Polyglot NaNoWriMo: Preparation Phase

united-kingdomSo, as many of you may have gathered from my not-so-subtle hint dropping over the past month, it’s almost time again for Polyglot NaNoWriMo. What’s Polyglot NaNoWriMo, you ask? You must be new here! Well, let’s start from the beginning. Polyglot NaNoWriMo is, for lack of a better phrase, a writing challenge. It’s a variation on NaNoWriMo, in which participants write a certain number of words per day every day in November, so that at the end of the month they have a 50,000 novel. For our version, because the idea is to write in a language that is not your mother tongue, the number of words you’ll write per day is reduced to 200, as a more manageable goal. Of course, if you’re feeling brave, you could choose to write more, or less, if you’d like to just try it out. And if you’re writing in a language that makes it difficult to count words individually, like Chinese, you could say you’re going to write 400 characters instead. The only hard and fast rule is that you focus on getting something on the page – and don’t edit as you go. I know that, at least for me, I can edit a piece of writing down until there’s nothing left, so I relish this opportunity to build a more sizeable piece before I start worrying about word choice and correct grammar.

So, you may well be thinking, that’s all well and good, but it’s only the first of October. Why are you telling me all of this now? Well! There are a couple of things you could be doing now to prepare for the beginning of the challenge in November. It’ll depend on what shape you want your project to take, but here are a couple of things I do before I start writing almost anything at all.

Skärmavbild 2022-10-01 kl. 20.49.48

Skärmavbild 2022-10-01 kl. 20.50.43When I’m writing, I use an application called Scrivener (seen above). I find it useful to keep everything in one place – my research, my writing, and of course, all of the prep I did before I finally put pen to paper (or, really, fingertip to key). It’s not free, nor particularly cheap, but I get a lot of use out of it so I’d say it’s worth it – it also has a mobile app and syncs across devices via Dropbox, so you can use it on the go, whenever inspiration strikes. Sometimes I might do my actual writing on another programme altogether, and then copy it into Scrivener when I’m finished for the day, just to keep everything organised. One of the things I like to do before I start writing is to do something called a character sketch. This should be just a few lines and some basic information about your important characters, just to keep everything straight in your head. This can be useful in situations like, for example, forgetting your main character’s eye colour – you don’t have to worry about being inconsistent if you’ve got a record to refer back to. Another thing I like to do, which can also be a part of your prep phase, is to write a skeleton draft. It’s important when you’re doing this not to go into too much detail – it should basically just be a timeline of the main events of your story, to give you a basic path to follow that you can flesh out when you come to actually write the thing in November. These are just a couple of things I’ll be doing over the course of this month to get ready for the start of the challenge.

Now, you may be thinking, this is an interesting idea but you’re not a fan of writing stories, or prose in general. That’s fine too! Obviously the above tips won’t be helpful for you, but essentially, you’re free to do whatever you’d like – your project could take the form of a daily diary, a work of non-fiction, or even a collection of poems. The only limit is your own creativity. For example, if you were writing non-fiction, you could turn your skeleton draft into a list of main points you’d like to cover, or a timeline of events as they unfolded, to give you something to refer back to. If you’re writing poetry, you could start thinking of themes you’d like to write about. One thing I think we might all find useful is spending some time thinking about what you’d like to write, because coming up with an idea in and of itself is no easy task! But when you’ve done that, then you might want to start looking up and making lists of relevant vocabulary that you can start adding to your regular learning, so that you’re not interrupting your flow every few minutes to look up a word. For example, if you were writing an account from the point of view of a passenger on board the Titanic, you might not have ever come across words that may be used in shipbuilding or ocean liner travel in general. Or if you wanted to write a modern fairy tale, there could be some magical vocabulary that you would never have needed to know before now. This could be a good time to fill these gaps in your knowledge. You may even want to keep a list of vocabulary you do need to look up as you’re writing next month, as a kind of learning exercise you can do as you go.

Lastly, but perhaps most importantly, although this is called a challenge, the most important thing is to enjoy yourself. If you don’t manage to hit the word count every day, don’t beat yourself up about it. Even if you end the month having only written 100 words total, that’s still something you’ve created – and maybe you’ll have learned something along the way. That’s all valuable. So, have fun, and get thinking about what you might like to do!

Thanks as always for reading. If you’d like to get in touch with me, you can find me on Twitter and Instagram (I’m @sprakskatan on both), or you can leave a comment here! If you’ve decided to take part, good luck with your preparation – it’ll go more quickly than you think, so do keep it in mind as the month progresses. And as always, see you next month for the big event.

— J.

One thought on “Polyglot NaNoWriMo: Preparation Phase

  1. Oh wow, polyglot NaNo does sound challenging for sure. I can’t even get myself to write regular NaNo, lol. And yay for Scrivener. I get a lot of use out of it too. The only downside is that it locks you into it, and its files are only usable by Scrivener itself. I make sure to back up my manuscripts into other long-term formats because of this. Anyway, thanks for this post!


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