NanoWrimo: Preparing for Success

NanoWrimo always sneaks up on me. I don’t know how it does since it’s the same time every year, but there you have it. But I am determined to do it write this year, and as I get ready and prepare I’ll be sharing some of my process with you.

Sun Zu, and lots of other people through the years, have declared that victory is achieved before a battle is joined. This is true of more than just battle, and I believe that most of your success in NanoWrimo is decided before November 1st.  This, in a nutshell, is what can set you up for success in Nano.

Decide What You Are Going To Write.

Seems obvious. But I would encourage you  to really think through this part. I would recommend that you avoid sitting down and thinking about what you can write/finish in November. Instead sit down and ask yourself this question:

What will move me closer to my goals as a writer?

Maybe a new 50,000 word first draft isn’t going to do anything for you as a writer. Maybe you need to take an existing story and write a second draft from scratch, maybe you need to write a couple of short stories.

Now, I can hear a few of you out there protesting that Nano only counts new words and that a second draft isn’t fully within the rules. Well, here are my thoughts on that. First, Nano is about having fun and growing as a writer. Second, I’ve found that the more project I have lying around, the less I get done. Third, if a new 50,000 word first draft is the best thing for you, then do that. All I’m saying is that you shouldn’t feel like that’s your only option.

Plan Your October

Yes, planning. Every writer’s favorite pastime. I will do another post on this, but I highly recommend that you do some form of outlining. It can be a strict scene by scene framework or a one page synopsis of where you want your story to go, but I think in order to really be effective in November, you need to have a general idea of who your main characters are, the primary settings they will inhabit, the challenges they will face, and an approximation of how they will overcome them.

Once that’s done, you  can start research! Read books, blog posts, web articles, and take lots and lots of notes about the settings and area’s your characters will be around. If you’re writing fantasy, research civilizations similar to your fantasy ones. If you’re writing historical fiction, research the time and place. If you’re writing contemporary fiction, do some research on the areas and occupations of your characters. Research is the wood that fuels the fires of creativity. Stock up on it.

The next thing you should focus on is REST. Nano is exhausting. Writing to your limit every day is wearying. Do whatever relaxes you, and make sure you go into November 1st with your batteries full.

As November draws closer, plan your calendar. Some things you can’t move (like birthdays or anniversaries), but there are other things that you can. If you’re in college, for example, see if you’ve got any big papers due in November or (and this is the important part) the first week of December. If you do, try to make some good progress on those in October so they don’t clog up writing time.

Set Realistic Goals

This is a big one. Maybe, like me, you’ve never finished Nanowrimo. Maybe you are struggling to push out 100 words a day right now. If so, there are two things that can ruin NanoWrimo for you. The first is to not do it. Nano is for pushing your boundaries and setting new limits of what you can accomplish. Even if you don’t sniff 50,000 words, your Nano can be a roaring success if you do a little more than you thought you could and wake up December 1st a better writer.

The second is to hold yourself slavishly to the goal of 50,000 words. If it’s November 5th and you’re freaking out because you’re behind schedule…then relax. Remember that in a year’s time, your final word count in Nano this year won’t really matter. The habits you build and the stories you tell are what will last, and ultimately that’s what NanoWrimo is all about.



Did you find this helpful? Check out the whole series on NanoWrimo: Preparing for Success and follow my blog to get notified on future articles.


  1. Madison

    Ah yes, realistic goals… I have a habit of setting 50K words yet only end up with around 10-20K every month. Great tips!

  2. evanoliver91

    Yeah, that tends to happen. I’m working on a couple more posts on this, and one of them will be on how to set good goals. But doing prep work and knowing what I want to write is what has helped me write the most in the past. Thanks for the feedback!

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