Leaves are falling, there’s a chill in the air, and everything is pumpkin flavored. Sure, that means fall, but you know what else it means? The time to try to write a novel in a month is fast approaching and that means it’s time for some NaNoWriMo planning!

a woman sitting on the floor while writing in a notebook and the text "The Ultimate NaNoWriMo Planning Checklist: Prepare to Write 50K Words in November Without Breaking a Sweat"

This post is chock-full of what you need to know before you dive into the process of writing a whole novel in a month.

It’s NaNoWriMo planning time, so let’s get into it!

NaNoWriMo for Beginners

If this is your first time trying NaNoWriMo, welcome to the mad house! Not really, but kind of.

NaNoWriMo is fun for a lot of reasons, but it can be incredibly stressful. So, if this is your first year giving it a try, consider this your permission slip to not attempt the whole 50,000 words.

You definitely can if you want to. But if you’re not used to writing that much, it can be a lot. When I was teaching, it was nearly impossible because that was full-on paper grading season. Also, if you’re hosting Thanksgiving, it’s totally fine to skip NaNoWriMo entirely, because hosting family takes a lot of energy, both to cook the food and to not fight with them while they’re in your home.

At the end of the day, NaNoWriMo is intended to be a fun thing. It’s something you do because you like writing and you want to focus on a project while a bunch of other people are also focusing. But if it’s not fun, I say skip it.

There have been a few years for me where I wasn’t having fun so I ducked out.

It doesn’t make you less of a writer to skip NaNoWriMo. It just means you’re not participating in that particular challenge. So make your every damn day list for writers and remember you don’t have to do what others are doing to be a writer.

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The Ultimate NaNoWriMo Planning Checklist

Now, if you’ve put NaNoWriMo on your agenda and want to make a go of it, there are some things you need to do first. I’ve created this NaNoWriMo planning checklist to help you get started, but know that it’s not comprehensive. Every writer is different, so what you need is likely different from what I need. Consider this a jumping off place.

001: NaNoWriMo Preptober Checklist

This is everything you’re going to do in October to prep for NaNoWriMo.

For some, that may look like plotting out a novel. For others, this may mean just making a short list of things you know your story needs.

But think about things other than the story. Do you need to buy a new keyboard so you can write more comfortably? Would a pair of blue light blocking glasses make it easier for you sit in front of a computer and type? Do you need to order your favorite tea in bulk so you have enough for your extra writing sessions?

Create a list of everything you need and mark it off as you acquire it. Consider this your Preptober workbook.

002: NaNoWriMo Calendar 2022

If you’re a NaNoWriMo veteran, one thing that probably signals to you that shit is about to get real is when you print off a NaNoWriMo calendar. For the most part, you just need a calendar where you track how much you wrote on each day. You can also update this information on the NaNoWriMo site.

I used to be all about the calendar PDFs, but now I prefer to track stuff in my planner. All you need to remember to hit the 50,000 word goal is you need to get 1,667 words a day.

Now, that’s the case if you’re writing every single day. If you’re going to take time off for any reason, like the holidays or because you just don’t like writing every single day, then adjust your word count breakdown accordingly.

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003: NaNoWriMo Resources

I have this whole post on NaNoWriMo resources, and it covers stuff like a NaNoWriMo ideas generator, outlining for NaNoWriMo, a NaNoWriMo PDF, NaNoWriMo tools, and tons of other stuff.

If you’re planning to tackle NaNoWriMo, make sure to check it out.

004: NaNoWriMo Goals

You get to set your own writing goals for NaNoWriMo. Yeah, 50,000 words is the traditional goal, but you don’t have to do that if you don’t want to.

And to be clear, you don’t even have to do a word count goal. You could do something like setting a goal to sit down and write every single day. Or, you could pick something like writing for a certain number of hours in the month.

It’s completely up to you, and you get to do what will be the best goal for you.

005: Writing Schedule

I recommend scheduling your writing sessions. I’m a writer who works for herself at home, and I still do this. Why? Well, let me tell you.

It’s really easy to get bogged down in what’s going on around you. Emails, other projects, and life in general can take over. And even though I’m a writer, there are aspects of my business that aren’t particularly writerly.

So, to better make use of my brain, I schedule writing specific times. That means I work on just writing during those times. The other portions of the day can be used for editing, research, or administrative tasks. But the writing time is sacred.

006: Clean Space

I’m not great at cleaning my space. Sometimes I try, but mostly my office is a symbiotic ecosystem of cast off Post-It notes, dog hair, and craft glitter.

I may and slash or may not have spilled some fountain pen ink as well.


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A clean space can make it a lot easier for you to write and focus. So do what you need to do to clear some space for you to work.

Also, make sure your space has everything you need. I like to write with a candle burning, and I love using a writing sprint timer especially during NaNo.

007: Meal Prep

How are you going to handle meals when you’re trying to write on top of all the other stuff you have to do? Do you want to prep a ton of food ahead of time? Or, are you a being made of pure chaos and plan to just order pizza?

Whatever you choose, make sure it won’t hurt your writing. I only call pizza pure chaos because I’m old and my body can’t handle the amount of heartburn a pizza brings, much less write through that pain.

008: Avengers Assemble

Do you work best with accountability? I definitely don’t, and I’m not a community-type of worker most of the time.

But if you are, find the people who you can work with. Decide if you want to have Zoom writing sprints, or if you’d like to meet up in person. And if you don’t have any writer friends, make sure to show up to a local NaNoWriMo event. Once you’re logged into the NaNoWriMo site, just click on community, and set your home region. From there, you should get tons of information about planned events.

Are You NaNo Ready to WriMo?

That heading was a lot funnier when I said it to myself than it probably is to you. Are you participating in NaNoWriMo this year? If so, what project are you working on?

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