#NaNoPrep – Tips and Tricks

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Getting ready for National Novel Writing Month in every way

Last year was my first November observing National Novel Writing Month. I had an idea for a novel and had done some research on my topic, but didn’t prepare other than that. I won, but it was really hard and came right down to the wire.

If you’re still not sure if NaNoWriMo is right for you, I wrote a post about my experience last year #NaNoWriMo Yes or No? The Pros and Cons of Participating in National Novel Writing Month that you might enjoy.

This year, I have a fresh story idea that has been running through my head since a newspaper article inspired in April. I’m using all the tools at my disposal to do some plotting and planning. Prepared, this year should be rewarding AND FUN!

Whether you’re a plotter, pantser or planster (like me) you should find some of these tips and tools helpful.

Declare your novel

Once you set up your account at nanowrimo.org  it’s time to declare your novel. This is the fun part where you type in your title and your summary.

Writing your novel summary is a great exercise to organize your ideas and will be a tool for down the road, when you have a finished novel that you want to pitch to agents and share your amazing story with the world.

Try this exercise: Imagine that you’ve already won NaNoWriMo. You’ve written your amazing story from beginning to end. Quickly write down everything that happens in your story. Great! Now look at what you’ve written and pick out your main character, what they want more than anything, what/who stands in their way and how they overcome the impediment. Try to get that all into one sentence. You have your logline. You’re ready to pitch your novel.

Now that you’re ready to pitch, head over to 30 covers for 30 days and submit your novel for the cover contest. Graphic designers volunteer to design covers for 30 lucky winners. It’s only a NaNoWriMo souvenir, but could get your writing some attention.

Once you’ve entered your novel for the cover contest, look over the rest of the forums, there is a ton of great information in the forums. Then, make sure to hit the Regions tab on your dashboard and introduce yourself to your local MLs (municipal liaisons). Your home region site should have events to put on your calendar and people to be your writing buddies and support. Here’s a chance to reach out and make friends.

You may want to hit the NaNoWriMo shop to get yourself the T-shirt you’re going to live in and a coffee mug to attach to your hand/face.

Set up your files

Last year, I used the NaNoWriMo discount to buy scrivener. I didn’t end up using it very much because I hadn’t gotten used to it. This year, I’m using the Scrivener’s note card view to outline my chapters. I’ve also set up character pages using character worksheets and character interviews, setting pages, word substitution and theme word sheets and name idea sheets. Having everything in my project file will save me a lot of time and keep me on the page.

You can set up files for any program you plan to use. The fun part of prep is thinking about your characters, your settings and themes. There are tons of fun downloadable worksheets and questionnaires around the web to help you flesh out your ideas. Explore and have fun, but remember to keep everything organized.

I recommend creating one file folder named for your project that you keep on your desktop. You can put a million different folders inside it, but put everything, EVERYTHING to do with your novel in that folder.

Tools

Websites

Dictionary.com and Thesaurus.com – I played around at thesaurus.com to create word pages for my major themes. I also have word selection pages for my overused words.

Your local library’s digital library – kcls.org is one of my favorite websites. I’ve been using it to try out African, Arabic and Worldbeat music for my writing soundtrack. It has a variety of newspapers and magazines, videos and e-books for research.

Google News Archive – This is a wonderful site full of old newspapers you can peruse just like microfiche. I wrote a post about it last month: A great tool for research, inspiration and hours of fun if you’d like more information.

Social Media

Facebook – My local region already had a writing group page to join. It’s a great place to meet other people planning for NaNoWriMo and to find out about upcoming events.

Twitter – Other than the obvious hashtags #nanoprep and #nanowrimo, there are a lot of great hashtags for writers. You may want to try them out during prep. Turning your favorite lines in to tweets is  great practice for creating succinct sentences with emotion and meaning. You may want to check out my previous post Twitter #Hashtags That Motivate Revision to find the hashtags and writing challenges that are right for you. Twitter will also be a great way to keep yourself motivated throughout the month. There’s nothing like a few likes on a sentence you just wrote to keep you writing more. Make sure to read and retweet your fellow writers to keep them happy as well.

Pinterest – I’m using Pinterest to create vision boards: one for characters and the other for themes and settings. I’ve recently found a lot of writing inspiration from images I collect.

