Skip to main content

NaNoWriMo: To Prep or Not to Prep?

When it comes to a 30 day writing challenge like NaNoWriMo, do you need to prep beforehand to achieve success? Well, that might depend on what kind of writer you are.
NaNoWriMo: To Prep or Not to Prep?

October 31, 2020, I asked a friend if she was planning to join our group of writers for the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) challenge.

“Ah,” she said. “Normally I would, but I totally forgot about it. I haven’t done any prep work!”

(What Is NaNoWriMo?)

This got me thinking—do you need to prep for NaNoWriMo?

Friends, you must know this about me: I am a prepper. Not of the Doomsday variety, but in almost every other aspect. I have the kind of person who didn’t need to stock up on toilet paper at the start of 2020 because I already had enough to get my household through lockdown. When you ask me to throw a party, there’s no last-minute scrambling for the smaller details. Even when a wrench gets thrown into our plans, I’ve usually already got a backup plan ready to go.

*****

NaNoWriMo Webinar

One of the biggest obstacles any writer faces is finishing the first draft of a novel. As Nora Ephron said, "I think the hardest part about writing is writing." Enter National Novel Writing Month, which has generated one of the most effective approaches to writing a first draft and bounding to new imaginative heights.

Click to continue.

*****

All this to say, that when it comes to prepping for NaNoWriMo, I’m usually starting in September and know the story inside and out by the time November 1 rolls around.

Not everyone’s brains work that way. There’s no right or wrong way to approach writing; only a right and wrong way for you. Because of that, NaNoWriMo creators and participants generally align themselves into several categories: plotters, pansters, or both.

Plotters are generally thought of as people who need a roadmap, a packed bag, and a tank full of gas before starting on the writing road; pansters, on the other hand, will jump in the car at a moment's notice just to go with the flow.

Before we continue our conversation, take this quiz to determine which you are!

NaNoWriMo: To Prep or Not to Prep?

If you identified with the notes on the left, then you're most likely a plotter! A plotter is a term most commonly applied to storytellers who like to plot their stories before writing them. A common tool used by the plotter is an outline that acts as a sort of road map or guide for writing the story.

If you connected with the notes on the right, then you're most likely a panster! A pantser is a term most commonly applied to fiction writers, especially novelists, who write their stories "by the seat of their pants." The opposite would be a plotter, or someone who uses outlines to help plot out their novels. 

If you were split between the two, then you're probably a bit of both! You might like a little structure but also aren't afraid to pivot your project when needed.

Perhaps it is not a surprise that I generally align with the Plotter! What about you? I'd love to see what writing personality you got in the comments below.

To prep or not to prep? Well, I guess it depends on what kind of writer you are! For more information on NaNoWriMo (and the different ways to approach it) and how to prepare for it, try some of these articles here on the WD site:

And don't forget to sign up for your free NaNoWriMo account here!

Whether you’re considering trying National Novel Writing Month for the first time or have participated in the challenge for years, having a little boost to get you started is never a bad thing! Featuring a combination of NaNoWriMo-specific writing advice and motivation, Grant Faulkner, the staff of NaNoWriMo, and the editors of Writer’s Digest have curated this exclusive set of articles and 30 writing prompts to help first-timers and seasoned Wrimos alike as you embark on your novel-in-a-month journey.

Whether you’re considering trying National Novel Writing Month for the first time or have participated in the challenge for years, having a little boost to get you started is never a bad thing! Featuring a combination of NaNoWriMo-specific writing advice and motivation, Grant Faulkner, the staff of NaNoWriMo, and the editors of Writer’s Digest have curated this exclusive set of articles and 30 writing prompts to help first-timers and seasoned Wrimos alike as you embark on your novel-in-a-month journey.

Click here for your free download!

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Strength Lost

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Strength Lost

Every good story needs a nice (or not so nice) turn or two to keep it interesting. This week, let a character lose their powers.

Sharon Short | Point of View Quote 1

Managing Point of View: Mythbusting

In the first of this three-part series, novelist and WD columnist Sharon Short breaks down 7 of the most common myths about choosing which POV is right for your story.

Channel Your Inner Authorpreneur for Your Writing Labor of Love

Channel Your Inner Authorpreneur for Your Writing Labor of Love

As self-publishing continues to become an attractive and popular options for writers, it’s important to know what you’re getting into and to have the right expectations. Here, author and entrepreneur Tom Vaughan shares how to channel your inner “authorpreneur” to help your book find its readers.

Mark Kurlansky: On Coincidences Driving Memoir

Mark Kurlansky: On Coincidences Driving Memoir

Award-winning author, playwright, and journalist Mark Kurlansky discusses the experience of channeling Ernest Hemingway in his new memoir, The Importance of Not Being Ernest.

In-Between: Writer's Digest 2nd Annual Personal Essay Awards Winner

In-Between: Writer's Digest 2nd Annual Personal Essay Awards Winner

Congratulations to Alyssa Rickert, Grand Prize winner of the 2nd Annual Writer's Digest Personal Essay Awards. Here's her winning essay, "In Between."

Things To Consider When Writing About Ghosts and the Supernatural in Fiction

Things To Consider When Writing About Ghosts and the Supernatural in Fiction

From maintaining subtlety to visiting haunted places, author J. Fremont shares everything to consider when writing about ghosts and the supernatural in fiction.

6 Effective Steps To Promote Your Forthcoming Book on Social Media and Feel Good About It

6 Effective Steps To Promote Your Forthcoming Book on Social Media and Feel Good About It

Social media is a daunting albeit important aspect of promoting our work. Here, author Aileen Weintraub offers six steps to promote your book on social media authentically.

Poetry Prompt

Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 609

Every Wednesday, Robert Lee Brewer shares a prompt and an example poem to get things started on the Poetic Asides blog. This week, write a world-building poem.

Writer's Digest Presents podcast image

Writer's Digest Presents: World-Building (Podcast, Episode 5)

In the fifth episode of the Writer's Digest Presents podcast, we talk about world-building in fiction, nonfiction, and poetry, including interviews with authors Whitney Hill (fiction) and Jeannine Hall Gailey (poetry).