work and pleasure, and met a few new people I’m excited to know better. It all seems to balance out.

This week’s links reflect my year’s end review mindset in many ways, some looking back while others look forward. It’s an eclectic mix, so I hope you find them interesting and inspirational. Don’t forget to keep writing daily if you’re participating in the December Writing Challenge. Just a few days left! Have a great weekend.

This Week’s Links:

The World of Nora Ephron: A Reading List. – In honor of the 20-year anniversary of You’ve Got Mail, a lovely look at Ephron’s approach to filmaking and writing. Great suggested reading list, especially if you’ve never read any of her work.

10 Books by Debut Authors to Watch in 2019. – A wonderful list that includes the debut women’s fiction by my client Erin Bartels.

Tired of Series? Try These 10 Standalone Fantasy Novels. – I love a good series, but committing to yet another one can make me twitch. Some great recs for anyone who feels the same.

Megan Abbott’s Work Diary: ‘My Psychiatrist Notes How Tired I Look, Which Is Great’. – A peek inside the busy life of a successful author.

28 Young Adult Books Coming Out in 2019 That Will Seriously Get You Pumped for the New Year. – Pretty much what it says on the wrapper.

12 of the Best Romance Novels, According to the Author of The Proposal. – Jasmine Guillory shares some of her favorite reads from the past year.

From Dragon Riders to Winter Slumberers: Winter’s 10 Hottest Sci-Fi & Fantasy Reads. – A roundup with something for everyone.

A Guide to Short Story Contests in 2019. – Start marking your calendar now.

Friday Links: Holiday Insanity Edition

Holiday insanity seems to have struck full force, so this week’s Friday Links are more fly-by than focused. Everyone apparently realized over the last few days that there’s about a week of business left before people vanish for the break, so all the work needs to be done. Right. Now. This means meetings, phone calls, and extremely-late-night reading sessions.

A few quick announcements before I move on to the links for the week. First, in case you missed it on Twitter, I will be closing to new submissions as of tomorrow, December 15th, through January (more or less). I’m trying to slow the deluge going into the holidays, and then I hope to catch up reading existing submissions. I’m still behind from our switchover to Query Manager. I love the new system,  but juggling two sets of submissions has been challenging. I hope to get through the backlog from the old system so I’m just down to one set of projects to read. Currently, I plan to reopen to submissions around the end of next month. I’ll post here and on Twitter when I’ve got a precise date.

Also, the December Writing Challenge continues! If you’ve missed some days, don’t sweat it. Just get back to writing and make an effort to set aside at least a small window of time for your work each day. You can do it, and you’ll be so happy come January that you didn’t get completely out of the writing habit.

Finally, we’re coming up on the time of year for setting new goals. I’ll be talking about goal-setting next week here on the blog, so start thinking about what you might want to accomplish in 2019.

And with that, I will move on to this week’s links. I hope that you find them entertaining, and a good break from the holiday insanity. Enjoy, and happy writing!

This Week’s Links:

A True Utopia: An Interview with N.K. Jemisin. – This lovely interview over at The Paris Review blog discusses short fiction vs. novel writing, what Jemisin envisions for the future, and more.

Tin House Magazine’s 20th Anniversary Issue Will Be Its Last. – Tin House announces the end of an era. Full focus will shift to their book publishing division and their workshops.

How a Cover Letter Can Help You Get Published. – Great tips, many of which hold true whether you’re submitting to periodicals or to agents/editors.

Kate DiCamillo, Chronicler of the Hard Truths of Youth. – NPR interviews the author about her honest approach to children’s fiction.

A Tour of a Writer’s London Sitting Room. – Take a peek into the world of author Ben Schott.

13 Libraries Book Lovers Need to Follow on Instagram. – A great assortment of library accounts, though just the tip of the iceberg.

December Writing Challenge: Helpful Hints for Daily Writing

Looking for some helpful hints to keep the words flowing during the December Writing Challenge? You’re in luck. I know that this challenge can feel like a lot, even without the pressure of hitting a certain word count each day. Many of you are coming off NaNoWriMo and feel you’ve earned a rest. Others of you are just so busy with holiday prep, or end-of-year work deadlines, that writing takes a back seat. So I’m zipping by to give you a few tips on ways to squeeze in a little bit of writing time each day. Remember, it doesn’t need to be a big chunk of time. Just enough to keep your creativity on track and your hand in the game. That way, come January, you won’t lose a week or two trying to get back in the habit.

