How to Start your NaNoWriMo Book in October without Cheating


So! You’re ready to start NaNo in November! But you know that you’re not allowed to do much before November.

What if Outlining is against the rules? 

Is making characters against the rules? 


SO! What’s a planner (or even an under-planner)  to do with an event like this?

Today, we are going over the rules of NaNoWriMo and how you can use October to get ready WITHOUT CHEATING!

Can I Use An Outline?

 YES! NaNoWriMo’s website lays out some rules and they make it very clear that you can outline as much as you need, without writing actual prose on the page.

Outlining for myself doesn’t work, because it takes the thrill out of the first draft for me. But for many people it’s the only way they can write!

If this is you and you need to use an outline for your novel for NaNo, DO IT! 

Can I Use an Existing Manuscript? 

Strictly; no. You need to make a new manuscript and write a project that you’ve been wanting to write for a while. 

The big thing about the event is to get a first draft out and on paper. Which is the hardest part for a lot of people! So having this as a reason to put the story down on paper is really important. 


I’m using a manuscript from a previous NaNo... 


I know I just said gimme a second, I’m getting there! 

The manuscript itself is still in first draft stages and it was a manuscript from 2 years ago. So I feel like it’s really not done and it’s time to revisit it and finish the first draft.

Of course I’m not going to count my previous words in my overall word count. I’m only going to count my additional words.  

Mans I don’t feel like that’s against the rules! I feel like finishing a manuscript that I have been working on is good! 

Let me know what you think in the comments! 

Can I Make My Characters? 

Yes! This is a great way to psych yourself up and get yourself excited about your project for NaNoWriMo! 

As long as your not writing prose that is going into your novel, I feel like it’s fine! 

Making characters centers me and focuses me on the important part: the reader’s relationship with the character. At the end of the day that’s what matters.

If you take the time to write the characters and develop them before even your first draft, it makes you take the time to get to know them and figure out the best way to introduce your reader to the characters.

Chances are, you’ve been running around with these characters in your head for a while and to you they are old friends at this point. But you need to get your readers there. Taking the time to plan them out and lay them out on paper will help you analyze them.

So! Dig out your character profile sheets (or go download mine *nudge nudge* ) and make some fun characters!

So... That Means I Can Write A Summary? 

Yes! Yes, you should! 

I've written a blog post about summaries and why they are good and how use them to *kind of* outline and keep myself on track with my ideas and storyline. 

Also, there is a space on NaNoWriMo’s website where you can put a summary and they highly recommend you write a summary.

And its a great way to practice for your readers and when you want to sign your book. 

How Far Can I Plan? 

When it comes to planning, it matters on you and your comfort level for under planning and over planning. Finding this balance can be the biggest hurdle as a writer and it just takes trial and error.

Find your balance and do that!  

However,  I’d stop at a scene by scene outline. Once you've got it nailed down scene by scene, the next step is putting prose on paper and that is too far for NaNo prep.

Figure out your outlining style, whether you're a prepper or a planner and just take it step by step! 

  1. Stream of consciousness outline

  2. Landmarks in the Sahara outline

  3. Chapter by chapter

  4. Scene by scene

Now, I'm not a planner to this extent. For my first draft, I do a landmarks and that's where I STOP. After my first draft, I go in an post outline scene by scene so I can see the whole book laid out at once and fill in my plot holes. But that's another blog post.

Thank you so much for reading this blog post and hanging out with me!  

I would love to hear how your Preptober is going, if you are using my paid printables, and how you like it! Let me know in the comments and on my social media! 

Happy Writing! 

Zoë Fleischer

The Ginger Wordsmith 🐙 

Zoe Fleischer