WordPress – If you’re a wordpress blogger, you can use your blog to tell your readers that you’re participating, creating a promise to yourself and others that you will do the work. You can also type nanowrimo or nanoprep into the search bar of your reader page and find other writers who are participating and will be going through the same things you are.

Tumblr – NaNoWriMo.org has a Tumblr blog. I have found many fellow Nano writers have Tumblrs and I’ve filled up my reader quickly with tips and advice.

Youtube – last year I really enjoyed the NaNoWriMo write-ins on Youtube. I got a lot out of them and wrote some fun scenes I might not have written otherwise.

Your Personal Arsenal

Though there are a ton of tools available to you, only you know what’s best for you. Take a minute to reflect about your writing process and make a plan.

Do you journal? Do Morning Pages?

Gather up your journals- take a look at what you’ve been writing and organize your notes. What are your themes?

Where do you write?

Now is the time to get your writing space just the way you like it. Vacuum, dust, clean the windows, get some plants and candles. Put up motivational posters or seascapes, whatever works for you. If you like big visuals like I do, put up your big piece of paper for your timeline and plot point post-its. Make sure you have tons of colorful, big post-its. Have fun. Make your writing space a place you want to be and don’t forget your Keep-Out and Beware of Deadly Plague signs for the door. You may want to install a lock if you don’t have one.

Set up your play lists

Now is a good time to scour your music collection, your friends’ music collections and your library’s music collection. Think of your themes, your characters, your scenes. Do your characters have theme songs? Think of your settings. What music would be playing there?

You may want to make collections on Youtube, stations on Pandora, or playlists on Spotify.

It doesn’t matter how you do it, now is a good time to plan it out. Give it a test drive and see what really gets you writing.

Make exercise easy

One thing that can get pushed aside during NaNoWriMo is exercise. But getting some fresh air in the lungs and circulating it through that brain will help those ideas churn. So plan ahead.

Make sure to take a walk every day. Start the good habit today.

Keep exercise equipment like small weights, a mat, mini-trampoline, etc. near your writing space and use them when you take a break.

Don’t Procrastinate

Been wanting to paint your office? Do it now! You know the evil procrastination monster will hit hard during NaNoWriMo, so anything you can do now to head it off. Do it! Seriously, some of you know you’re suddenly going to need to clean out the crawl space in the attic in the middle of November (or November 1st). If that’s you, go clean the crawl space and paint your bedroom now. Just to be safe.

Everyone wishes they had more time to write.

What if you could just buy some?

You can!

Have you ever thought about having someone come in to clean once a week or just twice a month. Use NaNoWriMo as an excuse to try it out. It doesn’t have to be terribly expensive. I had cleaners come for a while and for a large house, they charged $70 each time they came.  It was so worth it.Not only did you just buy yourself hours to write, you bought peace of mind. You’ll feel better and  write better.

Hate yard work, but can’t leave the lawn for more than a week, let alone a month? Try hiring a lawn service or maybe a kid in the neighborhood. If your yard work is anything like mine, you just bought yourself at least six hours of writing time!

Have you ever thought about ordering your groceries to be delivered? Some large grocery chains will let you order your groceries online and deliver them to your home if you give them at least twenty-four hours notice. If you set up an order, don’t change it much to save time and  re-order each week instead of grocery shopping, you could add at least 4 hours to your writing.

Another way to add some time is to stock up on prepared foods and healthy snacks. I just did a shop at my local Grocery Outlet. They have started stocking Amy’s frozen meals. I am in LOVE with the gluten free, rice crust pizza. It is shockingly good. I stocked up on those, her spinach enchiladas and veggie burgers. I also grabbed dips for veggies and dried fruit and nut mixes. Having low-prep foods and easy, healthy snacks will keep you energized, out of the kitchen and at the keyboard. Adding at least an hour and a half of writing time every day.

If you splurge on all of these options for just the month of November (I’m estimating having a cleaner saves you 2 hours a week could be much more), you have 63 hours to write that you didn’t have before. If you write a reasonable 800 words an hour, you have all the time you need! 50,400 words

 

Want More Tips and Tricks? Grab one of these books on the subject!

