by | Oct 12, 2016

“Organizing is what you do before you do something, so that when you do it, it is not all mixed up.” — A. A. Milne

We’re twenty days out from November 1, and I figured it’s time to start offering up some advice to help you get yourself organized for the coming month. In this post, I’m not offering tips for how to plan your novel, but how to organize your writing environment so you can minimize distractions, stress, and “Why didn’t I think of that!” once the writing starts.

    1. Decide what you’re writing. No, I don’t mean your story. But you do need to decide if you’re going to start from scratch, continue working on something that’s in progress, do a rewrite/revision of an existing project, do multiple projects adding up to 50,000 words. All of these are great ways to spend your November. I’ve followed all these paths at one time or another, as I know other folks have. But deciding what form your writing is going to take this month will have a big impact on what you’re writing in November. Starting from scratch needs writing prep work, even if you’re a pantser. Working on something that’s already in progress means just keep on writing — though you should only count the words written in November. I’m a bit of an old-school NaNoWriMo purist and I like starting a new project in November — though sometimes I get itchy and start a few days before. Or I go crazy, like this year, and decide I’m going to draft a Valentine’s Day short in October while simultaneously prepping my novel for November. Do not try this at home.

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  1. Clean your writing space. One of the great benefits myths about writing is the avoidance of chores, that as long as the Health Department doesn’t feel compelled to visit and the dust bunnies don’t eat the children, it’s okay to let housekeeping slide. This is true to a certain extent — much to my father-in-law’s annoyance — but since you’re going to be spending a lot of time in whatever space you use at home to write, you’ll be more comfortable if you do a thorough cleaning before November 1 arrives. I’ve got a couple of spots, and both, erm, need work, as you can see from the photos. Don’t just clear out the crap that has accumulated and shouldn’t be there, either. I recommend dusting, vacuuming, and making certain the monitor surface is polished. Don’t forget your keyboard, which I added to my list as soon as I saw this picture. Go to the extra effort now and keep it that way until NaNoWriMo starts so it’s fresh for you when the month begins. Besides, the cleaner you keep it now, the less crap that will be accumulated by the end of November.
  2. Figure out what days in November where you’ll have limited writing time or not be able to write at all. There’s this thing called Thanksgiving at the end of the month and many of us will have familial obligations that will seriously impinge on getting our words done for one or more days. If you’re travelling, you might have some good writing time — or you may not. I’ve had to do business travel during NaNoWriMo and while there was the flight and I had a nice comfy hotel room all to myself, my writing time was severely limited as I was with other people most of the time, including breakfast and during the flights. This year, I’m going to be a poll worker on November 8. It will be a very long day, so while I have Scrivener on my phone and a reasonably robust data plan, I’m not counting on getting more than maybe a hundred words written, if that much. Check your calendars and think about strategies to compensate now.
  3. Do some meal planning. You have to eat some time, and suddenly realizing you have to get dinner in the oven can interrupt the flow. If you have a partner and/or family, work with them for how dinner and other meals will work over these thirty days. Plan easy meals or stock up on take-out menus. Decide if you’ll nosh in front of the computer or use meals as a break. Try to eat at least somewhat healthy if you can. Chocolate may be revered by many as the perfect food, but it does not, in fact, cover all food groups. If you’re working late, make your meals/noshing on the light side. This will reduce your body’s urge to cycle down as it digests. Better not to wake up with QWERTY Face and better for your keyboard if it’s not drooled on.
  4. If you plan to get up early during November to grab more writing time, start setting your alarm clock back now. I hate getting up in the morning. Even if I wake up before the alarm, I have a tendency to stay under the covers until I absolutely have to leave. If the alarm goes off earlier than I’m used to, well, getting out of bed can be a major struggle. If you’re planning to get up earlier to write during November, start changing your alarm now. Do it ten minutes earlier this week, fifteen more minutes next week, and twenty the week after that. This will give your body some time to adjust to the new time, which will hopefully mean that, come November, the early start won’t be so difficult.

That’s it for today. On Friday, I’ll have some more advice, this time for some things that will help support your writing process before and during November. You can also pick up a copy of my book, Surviving 30 Days of Literary Madness, which provides advice and support to get you through November with at least a modicum less stress. (I don’t promise I’ll remove stress altogether; I’ve done NaNoWriMo too many times to make that promise with a straight face.)