National Novel Writing Month: Prepping for November 
by Stacy

"I'm writing a first draft and reminding myself that I'm simply shoveling sand into a box so that later I can build castles." – Shannon Hale


Alright – you know what NaNoWriMo is, you’re game for the challenge, there’s only a few days until November 1…. now what?  

While November is the month of writing, September and October are really the months for prepping! If you aren’t like me, you probably have a pretty good sense of time and maybe you’ve already started prepping for NaNoWriMo – which is totally awesome and I’m jealous! Maybe you didn’t know what NaNoWriMo was until now and wish you had a few more weeks to prepare? NaNoWriMo’s official website has their own preparation guideline you can follow as early as September 2021.

However, maybe you are like me. Maybe life is pretty busy and you probably don’t even know when November is – let alone that it’s in two months, or one month, or even three days. Aha – then this is the blog for you! Not official by any means except to me, I am going to share with you how I prep for NaNoWriMo before November!

Create Goals
First and foremost – Create. Your. Goals. 
(Trust me, this is so important.)

You know your end goal is 50,000 words by November 30. Now it’s time to create mini-goals to last you from now until November 1 to get you as prepared as possible to start writing. I will share with you my personal NaNoWriMo 2020 mini-goals and a bit about each one – maybe your mini-goals aren’t exactly the same and that’s perfectly okay! There’s no one correct way to write a novel and that’s what this month long challenge is all about!

My NaNoWriMo Mini-Goals:
- Develop an Idea
- Plot/Characters/Setting/World Building
- Outline, outline, outline!

Develop an Idea
Yeah, okay, maybe this one sounds like a no-brainer, but unless you’re already flowing with creativity (which I am not) this is a really difficult first step.  

Luckily there are a lot of ways to generate story ideas! Listening to music, watching movies, reading books are all classic ways of getting ideas. All you need is that one line or that one piece of imagery to move you in the right direction – sometimes the whole work can move you. I’m pretty notorious for writing adaptations of my favorite older movies and books like “Alice in Wonderland” by Lewis Carol and “The Graveyard Book” by Neil Gaiman.  

Another thing I like to do when I feel stuck on an idea, or lack thereof, is use random word, story or sentence generators online such as Plot Generator. This website gives you random generators for story ideas, opening lines, etc. A lot of times this can sparks new ideas that you wouldn’t be exposed to in your day to day life! This tool is actually one I use a lot when I write – not only is it good for creating ideas, it’s a really great daily writing practice I use before I pick up my NaNoWriMo novel for the day.

Character/Setting/World Building
Okay you have your idea – now on to the hard stuff.  

I find it impossible whether I’m writing a novel for NaNoWriMo or writing a novel for an entire year to have all three of these things figured out in detail. So absolutely do not stress about having all of this set in stone. I guarantee you it will all change as you are writing and discover new paths and developments for your story and characters.

Character: I like to start with a few characters – namely, my protagonist. Really, my only goal with characters before November is to get some names down for my primary characters, a few names for my secondary characters and any important information that will make starting the story easier. For me, I prefer to let my characters come out as I write.  

Setting: I know it’s difficult – who wants to write about the state and town that you grew up in? It seems so boring and dull, where’s the excitement? It doesn’t seem as glamorous as Hollywood or New York City. Real life isn’t glamorous. I grew up in a small farm town where my middle school graduating class was maybe 500 kids, essentially the exact opposite of glamorous. But that’s what I know – that’s where my childhood is rooted, it’s where I learned the fundamentals of who I am. Is it glamorous? No. Is it pleasant and fun to write about? It can be. Do I confidently feel that I could believably write my hometown in a way that will create a strong setting for my characters? Yes!  

World Building: World building can be soooooo much work. It doesn’t have to be though. If you decide that you want your world set in our real modern day Earth, your fictional world will likely follow our same rules and laws. World building can be as easy as modern day Aurora, Colorado or as extensive as J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth. If you’re like to me and like to create fantasy and sci-fi stories, world building is crucial. You’ll most likely start a whole world entirely by scratch. This can include maps and landscape, lore, currency, religion, laws, government, etc. Trust me, it sounds like a lot because it is. I personally lovelovelove world building and taking the time to create a fictional world can be such a blast.  

Again; I guarantee that you will change you character/setting/world as you are writing and discover new paths and developments for your story and characters. This is super common and expected, especially for NaNoWriMo.  

I understand that not everyone outlines. Outlining can be tedious and it can be slow, especially when you’re in a dry spell for ideas. I know a lot of writers who don’t outline at all – they just begin writing and create an outline/story path as they go! For me though, honestly, sometimes I get so invested with outlining, I forget to actually write my stories. Outlining is always what I spend the most time on when I write novels.

I create two documents; one is my general/overall outline and another I call “chapter/idea outlines.” The general overall outline is my story from start to finish. The likelihood of me getting an outline completely finished before November 1 will never happen, even if I started it the previous November. A lot of this time this outline will start in the middle of my story or at the climax, and I will outline my way to the end before going back and outlining backwards to the beginning. My “chapter/idea” outline is when I have something specific that I know I want to happen, but not sure where to fit in yet. This document allows me to express and flesh out all of my ideas, while giving me the time to fit it in rather than force it in.  

Come into NaNoWriMo on November 1 as prepared or unprepared as you want to be! My favorite part of novel writing is the research, planning, and world building so I spent a lot portion of my time catering to these expectations. If you haven’t tried preparing for your stories before, 2020 might be a good year to try it out! Normally over plan like me? Forgo it! Wing it – see how your story comes out!  

Posted by [email protected] On 29 October, 2020 at 2:20 PM  

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