helpful hints for daily writing

Helpful Hints for Daily Writing

  • Take a long look at your calendar and figure out what days are going to be the worst for you. Parties? House guests? Big work project due? Kids home for winter break? Then figure out how you can manage half an hour of writing time on those days. Maybe you want to schedule yourself a writing lunch. Or it could be as easy as taking a tape recorder on your morning walk and dictating some words instead of physically typing them. But assign yourself a writing block for each of those tough days and set a calendar reminder so you don’t forget.
  • Line up a fun project to work on. This can be instead of or–even better–in addition to whatever your current WIP is. It can be anything that you look forward to working on; a short story, some fanfic, a set of short rhymes, something holiday themed. The sky’s the limit, and there can be as many of these as you’d like. This way when you sit down to work on your main project and the words don’t want to come, you can trade off and get a few words down on the alternate project. You won’t feel nearly as stressed, and you may find it helps you kick any blocks on your main project to the curb.
  • Carry a small notebook and pen with you everywhere, and write if you find you have a few extra minutes. Maybe sitting in the pickup line at your kid’s school, maybe at the dentist’s office–wherever. Put down your cell phone or that three-year-old copy of People, and write instead.
  • Buddy up with a writing partner and make a point of meeting for coffee and writing time. You can trade off houses or hit your favorite coffee shop–whatever is fun but not too distracting. Do a couple of ten or fifteen minute timed writing sprints together, with short breaks in between to chat. Set a timer so  you don’t just talk your day away. It helps to be accountable to another person, so cheer each other on.

Remember that every bit of writing is forward momentum, even if you end up rewriting those words later on. The idea is to spend a few minutes each day thinking about your work and making a bit of progress. All the words count. Good luck, and happy writing!

Friday Links: Holiday Gift Giving Edition

Each year I like to offer up a holiday gift giving guide of sorts, mostly geared toward writers and readers. So that’s the slant of this week’s selection of Friday Links. Whether you’re shopping for the holidays or a birthday–or hinting at things you’d like–I hope these give you some ideas.

holiday-gift-giving-wrapped-presents

There will be plenty of book-centric posts in the next week or so. ‘Tis the season for end-of-year lists, after all. So for this post I’ve focused more on useful items and fun toys. But before I get to the links themselves, I have a few more general suggestions if you’re shopping for the writer in your life.

Writers tend to spend a lot of time hunched over a desk. Gifts that counteract that can be both helpful and luxurious. Think about gift certificates for massages or other spa treatments, a yoga class, or a new pair of running/walking shoes. Bath salts, a new wrist wrest, a good supportive desk chair, or even a standing desk might be excellent stay-at-home options.

Lack of writing time can be a frequent complaint. Give your favorite writer time to themselves for the holidays. Offer up babysitting services, take over a few extra chores for them while they’re finishing a project, or buy them time at a shared work space in their area. On the more extravagent end, send them off for a short writing retreat. That might mean a weekend at a local bed and breakfast or a week in a nice hotel with room service.

And finally, writers always appreciate new tech. Even if you’re not up to buying them a new laptop, a gift certificate to Best Buy or the Apple store might be a welcome contribution.

If you missed it, my December Writing Challenge is now underway, so please do join in. Now, witout further ado, I give you this week’s links. Enjoy, and happy writing!

Holiday Gift Giving Links:

21 Gifts Under $21 for Writers and Book Lovers (2018 Edition). – A fun assortment of useful book- and writer-themed items, some novelties and some quite helpful.

25 Gift Ideas for the Writer in Your Life (Even If That’s You). – A thoughtful collection of suggestions both writer- and reader-centric.

The Reader’s Catalog for The New York Review of Books. – One of my favorite bookish catalogs, where you can find literary napkins, classic character book tags, pencils with quotes printed on them, bookish jewelry, and more.

Storiarts. – A lovely, artistic shop featuring tees, totes, pillows, scarves, etc. with quotes from classic literature on them.

The Literary Gift Company. – Exactly what it sounds like. I’m particularly fond of their collection of journals with fun covers.

Goulet Pens. – My favorite spot for shopping for lovely fountain pens and beautiful colors of ink. They offer other stationery items as well. Worth a visit.

Freedom. – The app that temporarily blocks internet access from your computer, tablet, or phone. Help the writer in your life focus on their work and ignore the lure of social media, etc.

Literature and Latte. – Home of Scrivener writing software, which is my personal favorite, and useful for organizing writing projects of all sorts, from novels to blog posts to scripts to presentations.