Ready, Set, Novel!: A Workbook

NaNoWriMo: A Cheater’s Guide: Tips, Tricks and Hacks for Winning This November (Write Better Books Book 1)

No Plot? No Problem! Revised and Expanded Edition: A Low-stress, High-velocity Guide to Writing a Novel in 30 Days

How to Win NaNoWriMo: 11 Steps to Writing Your Novel in 30 Days

When Every Month is NaNoWriMo

Have more great tips? Need a NaNoWriMo writing buddy?

Please leave a comment. And Happy Writing and Reading.

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Be Outrageous! Guest Post from Author Diana Rose Wilson

picture of cover of Blood Feathers by Diana Rose Wilson

Today’s guest post is from author Diana Rose Wilson. The book release party for Blood Feathers (Forbidden Secrets), her new book in the Forbidden Secrets series is September 28th from 6pm-7pm PST. Join the festivities on facebook or at spiritbeast.org.

 

I began writing believing that authors flexed their fingers and the stories flowed fully formed from their brains into their novels. From: ‘Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins.’ To: ‘I am thinking of aurochs and angels, the secret of durable pigments, prophetic sonnets, the refuge of art. And this is the only immortality you and I may share, my Lolita.’ –Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita (1955)Nabokov: Novels 1955-1962: Lolita / Pnin / Pale Fire (Library of America).

In 3rd grade, after reading Watership Down / Richard Adams, I decided I wanted to be a writer. I mucked through my masterpiece and my story came out in one start-to-finish jumble of awesome. No one explained with compassion that it should have sucked as a first draft and a first try. I tossed out hundreds of pages and started a completely new story. Results did not vary.

Years later I started again but my process was much different. Here is the important part to remember: a story doesn’t need to be delivered fully formed from A to Z.

When you begin, you don’t need to know every breath and every move your character will make.

The key is to keep things moving, and here are some ideas that I hope will work for you.

Start

Start where you want. Anywhere you want. Start with the description of his eyes and then go from there. Throw yourself into the middle or the end but just go. The important thing is starting.

This goes for every day you write. If you sit and stare at the screen and don’t know what to do, pick up a conversation between some random characters. Characters in your story or those from the last book you read or movie you watched or even a conversation you overheard. Once you get going, your muse will guide you around to what is important.

Eventually you will have some bones and you can weave your scenes around and those can be strung together.

Respect the Muse

Elizabeth Gilbert’s TED Talk ‘Your Elusive Creative Genius’ changed my thought process about writing and creating.

Part of my return to writing started when I watched that video and put a persona behind my muse. Besides, it’s fun having a character for my creative process. He needs a whole blog post of his own, so here I only encourage you to think about the concept. Embrace that muse.

Be Ugly

Watch Bob Ross. His canvas begins as globs of color and only slowly transforms into beauty. Go ahead and be ugly!

I live in wine country, and during crush season it stinks. Literally. Someday it will be lovely wine but it begins as fruits, stems, seeds and skin all fermenting in tanks. It is allowed to smell nasty and you should allow your first draft to be too.

Accept it is okay to be really gnarly old vines. Just throw it in there.

Don’t know what color Mister Perfect will wear? Just type blue, highlight that sucker and move on. Mister Perfect might not be who you think he is when you get to the end. He might need a leather jacket instead of a suit. Don’t stress the small stuff.

This goes for spelling and grammar. Just throw it all in there. Stems, seeds, skins and all.

Be Extraordinary

Have you ever sat down to write the scene you’ve been brooding over for weeks and suddenly the mind yanks the wheel away from the muse? You know the thoughts: ‘could/would that really happen?

Since we’re talking about first draft, it doesn’t matter during this part of the process.

For example; the hero is trapped behind a booth in the donut shop with the entire police force there ready for a shootout. Hero must get away to move the plot forward.

How? Mind: should/could/would/can he really do <whatever your mind comes up with>?

It is a great question to ask and for the finished product you will need to make sure your story is believable, but not today. Besides, when your Hero is a vampire/superhero/alien/ex-marine-fireman/super-sexy-smart-and-also-rich-babe, we left reality a few miles back.

Write your character out of that scene.

