With the approach of October comes the approach of one of my favorite seasons. You’re not wrong if your first thought is ‘fall’ but in this case, I mean NaNo season.
Officially, NaNoWriMo happens through the month of November, but October is often taken as NaNoPrep–which I fully support and highly encourage. Like any sports challenge or home renovation, tackling a writing challenge is a massive undertaking. Even if you’re not a fan of NaNoWriMo, there are other writing challenges out there that may suit you better. Regardless of what challenge you attempt, setting yourself up for success with it requires preparation.
What are you getting out of it? One of the big things to ask yourself is what it can do for you and your writing. A writing retreat may be worth it if you’re feeling stuck on a story, or lacking on inspiration. After all, sometimes the best place to be to get writing done is to be around other writers. Similarly, time limit challenges may help you if you’re looking to up your productivity level while writing, or even just get something finished.
How much are you willing to put into it? Again, like any other massive undertaking, what you put in is what you get out. For writing, that’s often time and dedication, so look at your schedule and really consider how much time you need to block out that’s dedicated to writing. Don’t forget to look at both before and after. You’ll need time to organize things so you’re not interrupted during those precious challenge days, but you also don’t want to be slammed with a hundred and one things that you’ve left for ‘later’ the moment the challenge is over.
What do you need beforehand? This one in particular is a huge point to address. Not only do you need to consider what you need for the story, but also organizing, gathering and arranging things so that you can participate in the challenge worry free. Again, slot out time before the challenge begins to do any of the real-life work that can be set aside during the challenge. Depending on your situation, this might be doing things like making and freezing meals ahead of time, or making travel plans well in advance. This might also mean taking time to do research and make notes on any topics you’re anticipating needing before you need them.
What do you expect it to be like during the challenge? If this is your first time participating in a particular challenge, try to come into it with a realistic idea in mind. Especially if it’s a challenge aimed at finishing a draft or writing an entirely new story in a short span of time. Don’t expect your writing to be perfect the first time. At the same time, remember that your about how much you think you can accomplish is a huge factor. Going into any challenge with the idea that you’re going to fail can make it harder to push through the inevitable snags.
You may get stuck on a part of the plot, you may have uncooperative characters, and it’s entirely possible that even with all of your preparation and pre-planning, something will still happen to drag you away from the word processor, notebook or typewriter. Alternately, you might very well fly through it and find the challenge to be the easiest thing you’ve done in your writing career. More than likely, you’ll end up in the middle ground, where there are hurdles to overcome, and milestones to celebrate.