5 + 5 things I do to prepare for NaNoWriMo 2018

NaNoWriMo is the yearly marathon for writers. The only rule is to write 50,000 words between 1-30 November. Anyone teetering on the edge of taking part? Don’t! Just go for it, have a got. What have you got to lose??

For those brave enough to try it, I’ve got a double list today: 5 things to keep you focused and at your desk, and 5 things to stop you wasting your precious writing time.

Five home comforts

Writing 50,000 words in 30 days means spending a lot of time at my computer, so comfort is paramount!

  • Warm feet

Unless you have perfect blood circulation, or you work all day at a standing-desk, your feet will get cold! I recommend walking socks or sheepskin slippers (or both!)

  • Comfy clothes

Even if you’re the type to go work in Starbucks or some hip little coffee place (I am not), prioritise comfort. It’s impossible to dream up conversations between imaginary characters when your trousers are too tight. (I know, I’ve tried.)

  • Enough tea

Or coffee, or ‘mean greeen’ or Irn Bru… whatever takes your fancy. Let’s face it 80% of us have a an oral fixation to keep up. Plus nothing compares to the creative boost gained from sipping pensively on a favourite beverage, and it will leave less marks on your waistline than chocolate.

  • Phone on ‘Do not disturb’, ‘out of office messages’

You do that when you go into a meeting or on holiday. During NaNo, you will be on holiday from normal rules of behaviour and in a 24/7 meeting with the voices in your head.

  • Noise cancelling soundtracks

A personal favourite of mine. I use these soundtracks to write to. Depending what season, location, situation I’m writing about, I will choose wave or forest sounds, logfire or rain on roof. You can try white noise or womb noise. These are also great for relaxing after a day of writing.

Five decisions

If you want to hit your word count of 1,700 words per day, you can’t waste time second-guessing yourself, so my #1 advice is make decisions and stick to them!

Whether you’re a Planner or a Pantser you need to decide on the following:

  • Work-in-Progress genre

Not as obvious as this sounds. Normally, I am all in favour of letting the story guide you where the characters want it to go, but during NaNoWriMo, you simply do not have time to turn a romance into a psychological thriller or contemporary fiction into a dystopian epic. Changing the tone of a 50,000 draft is the most despiriting endeavour (I know, I’ve tried).

  • Narrator and POV

Think of these as the ‘rules of engagement’ for your story. Much will depend on your choice – not only the grammatical structure of your sentences, but also your reader’s whole sensory experience (sights, smells, sounds, moods).

When I wrote the first Skyriders’ book (in a month!), I chose to use two alternating first-person narrations, one for each of the characters, and I have rued this decision ever since… (I’m now working on book 4).

  • Title and Blurb

Why? Is this not a little constraining and over-ambitious? No, This will create an emotional attachment to your work. (It’s like learning the name of that guy you keep seeing in the pub.) It will also keep you focus on your end goal: publishing and promoting your book to actual readers (not the NaNoWriMo word counter or your writing buddies…).

  • Names of your characters

Pretty much the same reason as above, you will think of your characters constantly, maybe even in your sleep. It will be infuriating and confusing to keep changing their names. Just imagine the find/replace nightmare if you change your mind halfway through.

  • Ending

A solid end point will keep you going while struggling with these first-draft middle chapters. If you get stuck with what’s happening next, try plotting backwards. Instead of ‘what happens next?’, ask yourself ‘how did they end up here?’ Sometimes, that’s enough to unblock you.

Finally, just enjoy the NaNo process. Believe it or not 50,000 rubbish words are just as good a start as 50,000 good ones. Fewer darlings to kill, and greater redraft freedom.

Have a great NaNo 2018!

With love,


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