 

December Writing Challenge: Maintaining Momentum

Maintaining momentum with your writing can be difficult at any time, but December offers some unique obstacles. Whether you’ve just finished NaNoWriMo and hope to keep writing so you can finish your novel, or you despair of getting any work done in the coming weeks, this challenge is for you. The December Writing Challenge seeks to help writers generate words during what is probably the busiest time of the year. December comes with a collection of holidays, all requiring cooking and shopping and socializing. Plenty of distractions from your work in progress. Plus it’s not just the fun distractions. Year end means finalizing work projects, reconciling finances, and other less pleasant but unavoidable tasks. What’s a writer to do?

Every year I challenge writers to keep their writing going. Don’t let the busy season keep you from maintaining momentum. If writing is important to you, you’ll commit to working on that latest project, whatever it might be, all month long.

So what’s the challenge? I challenge you to write, every day in December, for at least a little while. That’s it. There are no manditory word counts or goals for the month, just a commitment to putting your rear in the chair. I hope you’ll manage at least 30 minutes per day, but 15 will do if you can’t swing more.

Why every day? I know there are plenty of successful writers who do not write every day. But I’m a fan of building a habit, and the idea here is to keep your brain primed for the new year. Most writers charge into January with all sorts of writing goals, so this keeps your imagination churning in the meantime. Train your brain to come to the table–or desk–expecting that it needs to produce. You’ll be much happier come January 1st.

I do, however, acknowledge that life happens, especially in December. You’re traveling. You have guests staying with you. Holiday traffic leaves you trapped on a freeway for hours. I get it. So you are allowed two free days, to use at will, when you can take the day off from writing. Use them for Christmas and New Year’s Eve. Use them for the day the in-laws hit town. Whatever. Your choice. Choose wisely.

Of course, there’s no grand prize if you complete this challenge, beyond the satisfaction of knowing you did. Oh, and that lack of dread when you head to your desk in the new year. It’s all up to you. But I believe you can do it, and maintaining momentum with your writing will give you a great head start on those 2019 goals.

I’ll be putting up some cheerleading posts here and also on Twitter as the month progresses. I hope you’ll have fun with this challenge. Work on a couple of projects. Start a new story. Experiment in a different genre. Hit that upcoming deadline. You decide what to write; the sky’s the limit.

Enjoy, and happy writing!

Friday Links: Being Thankful

The importance of being thankful gets a lot of attention this time of year. With Thanksgiving next week here in the U.S., the subject has started coming up. The holiday brings some problematic historical baggage along for the ride, particularly in light of ongoing racial strife and feuding over immigration policies, but I prefer to focus on the sentiment of the word rather than pilgrims and turkeys. In difficult years, I think it’s more important than ever to consider what makes us grateful. Holding on to the good things gives us strength to push through all the rest. Especially when all the rest feels completely overwhelming.

Being Thankful fall image

In daily life, I tend to frame my gratitude as an afterthought. It comes out sort of like, “I gained so much weight this year, I have to stop sitting so much, but at least I can afford new clothes.” This probably isn’t the best approach. Being thankful should be a conscious choice. Taking a step back and considering what you appreciate in that moment. That has impact. When life ramps up and the world feels like it’s spinning faster, it makes a difference if you pause and think, “Hey, I accomplished this,” or “I’m so glad I got the chance to see so-and-so.”

So in the spirit of Thanksgiving, I thought I’d take a moment before posting this week’s links to list a few things I’m thankful for this year. No disclaimers beyond stating that it’s incomplete and a work in progress. As it should be.

I’m thankful for:

  • My family and friends, the whole crazy bunch.
  • That my parents are still alive and independent into their eighties.
  • My coworkers, who are always ready to chat books and publishing, and to trade information about our work.
  • My clients, with their talent and persistence and willingness to dig in cheerfully to make their wonderful stories even more wonderful.

On the smaller side of things, I’m thankful for a year of delightful books and movies–so many great discoveries. For entertaining writing challenges like NaNoWriMo and 4thewords, that keep ideas and words flowing. I’m grateful for the lovely spaces in my town that allow me to take a break and clear my mind. For houseguests and visitors. For writers conferences and other opportunities to travel and see new things. For relatively good health and a functioning car and an apartment I like.

Being thankful mostly feels like a small, quiet thing. But when you start listing all the things that come to mind–that bring you joy or relief or just allow you to function–it can feel much bigger. What are you thankful for today?

And on that note, I offer up this week’s Friday links. They’re kind of a mishmash, but I hope you find something entertaining. Wishing you a wonderful weekend, because I’m thankful for all of you. Happy writing!

