On the Eve of Battle

So. Here we are. Mere days away from our adventures in NaNo Land. What are you doing to prepare? Plotting? World building? Character creation? Biting your fingernails? Stocking up on supplies?

Preparation is something a lot of people agonize over when it comes to November. The constant refrain I hear is always the same: “How do I prepare? What should I do to get ready?”

My answer has changed over the years, but with NaNoWriMo now merely days away, my current answer is:

Do absolutely nothing.

Also: Don’t worry, it’s going to be okay.

Don't_Panic_BadgeIf there is one basic tenet I took away from NaNoWriMo Founder Chris Baty’s myriad words of wisdom I have read through the years, it’s that you don’t need to prepare in order to start spouting off pure brilliance throughout the month of November. In fact, sometimes, preparing defeats the point of NaNoWriMo to begin with: joyful, unstructured, literary abandon.

If there is one thing that has been holding many people back from actually writing their novels year after year, it’s this mindset that you need to “do it the right way.” And that “the right way” is something you must somehow learn and plan and be ready for.

NaNoWriMo is the complete opposite of all of that.

Just like 3D printers are putting the manufacturing process back in the hands of the common man, NaNoWriMo has put the noveling process into the hands of the “ordinary person.”

You don’t need a fancy degree to write a novel. You don’t need to have read this book or that book by this famous author on how to write, or have a fancy writing program on your computer. You don’t need to follow anybody’s advice on How to Outline Your Novel or What to Look for in Character Development or How Not to Create Settings that Suck. You barely even have to have an idea. All you need is the desire to write.

Now, that said, there are things out there that make us feel like writers. Personally, I like my moleskine notebooks and square pens, and I like having my NaNoWriMo hoodie on, and my NaNoWriMo coffee mug by my side (now filled with tea!), and I use Scrivener, because these things make me feel writerly. But this isn’t how I started out. If I were bereft of all of them, I would still plunge ahead. Ultimately, it’s less about those things and more about the creativity, and the words, and getting those ideas flowing after months or years of stagnation.

You also shouldn’t completely discount those books by successful authors, or those articles about how to make great characters and settings. They will be really useful – when you go back and decide to edit. But for now? Bookmark them, set them aside, and focus on what’s in front of you.

If you are just now deciding to do NaNoWriMo, but fear taking that leap because you don’t have enough time to “get ready,” then here’s what to do:

1) On November 1st, sit down in front of your chosen writing implement, open up a blank page, and:

2) Just. Freaking. Write.


  1. Felicia Johnson says

    NaNoWriMo is now over. Had I read this first I think I would have had a better chance of winning. But I was trying to do it “right.”

    I’m glad this site is here. It will keep me going until Camp NaNoWriMo in April.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>