How to not do NaNoWriMo and still feel productive

I’ve never done NaNoWriMo (what's that? Here, I already googled it for you), and I don’t intend to. My Novembers are never good for book writing. This year I’m going to Seattle (and Forks) in the middle of the month, then being super dad while my wife recovers from a thyroidectomy at the end of the month. Also, Thanksgiving.

But just because I’m not doing NaNo doesn’t mean I can’t use the encouraging online book writing atmosphere as inspiration. It’s not a great time for me to write a whole book, but I can still plan for one. Here are three things you can do this month that can set you up for success, whether you’re writing now, or later.

1. Outline

I’m using this month to run through my in-depth outline process for my next book. This usually takes me two to three weeks. If you’ve never outlined before, now is the time to give it a try. After using this method to successfully write two books on time, I’ll never use anything else. You can find a walk-through of my outline method here.

2. Research

I’m also using this time to consume as much media related to my new book as possible. It’s a pre-cyberpunk book, which isn’t really genre, so I’m reading, watching and playing all kinds of things. On the docket to consume this month: Finish reading “Do Android Dream of Electric Sleep?” re-watch stuff like Minority Report and Blade Runner, play games like Deus Ex: Human Revolution and Syndicate. 

3. Profile

Start getting to know your characters and setting before you dive into the proper book. Write a random scenario with some of the characters. Do a prologue. Create character profile sheets (there are tons of examples out there). Do what I do and sketch them out to see what they look like. I feel like light character exercises and profiles help me get to know the characters enough to write them in the first draft. Then I go back in the second draft with an even clearer understanding of who they are.

You can easily fill a month with those three things. When you’re done, you’ll be poised and ready to write your book. Set yourself a goal—I usually go with three months—and pound that first draft out. Good luck!