Blog,  Nanowrimo

How to Prep for Nanowrimo During Mercury Retrograde

Happy Halloween, y’all! And what a special Halloween it is. Why? Because this October 31st brings with it the third Mercury Retrograde of the year. That’s right, Mercury begins its apparent moonwalk just as All Hallows’ Eve kicks off and Nanowrimo season begins. But fear not! With a little prep work, we’ll be well on our way to writing a novel in month.

What is Mercury Retrograde, anyway?

Periodically, Mercury appears to spin backward in relation to the earth. In Roman mythology, Mercury is said to be the god of communication. Because of Mercury’s apparent backspin during its retrograde, astrologists believe that miscommunication and inward reflection abound during this time.

But the retrograde isn’t just about Mercury (the god and the planet). This year’s third retrograde happens to take place during Scorpio season and on All Hallows’ Eve. Scorpios are said to be ruled by the Roman god, Pluto, who looks over the netherworld and is associated with the 8th house of beginnings, endings, and regeneration in astrology (if you’re still with me at this point, thank you.)


What does any of this have to do with writing?

Everything, or nothing at all. If you’re into astrology, now’s as good a time as any to tie up lose ends in your stories. While some would say a retrograde’s a bad time to start anything new, I’d disagree: the reason we look backward is to go forward (and the 8th house includes beginnings, remember). Scorpio season is all about reimaging, experimenting, and transforming. You can use that same experimental energy to delve headfirst into your writing.

With that in mind, here are a few tips on winning at Nanowrimo during the Mercury Retrograde.

1. Be Prepared


Whether you’re overthrowing your brother in a bid for power or writing a novel, Scar said it best: be prepared.

There are plenty of ways to prepare for Nanowrimo during Mercury Retrograde. From creating an outline to building your story beforehand, you can pre-position yourself to win at Nanowrimo.

Whatever you choose to do, it need not be extensive. If you’re crunched for time (and who isn’t?), you can prep for nano by doing the following:

  • Declutter your writing space
    • Where we work can impact how we work. Clear your writing space of distractions.
  • Set up a daily word or page count
    • 1,667 words per day will net you 50,000 words by November 30th.
  • Tell friends and family what you’re doing
    • It manages expectations and paves the way for moral support.
  • Declare your work now
    • You can declare your Nanowrimo work here (if you’re already signed in).
  • Create a pinterest board or playlist beforehand
    • Use them for inspiration or setting the writing mood as needed.

2. Backup your files


Retrograde or not, it’s always a good idea to backup your files. We put a lot of work into what we do, and there are few things worse in the writing world than permanently deleting a sentence/document you’ve spent time and effort working on.

With that in mind, backup your work on an external hard drive, a cloud-based storage system, and via email (that’s and, not or!) You’ll thank yourself later.

3. Dig deep into your characters’ pasts/backstories

Dig into your characters' backgrounds.
Look at how happy this gnome is to dig in.


Retrogrades are notorious for forcing us to reexamine our pasts. You can use that same spirit to delve into your characters’ backstories, wants, and desires. If you find yourself stuck mid-month (as most of us will), take a look back into your characters’ histories to mine for material.





4. Reread a tried-and-true classic or old favorite

Classic fiction for nanowrimo during the mercury retrograde.

Sometimes the best way to move forward in writing is to take a step back. If you find yourself feeling uninspired (or just needing a break), delve into a classic piece of literature or an old favorite. Reminding yourself what you love about another’s work can propel your own work forward.

This is also a great time to read outside your genre. Infuse a little magic into your contemporary novel or give your wizard a break with a run to the supermarket. You never know where adding a little something different can take your character.


5. Return to your writing roots

Tree roots

Nothing gets written without a writer. We’ve talked about digging deep into your characters’ pasts, but what about your own?

A retrograde’s the perfect time to recall your writing roots. What inspired you or continues to inspire you to write? How and where did you find past inspiration (and do you still find inspiration that way?)

Take the time to re-examine your writing roots. If you’re feeling especially brave, dig up an old story you wrote and give it a read. It just may motivate you to keep going.



6. Commune with your characters

No, I’m not talking about a seance (although . . .). Talk to your characters on paper. The point of Nanowrimo is to write, and writing doesn’t always mean writing in scene. If you’re still in the process of getting to know your characters, consider jotting down a one-on-one with them. You can treat it like a job interview or an AMA (ask me anything). Or, you can simply have a chat.

Don’t worry about where it fits into the larger draft. If you’re writing during Nanowrimo, you’re winning.

Mercury retrograde can mean miscommunication. If your character’s not speaking to you, there’s a reason for it. Write about why they may have gone silent (what secret are they hiding?) or write out a scene where two or more of your characters miscommunicate and see what happens.


We made it! It’s not so bad, right? With a little planning (and a lot of leftover Halloween candy), we can survive Nanowrimo during the Mercury Retrograde.

And with that, happy writing and Happy Halloween!


Gnome photo by Craig McLachlan Tree roots photo by Filip Mishevski

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