|How to Dominate NaNoWriMo|
You write in your journal to create a more fulfilling life for yourself. Now, take it to the next level and write a novel in November!
That’s right, it’s NaNoWriMo time! All you writers out there are screaming, “Yeah, NaNoWriMo!Woohoo!” My other readers are like, “Gesundheit.”
Don’t worry, I’ll get you up to speed and you’ll want to jump in on the fun, too!
NaNoWriMo (also known as National Novel Writing Month) takes place each November to encourage creative writers (pros and amateurs alike) to crank out a book in 30 days. Ambitious, you say? Yes, it is. That’s the fun!
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A Peek at My Prep Work (Hint: I’m a Plotter)
A few weeks ago I posted my fall bucket list on Instagram, and some of you noticed my NaNoWriMo goal right away! I was nervous about announcing my participation to the world. In fact, here’s something even my husband didn’t know until recently: I participated last year. And failed. Miserably.
But this time I’m serious about finishing. One of my 2016 goals was to finish a manuscript, but when life happened, I migrated the bullet. No more excuses! Many of you may not know this, but my original motivation for starting my bullet journal was to improve and organize my creative writing.
This year, I got an early jump on NaNoWriMo planning. Back in July, I started creating flow charts, and now I’m ready to show you the full plan (minus the story details).
My plan involves 3 November essentials:
- My outlines
- My bullet journal
My Bullet Journal
First of all, I won’t get through November without my bullet journal, plain and simple. I’m using a very simple word count tracker, along with a column for story events I need to finish. I plan to fill those in as the month progresses (just in case the story changes along the way). BTW, Justin McLachlan created a downloadable Excel tracker I also keep on my desktop.
So why not organize the whole project in a bullet journal?
You certainly could! Kara from Boho Berry created a separate journal for her NaNoWriMo prep. Like everything Kara does, it’s beautiful and carefully considered. She took the time to think about how she works and created a system that will help her through Novemeber. It works for her.
Do whatever gives you freedom with your writing.
I opted to keep my writing notes separate from my bullet journal. A folder and yellow legal pads work for me. I think you’ll understand why once you see my Scrivener setup. Keeping my notes loose also allows me to spread them out while I’m writing.
See more about bullet journaling>>HERE<<
Remember how I said this isn’t my first year to participate? The biggest problem I had last year was a lack of planning (I also kept my participating a secret because I was afraid to fail, but more on that later).
So, a plan! As I mentioned, I started developing this book in July. No, that’s not cheating.
I already had a protagonist in mind, but I needed to give his story a nudge. I worked on story flow charts, bounced plot ideas off other writers, and even got together for a white board session with a prolific author in my circle. This occurred over several weeks. I write better when I let an idea age a bit.
If you’re completely unfamiliar with story structure, I recommend James Scott Bell’s Plot & Structure. I bought it after many hours of banging my head against a wall in creative writing master’s classes with questions like, “But how do we plot a story? What makes a story work?” I never got a straight answer, so I found my own resources to learn about effective plotting. Bell is incredibly thorough, and he takes the mystery out of story craft.
Next, I started putting together the outlines of my story. For plotters like me, an outline is essential. I can’t trust my characters to take the story where it needs to go. You have to watch those characters…They’re shifty.
Before you have flashbacks to those Roman numeral skeletal outlines of 10th grade English (Why, oh why, do schools force such a horrible format?), let me assure you, an outline can be whatever style helps you visualize the major points of your story.
Right now, I’m using a combination of Scrivener notecards, a sketch note flow chart, and an excel “beat” sheet. They can be amended on the fly if I decide to explore a rabbit hole. Having a plan doesn’t mean you’re handcuffed by it. The inspiration for the chart below came from the Lady Writer over at eadeverell.com. I can’t praise her site enough. It’s a treasure trove of writing resources.
I blurred out the details of my story, but as you can tell from the photos above, I went through a couple of rough flow charts. Eventually, I put the story down on a simple three-act EKG chart.
Oh, I have the feels for Scrivener! I fell in love with it when I took it for a desk drive on a novelist-friend’s computer. I bought the program that same day. I’ve been playing with it for about six months, and I love it more each day. This is not your mother’s word processing program. It’s built for serious writers.
Scrivener comes in two version (affiliate links):
For reference, I’m a Mac user. Here’s a peek at my setup for this year’s NaNoWriMo project (yes, I masked the spoilers):
This is my Scrivener cork board. Each one of those big white rectangles is a notecard. I have a chapter summary on each card (nicely hidden by my “Spoilers!” stickers). When November kicks off, all I have to do is review the summary on each card, click into it and start writing.
I adopted the notecard method after reading Robert Olen Butler’s book, From Where You Dream. It allows you to visualize your story and move sections around before ever writing a word of your first draft.
With Scrivener, you can click into a notecard to access the document associated with that card (a scene, chapter, etc). Slide the card around on the cork board to move the whole section of your manuscript associated with that card (no more scrolling for hours in Microsoft word!).
In the lower left, you can see my character list. Each character card allows you to develop a profile for each of your characters (you can even add a photo). I’ve barely begun to scrape the surface of everything Scrivener can do, and it’s already my favorite writing toy!
Are up to the challenge?
If you’ve ever considered NaNoWriMo, I say go for it! Here’s my (very salty) advice for you.
You’ll hear conflicting advice on planning. The world of writers is divided into roughly two camps:
The “Plotters” (that’s me) have a hard time executing a story if they haven’t already worked it out.
The “Pansters” (as in, “write-by-the-seat-of-your-panst-ers”) like to sit down and just write, even if they have to suffer through the occasional dead end. The key is to choose the method that works for you.
Most writers swear their method is the right one (but mine is.) Seriously, try both methods and decide what works best for you.
As part of my plan, I’ve already created synopses and a list of character names to pull from. I’m notoriously picky with names, so this list saves me from hours of wringing my hands in frustration. There are about 5 more pages to that list… Once the name is in place, the whole character can move forward according to the plan. Plan. Plan. Plan.
Announce Your Intentions
Last year, I didn’t tell a soul about my participation, and it was a huge mistake.
I was afraid people I cared about would see me fail. I had just finished my master’s in creative writing, was working with an amazing new writing group, and was trying to get a new blog up and running. I didn’t want to let any of them down.
This year, I told my husband, my parents, my friends, my blogging pals, and of course, YOU!
Here’s why this is so important:
- People won’t ask for your time; you should be writing
- You have a cheering section
- The pressure helps your performance
- Making it official solidifies your commitment
That’s not to say you have to share the actual story with them. Many famous writers (Norman Mailer and Elizabeth Gilbert, among others) support the idea that new writing projects are like illicit affairs. Secret, mysterious, belonging only to you.
Don’t worry, my husband knows I’m here. 😉
So,what do you think? Is a love affair with NaNoWriMo in your future?
Brainstorm with me!
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