This week’s links:

You Can’t Rely on Inspiration: Essential Writing Advice from J.G. Ballard. – Thoughts on writing and keeping the words flowing.

Writing Excuses on NaNoWriMo 2018. – The podcast offers up a mini episode with advice and encouragement.

7 Free or Cheap Writing Residencies to Apply for in 2019. – Pretty much as stated. For anyone looking to get away to write.

Applications Now Open for the Sesame Street Writers’ Room. – Information on how to apply before the December 3rd deadline.

Anyone Obsessed with British Authors Should Add These 4 Literary Destinations to Your Travel List. – Great spots to visit if you’re a fan of Jane Austen, the Brontë sisters, Virginia Woolf, and/or Agatha Christie.

Having No Time Is the Best Time to Get Writing Done. – An argument for being forced to write when you can squeeze it into the rest of your life.

Friday Links: NaNo Inspiration and Motivation

For anyone looking for a bit of NaNo inspiration, I have some thoughts beyond my tips from earlier in the week. That post assumes you will use NaNoWriMo more or less as intended by the organizers. To win NaNo, you need to write 50,000 new words in November and submit for verification I hinted there were other ways to tackle the challenge, so today I’d like to elaborate. And yes, links will follow. If you’re not interested in NaNoWriMo, feel free to skip ahead.

The beauty of NaNo lies in the community that forms around it. People who love writing and/or stories get together and celebrate this crazy act of creativity. Many are hobbyists, searching for a fun group activity. A good number never plan to publish a book. They write fanfiction for fun or play around with writing a novel for their own enjoyment. But NaNo works even if you do have major aspirations. Plenty of published writers started out in the NaNoWriMo challenge. And if you search, you’ll learn that many disregarded the rules and made NaNo work for their needs. They used what served their goals, and ignored the rest.

NaNoWriMo for Purists

If you’re a fairly new writer, you might hve an idea for a novel but lack the discipline to work on it regularly. Participating in NaNo encourages you to put your seat in the chair and get those words down. Don’t worry if the words aren’t so great; first drafts tend to be pretty crappy. But they give you a place to start, so you’re no longer staring at a blank page. And by tackling that draft during NaNo, you get a huge support system that’s built into the challenge. Find a write-in group near you and meet with them once a week. Check out the forums and chat with people writing in your genre. Ask questions of seasoned NaNo participants. Read the great pep talks that get posted by the pros. New writers can also find peers in November who become critique partners well into the future.

Already started writing a novel? Pick up where you left off and continue working on it during NaNoWriMo. Novels for adults run far longer than 50,000 words, so take what you’ve written and add to it. You might actually have a complete draft by month’s end. If you track new words written–using a new document, for instance–you can still submit to verify completion of the challenge. And again, make the most of the offers and community that come with the event while you write, letting that NaNo inspiration motivate you through the tough parts.

NaNoWriMo with a Twist

Maybe you’ve been at this a while and have a draft that needs rewriting. Use NaNo and its support systems for your editing project. You might not have a new 50,000-word manuscript to hand in come November 30th, but you’ll still make progress. It’s far more important to hit your own goal than the goal set up by the challenge organizers. And in the meantime, enjoy the cheerleading that goes on during the month. Use it to energize and encourage you as you tackle your rewrite.

What about pacing? Maybe the idea of writing 1,667 words per day (roughly what you need to complete NaNo) makes you panic. So don’t write that fast. Don’t aim for 50,000 words in a month. Make your goal half that, or whatever feels like a doable stretch. Perhaps the challenge for you lies in actually writing daily. Set a time goal instead of a word goal–30 minutes a day until the end of the month. Make the writing habit the aim instead of the finished product.

NaNoWriMo works so well because the challenge offers you one potential route to success, and then encourages participants to come play on your own terms. Now, maybe none of these options appeal to you, and that’s fine too. But if you’re looking for a way to participate in NaNoWriMo, I say go for it. Figure out what you want to achieve, and adapt the challenge to meet that goal.

With that bit of NaNo inspiration out there, I’ll move on to the links for the week. Wishing you all a wonderful weekend, and happy writing!

This Week’s Links:

Messy Attics of the Mind: What’s Inside a Writer’s Notebook. – Interesting look at the act of keeping notes and the ongoing fascination with the origin of story ideas.

5 Books Featuring Women in Love with Women. – Tor offers up some wonderful SFF titles for anyone looking to mix up their reading list.

