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It's that time of year again! When almost every writer I know is either asking about or preparing for NaNoWriMo.

394,507 writers and authors signed up to participate in NaNoWriMo in 2017. But only 58,000 people crossed that finish line. That's a success rate of about 14%.

Why? What did those 14% have that the others didn't? What was their secret?

Well, I can't speak for all of them, but I'm pretty sure that for at least a majority of them, it's because they spent some time preparing for NaNoWriMo before November.

Preparing for NaNoWriMo: 6 Steps to get you ready to write blog title overlay

Now, that's not to say that you have to spend weeks or months preparing for NaNoWriMo or you won't make it — my first NaNoWriMo, I heard about it like a week before it started and jumped in at the last minute completely unprepared. The fact that I made it through was more a testament to the fact that I didn't really have much of a life outside of writing at that time.

But, I was stressed. Every time I fell behind on my word count, I stressed. Every time one of my buddies crept closer to the finish line, I stressed.

The next year, I spent more time preparing for NaNoWriMo. And while I still didn't have much of a life outside of writing, taking that time to prepare made me feel a whole lot better about the whole process (not to mention less stressed during the whole month).

Since then, I've gotten married and had two kids. So while writing is still very much a huge part of my life (both as a freelance writer and as an author), I've got other things to worry about. I can't imagine trying to take on something as big as NaNoWriMo now without preparing for it at all.

So, I've put together this guide to help you get prepared for NaNoWriMo.

Preparing for NaNoWriMo: 6 Steps to get you ready to write

Best FREE Tools and Apps to Help you Get Ready for NaNoWriMo

Day One – The #1 App for Journaling: Part of getting ready for NaNoWriMo means gathering ideas. But if you're like me, you get tired of losing those post-it notes or searching through piles of scrap paper to find “that one idea.” Day One replaces all those scrap pieces of paper with one easy-to-use interface.

Simplenotes – The Simplest Way to Keep Notes: Another nice, clean note-taking app. Keep a record of all your inspiration and ideas in one place, and go back to search for them whenever you're ready.

Coggle – The Clear Way to Share Complex Information: Are you a planner? Coggle is one of the best mind-mapping softwares out there. If you need a simple way to map out your stories and visualize how they connect, Coggle is the way to go.

Atlas – The New Home for Charts and Data: Who says research needs to take hours and hours. If you want to know what the average price of clothing was in 1807, or what lawyers charged per hour in 2013, or how often people changed job last year… Atlas has all that statistical information and more.

Evernote – Your Note. Organized. Effortless: Evernote is one of my favorite note-taking apps, especially when I'm working online. The web clipper makes it easy for me to store and annotate screenshots from around the web and get them organized into my folders.

Must-Read Books to help Prepare for NaNoWriMo

Pep Talks for Writers by Gary Faulkner - Preparing for NaNoWriMo books to read

Every writer knows that as rewarding as the creative process is, it can often be a bumpy road. Have hope and keep at it! Designed to kick-start creativity, this handsome handbook from the executive director of National Novel Writing Month gathers a wide range of insights and advice for writers at any stage of their career. From tips about how to finally start that story to helpful ideas about what to do when the words just aren't quite coming out right, Pep Talks for Writers provides motivation, encouragement, and helpful exercises for writers of all stripes.

The Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes Preparong for NaNoWriMo Must-read books

With three children at home and three hit television shows, it was easy for Shonda to say she was simply too busy. But in truth, she was also afraid. And then, over Thanksgiving dinner, her sister muttered something that was both a wake up and a call to arms: You never say yes to anything. Shonda knew she had to embrace the challenge: for one year, she would say YES to everything that scared her.

This poignant, intimate, and hilarious memoir explores Shonda’s life before her Year of Yes—from her nerdy, book-loving childhood to her devotion to creating television characters who reflected the world she saw around her. The book chronicles her life after her Year of Yes had begun—when Shonda forced herself out of the house and onto the stage; when she learned to explore, empower, applaud, and love her truest self. Yes.

No Pot? No Problem! By Chris Baty must-read book for Preparing for NaNoWriMo

Chris Baty, founder of the wildly successful literary marathon known as National Novel Writing Month, has completely revised and expanded his definitive handbook for extreme noveling. Chris pulls from over 15 years of results-oriented writing experience to pack this compendium with new tips and tricks, ranging from week-by-week quick reference guides to encouraging advice from authors, and much more. His motivating mix of fearless optimism and practical solutions to common excuses gives both first-time novelists and results-oriented writers the kick-start they need to embark on an exhilarating creative adventure.

Preparing for NaNoWriMo - Recommended Reading Julia Cameron The Right to Write

What if everything we have been taught about learning to write was wrong? In The Right to Write, Julia Cameron asserts that conventional writing wisdom would have you believe in a false doctrine that stifles creativity.

With the techniques and anecdotes in The Right to Write, readers learn to make writing a natural, intensely personal part of life. Cameron's instruction and examples include the details of the writing processes she uses to create her own bestselling books. She makes writing a playful and realistic as well as a reflective event. Anyone jumping into the writing life for the first time and those already living it will discover the art of writing is never the same after reading The Right to Write.

You are a writer so start acting like one by Jeff Goins must-read book for preparing for NaNoWriMo

Becoming a writer begins with a simple but important belief: You are a writer; you just need to write.

In You Are a Writer, Jeff Goins shares his own story of self-doubt and what it took for him to become a professional writer. He gives you practical steps to improve your writing, get published in magazines, and build a platform that puts you in charge.

This book is about what it takes to be a writer in the 21st Century. You will learn the importance of passion and discipline and how to show up every day to do the work.

Preparing for NaNoWriMo - Recommended Reading - Felicia Day Embrace Your Weird

What could you create if your inner critic wasn't so judgy all the time? In Embrace Your Weird, Felicia Day helps you discover just how creative you are and how easy it can be to unleash that creativity.

This book is made to be written in, scribbled on, drawn over, and highlighted. Felicia Day adds plenty of room for you to try (and try badly) to create new things and practice doing it without judging yourself. After all, you've spent years judging yourself and telling yourself that you aren't good enough to do something – it's going to take plenty of practice to break that habit.