Have Hero leap over the seat and throat-chop the douchebag ex-partner. Then throw the DEA agent into the DA who just walked in. Toss in an eye poke or two before Hero takes a bullet. Sliding out the door on both knees, Hero flips double birds as she vanishes into a blast of sunlight.

Phew!

Through!

We’re through! *victory lap*.

Crazy? Meh. Sure. But hero sipping coffee for ten pages while you’re pulling out your hair unable to push forward is worse.

Right?

Now you can write the next scene, or write another way for Hero to get out. (Maybe she gets caught. Maybe her lady comes and save her butt. Maybe her new partner flies the helicopter in and zooms her out of there.)

Play around with it and have fun while you get the ideas out of your brain and onto the page.

Be Extreme

You probably don’t read books because the hero is a normal person who goes to an average job and does average things.

It’s okay to write things that are over the top. Chip it out later if it doesn’t fit. If you’re stuck, don’t let reality hold you back. Let the hero be so smart she could shame Sherlock Holmes and beautiful and rich and she only works her dead end job because she enjoys talking to people at the call center.

None of this is set in stone. Even the best crafted, based in reality character isn’t necessarily going to survive the creation process unchanged. Your good guys may become bad guys, and your bad girl might become your hero. Allow some over the top characters and then when you edit, pull out those wild stems.

Same goes for scenes. Write situations as dangerous and unbelievable as you can imagine. If it doesn’t fit into the story, just tuck it aside or turn down the volume.

Be Flexible

You might have your plot scripted from start to finish, but allow yourself to write a scene differently to test the waters. Try that side door and discover it leads to a back alley where a character can overhear an important secret. Maybe it will be useful, otherwise tuck it away.

If a scene fizzles, explore it at a different angle. Maybe you don’t have to kill that two-faced friend. Or maybe that cow has to go! You can find out a lot about a character when you put them in unexpected situations. Even if the scene is clipped, you have more information about how to detail your character.

Be Uncomfortable

Put Hero into a situation that really sucks. She has to go into the boss’s office and explain why she was using company time/money for her personal research project. Have hero get hit by that car and be physically/emotionally changed. Force the hero to face a fear to save someone important to your plot, but maybe not important to them.

Put yourself in the hot seat too. Try writing something outside your comfort zone. Drop your characters into a genre you’ve never tested. Maybe the serious story that has you stuck would loosen up in a different setting. You never have to show any of this, it’s just practice.

Don’t Fuss

You finished that story/novel/novella! Now, leave it alone. Set a time limit of a week or a few months and do not look! No poking or overthinking about it. Continue to write but move onto something different. Create some blog posts or try another genre.

Do not uncork that baby until it has some cellar time.

Then, if you sample it and it tastes like vinegar, review what went wrong. The part about writing that you don’t get in wine making is that if you don’t like it you don’t need to start over from scratch. Don’t be afraid to make adjustments. Or, snip the pieces you like and put them into a new story.

Regardless of what happens with that story you will learn what no amount of coaching can teach you; the technique that works for YOU.

Try/GET Scivener

(https://www.literatureandlatte.com/scrivener.php)

I don’t have any affiliations to this company/product and this is only my own opinion but this software is a great tool. It is easy to use. It allows you to break your story into acts and scenes and scenes within scenes. You can easily shuffle whole acts/scenes like they are index cards. There is also easily accessible pages to keep your characters/places and research.

It also allows you to strain out the scenes that didn’t work and keep them away from the real product.

 

I hope this was helpful. Just keep in mind, everything you write is practice so even if no one sees it but you, it’s not a waste of time.

 

bio pic of Diana Rose WilsonDiana Rose Wilson grew up under the shadow of the Mayacamas Mountains, raised by outlaws and bikers. She has been involved in the lifestyle since 1989 including working at a high end adult boutique specializing in fetish, BDSM and LGBT merchandise. Her debut book is Wicked Masquerade, first in the Forbidden Secrets series. She has also been published in Finesse, a publication for the Thomas Keller Restaurant group.

Currently Diana lives in wine country with her husband where she enjoys good wine, better food, loud Harleys, 3-day eventing and the delights of deviant erotica. She is a member of the Pacific Northwest Writers Association, Redwood Writers, Snoopy Writers and CFTW Writer’s Block.