7 Wonderful Classic Reprint Series. – When you favorites get a new look. Nice peek at some great new book designs.

The Draw of the Gothic. – What fascinates us about this particular story mood.

Inside the Rooms Where 20 Famous Books Were Written. – A peek at the room where it happened. Yeah, I know, but I couldn’t resist.

How to Renew Your English Degree. – A bit of humor courtesy of McSweeney’s.

3 Principles for Finding Time to Write. – Tips for how to prioritize your writing.

 

Tackling NaNoWriMo: Tips for Writing a Novel in a Month

Tackling NaNoWriMo–or National Novel Writing Month–challenges any writer, whether they have participated for years or are new to the event. Each year, I offer advice on how to get the most out of the month, whatever your personal goal. The key to NaNo is to remember to have fun. This challenge aims to help you get words on paper, to push through a long project without overthinking. It’s great for anyone who tends to stop and rewrite repeatedly before moving on. Because that strategy? Doesn’t work for NaNo. If you want to write 50,000 words in November, you need to ignore your mistakes and just go.

Tackling NaNoWriMo header with writing supplies for November

So where do you start? These few days before the November kickoff allow you a chance to prepare. Below, I have some ideas for what you might want to do, both in terms of writing your NaNo project and for maintaining your sanity during the challenge.

Know Your Goal:

The rules state that NaNoWriMo consists of writing a new 50,000-word project between November 1st and November 30th. Reality allows you to adapt this to whatever works for you. If you’re starting a new project, great. (And most of my tips below assume such.) But you can easily finish a novel already in progress, too. Just start a new file for the remainder of the book, to keep track, and write another 50,000 words.

Regardless of your goal, NaNo offers plenty of support for anyone writing in November. Take advantage of it.

Plan What to Write:

Whether you’re a plotter or a pantser–someone who prefers to outline ahead or just let the spirit take you–it’s helpful to start NaNoWriMo with at least some idea of what you want to write. That doesn’t mean you need a detailed outline, but a few basics will go a long way to get your creativity flowing.

Think ahead about your characters. Who is your protagonist? What do they want? What sort of obstacles might they face? Do they have a love interest? Arch enemy? Cohorts? Friends and family? Adding these characters and describing them over the course of the story will add to your word count.

Next think about your genre. If you’re writing romance, you know you’re aiming for a happily ever after. For fantasy or science fiction, your characters might not all be human. Do you have special technology in your story? For a historical, you will need background research. And many types of stories rely heavily on setting and/or world building. Don’t hesitate to hit the library or do some online searches regardling locations, tech, history, etc. Take notes, so you’ll have lots of great detail on hand to weave into your writing.

Finally, consider scenes you’ve already envisioned. How do your characters reach those points? What happens after the scenes? Think about repercussions. It’s good to have some key scenes you’re excited to write, especially on days words don’t flow easily.

Organize Your Life:

Let friends and family know you’ll be tackling NaNoWriMo, so they understand your time might be tight for a few weeks.

Stock the fridge with healthy snacks in addition to the fun ones. Fruit, nuts, yogurt, etc. make great brain food when you’re on a writing tear. Also, cook some easy meals ahead and freeze them for quick dinner prep.

Check supplies of important staples: coffee, tea, tissues, toilet paper–anything you’d hate to run out of in November.

Prepare to take care of yourself. Put reminders in your phone so you go for walks or hit the gym during NaNo. The exercise will help keep your mind fresh.

Tackling NaNoWriMo:

Schedule a few smaller writing sessions per day rather than trying to hit your daily goal in one goal.

Do write ahead on days you’re feeling strong. If you have the time, keep going. You’ll stockpile words for days you’re busy or less inspired.

Don’t feel you need to write linearly. Skip around if it helps you keep writing. Just make notes of places where you need to fill in later.

Don’t stop to edit. Don’t fret over sloppy writing or repetition. Just keep getting your ideas down. You’ll have plenty of time to rewrite later.

If a scene isn’t coming, jot it down in note form as a place holder. The words will count and you’ll replace them with even more when you finally tackle that section. Again, flag where you’ve done this so you remember to go back.

Do take advantage of group write-ins or other NaNo community events. It helps to have some cheerleaders who know what you’re up against.

Don’t ignore those reminders you set to get some exercise. And remember to get a good night’s sleep, too.

These are just a few ideas for ways to make tackling NaNoWriMo fun and relatively painless. Be sure to check out the main site, where there are additional tips and forums filled with encouragement. Whatever your goal for November, I wish you good luck and happy writing.