Ever dreamed about writing a novel? This November, move from dreaming to doing! National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) challenges you to write a 50,000 word novel during the 30 days of November.

In this three part series, I’m showing you how to prepare for NaNoWriMo from scratch. I’m not a published author, and I’m not a real writing teacher. I’m just a chick who has, with the aid of tarot, won NaNoWriMo five times (winning just means finishing, but that’s the best kind of winning). I want to help you do the same thing!

This is part three of the three part series. Find part one here and part two here.

Part Three: Mindset and lifestyle preparation

Greetings, my fellow authors-in-training! We have reached the third and final portion of our nonexistent to novel journey. If you’ve gone through Part One and Part Two, you’ve gotten through the obvious parts of novel preparation – creating characters, fleshing out plot and ironing out various details of your story. We’re done with the nuts and bolts of story building.

Today, we’re talking about a different (but equally important) form of preparation: mindset. It’s not enough to have a polished outline and a clear vision of your story. You’ve also got to get into the right headspace and organize your life in a way that fosters your creativity. In this post, we’ll talk about grappling with your inner critic and maintaining your enthusiasm. We’ll also consider how you can arrange your affairs in a way that gives you the most time and energy possible to pour into your novel.

Frienemies: you and your inner critic

If this isn’t the first down you’ve sat down to write (or make art, or really do anything involved with living your life in a creative manner), you’ve probably already met your inner critic. It’s that voice inside of you that at best, doubts your ideas; and at worst, tells you your ideas suck. Every inner critic has their own temperament. Yours might be relatively mild, or it might be a downright jerk.

It’s important to remember that your inner critic does have good intentions, as hard as that may be to see sometimes. It wants you to improve, to grow, to learn. But even with those good intentions, sometimes your inner critic can result in perfectionism, procrastination and a lack of progress.

During NaNoWriMo, your inner critic can easily be your death sentence. You will be writing 50,000 words in one month – that’s a LOT of words! If you let your inner critic pester you too much about the quality, you flat out won’t be able to meet the quantity. Remind yourself and your inner critic that this draft of your novel WILL NOT be flawless, and that’s okay. Remember: choose progress over perfection.

Here’s an exercise that can help. Pick a tarot card to represent your inner critic. You could do this by shuffling and pulling a card, or you might already have one in mind. The Devil and the Knight of Swords are a couple that resonate for me. When you sit down to work on your novel, visualize that card’s energy moving out of you and taking a seat in the corner (you could take this a step further and literally PUT that card in the corner). Don’t let your inner critic interfere with your forward momentum!

If you decide to edit and revise your novel after November, your inner critic can become a valuable team member. You just need to train it to stop hurling insults and start giving proactive, constructive advice.

Excitement over obligation

What kind of energy do you want to bring to your writing process? Do you want to sit down at your computer, dreading typing the next sentence? Do you want to tell yourself that you HAVE to write today? Do you want your novel to be one more obligation on your mile long to do list?

Or do you want writing to be a pleasurable experience? A break from your mundane world and a foray into your imagination? Do you want writing to be something you look forward to engaging in? Do you want writing to be an exciting outlet for your infinite creative energies?

The fact that I have a choice here was revolutionary for me, and it might be for you, too. You can choose what energy you want to bring to your novel. Go through your tarot deck and choose a card that reminds you of that energy (for me it’s often the Star or the Magician). Keep that card next to you while you’re writing. When you get stuck, imagine yourself taking on the energy of your chosen card, inspiring you to keep going.

Support, encouragement, celebration

One of the loveliest things about NaNoWriMo is the sense of community. Your novel is your special thing, but it’s magical to think that thousands of other people are on their own writing adventures at the same time. Check out the NaNoWriMo forums where you can celebrate your victories and vent out your sorrows with other burgeoning writers. There are even in-person events and write-ins you can attend! Celebrate other writers and let them celebrate you.

Be proud of each milestone you reach along the way, Four of Wands style! When you hit your first 5k, give yourself a treat. Same thing for 10k, and 15k…there’s always a reason to be proud of what you’ve accomplished.

Organizing your real life

It has come to my attention that most people have jobs, pets, chores, errands, families, friends and other such things to occupy their time. As much as we’d like to wake up and do nothing but write, write, write… that’s usually not an option. But since you know in advance that you want to concentrate on your novel in November, you can take some steps now to create as much time and space for writing as possible.

What outside responsibilities can possibly be rearranged or postponed during November? If you’re a busy person, you might have to make some sacrifices to make NaNoWriMo work. Put book club on hold, cancel bridge night, nix the Netflix. Those extra things can come back in December. If you have a full time job, you might want to consider getting up an hour earlier to write. Or writing on your lunch break. Right now, your focus should be carving out any extra slots of time for your novel.

What else can you do now to prepare for November? My husband and I have an annual tradition of hitting the bulk foods aisle at the end of October to stock up on snacks. Get your writing fuel ready! Make sure you have plenty of tea, coffee and food on hand. Do anything you can think of now that prevents you from running extra errands next month.

Take a trial run

Let’s break this thing down. To write 50,000 words during November’s 30 days, you’ll need to write an average of 1667 words per day. To give you an idea of what that looks like, this blog post, including the introduction, is around 1694 words.

If you’ve never done NaNoWriMo before, why not give yourself a trial run? Open up your word document and do some sample writing (but don’t start your actual novel! That has to wait until November 1!). Notice your starting time and see how long it takes you to hit 1667 words.

This will help you understand how much time you’ll need to set aside each day. Of course, your pace will vary throughout the month, but it’s helpful to have a working idea of what this will look like. As an example, I’m a pretty fast writer and I can bust out my daily word count in about an hour on a good day.

(Side note: I always remind myself that American Thanksgiving takes place during November. If at all possible, I like to get ahead on my word count early in the month so that I can take a day off on the holiday.)

Try a mindset preparation tarot spread

It will come as no surprise that I use tarot in every facet of my life. In our earlier posts, we used tarot to create our stories. Now, we’re going to use tarot to consider what we need to know about our upcoming adventures in authorship.

Shuffle your cards and try Carrie’s Famous NaNo Prep Tarot Spread. Card one represents the overall theme of your NaNoWriMo experience. Card two hints at challenges to be aware of as you progress on your journey. Card three reminds you of your own unique strengths that you can bring to the writing process. Card four gives overall advice and guidance for making the most of your NaNoWriMo experience.

This spread will give you interesting insight and help you set the tone for a meaningful month. If you try it out, make sure to leave a comment and let me know how it goes!

(If you’d like, you can also purchase a NaNoWriMo Prep reading from me. Keep in mind I’m only offering this particular reading until October 30, 2015. More details at the post’s end.)

The bottom line

In case no one else has told you this: you are a total badass. Countless people dream of writing, yet never follow that calling. But not you, my friend. You are going to DO this! There will be thrills. There will be face palms. There will be struggles and triumphs and struggles again. It’s going to be awesome!

I’m cheering for you. The Universe is cheering for you (listen closely). Get excited. Be proud. Even if you don’t quite feel like it, you’re ready. Above all else: just keep writing, just keep writing. Now…let’s DO THIS!

I want to hear from you! Leave me a comment and let me know how you’re feeling about your upcoming adventure. Have you implemented any of the tips from this series? How’s that going for you? Please do let me know – and would you do me a favor? If you know anyone who would enjoy this three part series, make sure to share the link with them! Thank you kindly.

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