#preptober, Writing a Novel in a Month and Managing Expectations

The first week of October has swooshed by in a swarm of browning leaves and the preparations for the most prominent writing event have started.

NaNoWriMo (aka National Novel Writing Month) is a few weeks away and you can already hear pencils sharpening, paper being stacked and knuckles cracked. But is 50k in 30 days a reasonable goal or a madman’s quest? The latter I say, at least for me. Yet, here I am… AGAIN.

For the past three years, when November rolls around, I too join the writing cohort hoping to win the coveted NaNoWriMo halo (although, with the new web design, will it be the same I wonder?). Nevertheless, I never got it. Because for me, writing 50k in 30 days has proven too difficult in the past. I’m putting it down to two things:

  • not enough preparation.
  • November is always deadline month for universities in the UK.

But there is this thing called Preptober? Basically, you spend the whole month of October preparing, writing notes and making outlines, so that when November comes around you’re ready to go, and you’ve got all that pent-up anticipation to keep you going, at least through the first 10 days. It’s like a writing tease.

The latter I cannot help still, as I am enrolled in a postgraduate course. But when life gives you lemons…

I still want to participate. It’s something about the thousands of people joining in on the same quest which seems pretty cool to me.


So, what am I doing to prepare for NaNo in the month of October?

Week 1:

  • I’ve made character mood boards for each one of my main characters
  • printed out the first 15k I wrote for the project as part of my undergrad dissertation (yes, I am a NaNo rebel, not starting a brand new project)
  • loaded up on coffee
  • re-read my favourite writing guide: Novel Writing: 16 Steps to Success by Evan Marshall. I really like the charts and tables he provides, it helps make sense of what happens when which is usually my problem with outlines

I also put together eight little treats for myself along the way: a special coffee with whipped cream, getting my phone screen fixed… It’s the little things.


Week 2:

  • go through the first 15k and highlight what I want to keep from it (because the project is going to change)
  • create and organise a new Scrivener file, in my very particular layout and colour scheme: all black, block out unnecessary distractions
  • write a brief outline and a ‘treatment’
  • write a bit of backstory for my main characters

Week 3-4:


Wait, what?

Yes, I am breaking the rules. I told you, I’m a rebel, so I’m jumping ahead. My overall goal is 100k, so naturally, it falls out of NaNoWriMo’s range. I also can’t wait for long periods of time between idea generation and actual writing because I tend to have a short attention span and drop the project if another shiny opportunity shows itself. I also feel that by starting ahead, I will be into the flow of things by the time November starts.

To sum up, I am joining NaNo with the desire to write as much as possible, but I am aware of my time limitations and that my priority is ultimately completing my assignments. If I reach 50k in a month than that’s awesome! If not, I hope I can at least make some progress with my novel.

Are you joining NaNoWriMo this year? If so, what are your goals/expectations?

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