Here is my NaNoWriMo Playlist. These are songs that make me think of my story. Whether that’s the title of the song, the song lyrics or just the general mood of the song. You might be able to guess the direction I’m taking my story just from some of the titles.
I love closing my eyes and listening to music. It really inspires story ideas – I highly recommend it.
Anyway, it’s another fun tool in my NaNoWriMo toolbox – and something else I can cross off my Preptober checklist.
It was a chilly 40 degrees this morning – Fall is finally here!
I’m currently brainstorming and working out character kinks – stayed tuned!
Remember, you can find me on the NaNoWriMo website at take2max if you want to message me or join my Write Away group! Let’s support each other during this writing challenge!
So I’ve been daydreaming about my NaNoWriMo project. I know the kind of story I want to write and I have a pretty good idea who my protagonist is. Which is a win for me because I usually don’t have any idea what I want to write, which of course, means I have no idea who my characters are and then NaNoWriMo comes around and I’m left floundering.
It’s a Dystopian Fiction story. I mean, if you’ve been reading about my work struggles in healthcare these past few months, you won’t be surprised by this. It will also give me a chance to vent my frustrations and air my “conspiracy theories” as well. It will center around a vaccine but my vaccine will be a lot more nefarious and the “United” States of America actually secedes and is at war with each other. Sort of like Hunger Games meets Dr. Fauci kind of story.
I figured out my writing schedule – sort of. Here’s what I have:
Let me talk through my calendar with you.
Mondays and Wednesdays are clinic days with Dr. M. I have to get to work pretty early on those days so writing in the AM is OUT. No way that’s going to happen. I put AM on a few Thursdays and honestly, I don’t know if that’s going to happen either as I will have to get up at 4:00 AM to write an hour before getting ready for work. We’ll see. The bottom line, I want to get at least 1000 words on those days. There is simply NO WAY I’m going to have the energy to write any more than that. My brain is already taxed, I won’t have anything left over for the story.
Which leaves the weekends. As you can see, I plan on writing the bulk of my words on Saturdays and Sundays. You will notice I have 4000 words on the 11th, and the 15th. I have some time off from work and I’ll have more time to put in more words those days. I hope. We’re actually planning on taking a short camping trip so we’ll see how much writing I actually get in on those days.
Overall, if I stick to the plan, (And let’s be honest, I probably won’t), I will have written about 54,000 words by the 28th. I left the 29th and the 30th free because I will likely need some extra time to catch up – it’s my cushion, if you will. Of course, the 25th is Thanksgiving and no writing will be done that day.
I bought Natalia Leigh’s Preptober workbook. If you would like to buy it you can get it here. She has it set up so that it’s a donation-based product, meaning you can pay whatever you can and think it’s worth. Technically, you can get it for free, but Natalia has worked hard on this workbook and offers a version of it every year so she deserves some compensation for it.
She also posted a video of her working some of the pages and I enjoyed working my pages alongside her. It also gave me some additional ideas for my story as well. You can watch that video here.
Anyway, one of the pages in the workbook is my writing schedule.
You can see, at a glance, what my day looks like and when I plan on writing. Again, the weekends are set aside for writing and on the week days I will try and do some writing after work. I planned to relax right after I got home from work so that I have time to eat, watch a few videos, rest my eyes, (cat nap), and then I should have some energy to write a few hours after that before bed. I think the key, for me, will be knowing WHAT I need to write during the week. So I really want to stay on top of my outline so that I can sit down and actually write something as opposed to just staring at a blinking cursor. This will be the first year I’ve really done outlining so we’ll see how that goes. I just don’t want to waste those few hours and be as productive as I can possibly be.
I’m taking Thursday evenings off to decompress and recharge. And Saturday nights are reserved for the Right From Us podcast that Kevin and I film together.
And in case you’re curious, yes, you’re reading the schedule correctly. I get up at 5:00 AM every day, get ready for work, then I take some time to cool off, relax and chill before actually finishing my routine and going to work. To me, it’s worth getting up an hour early in order to relax and fully wake up before heading off to work. I could try and get in a few words in that time period but again, it will depend on where I am in the story and whether I have anything to write.
I also filled out the Self Care Bingo page in Natalia’s workbook. This is a game of bingo where I do various activities to decompress and once I get a Bingo, I will reward myself. With what, I don’t know yet. But some of the activities on my self-care bingo page are:
Go for a walk
Take day off
Lie in bed and listen to music (this really helps with story ideas)
Buy one Starbucks coffee (Fall tradition. I love Starbucks products but can’t stand the company and the fact their coffees are so expensive, so, one it is).
Buy a protein drink (a nurse at work told me about a protein drink place nearby and I want to try it out).
Anyway, that will be fun to “play” and will force me to relax and recharge which you honestly need during NaNoWriMo because the experience is really fun, but intense.
I’m now going to focus on starting my outline and trolling Pinterest to start boards for my characters. I did that last year and it was fun to put a face with a name.
I’m also Take2max on the NaNoWriMo site if you want to look me up. Once you find me, go to groups and you can join my Write Away group. Writing is lonely and it’s fun to have someone to talk to throughout the experience.
If you’re participating in NaNoWriMo, what are you doing to prepare?
NaNoWriMo, which stands for National Novel Writing Month, is an annual writing challenge to write 50,000 words during the month of November, for those of you that may not have been aware of it’s existence. (NaNoWriMo also offers Camp NaNoWriMo every April and July. The camps are more laid back as far as “requirements.” They are just another tool to add to your writing toolbox to try and motivate you to write).
Preptober is a term someone clever came up with to prep for NaNoWriMo during the month of October.
First of all, you don’t have to participate in NaNoWriMo if you don’t want to. You don’t have to do anything if you don’t want to. But let’s face it, writing is lonely. And I personally need something to motivate me to write, whether it’s this blog, or my bullet journal because I’ve had a bad day and I need to VENT and PURGE my thoughts and feelings because doing so in real life could cost me dearly. *ahem*
You could prep … any month you chose to. You are the king, or queen, of your castle. There are no rules.
First things first, what project do you want to work on?
Whatever you write, whether you’re published or not, YOU’RE A WRITER. If you can put words to paper and make them coherent and/or interesting, then you’re a writer. There are no requirements to this challenge, if you want to write and you’re up to a challenge, then you’re in.
You don’t have to be writing a novel to participate in this challenge. Maybe you want to write several blog posts. Or poems. Or your life story. Or short stories. (I did that one year for NaNoWriMo). Whatever writing project you want to do, you can participate in NaNoWriMo. It’s not about writing a novel, it’s about writing in general. It’s about pushing yourself to do the thing you’ve always said you wanted to do. It’s about unleashing your creativity and shutting down your inner critic. Your inner critic can be released at the end of the challenge. For now, it’s just you and your imagination. This challenge gives your creativity permission to be run naked and wild through the sunflowers.
(Figuratively speaking, of course).
Secondly, when you plan your writing, do you want to use:
The Bookend Method (figure out the beginning and the end and free-write the middle)
By the Seat of your Pants or Pantsing (little to no planning – you just start writing)
The Headlight Method (plan, write to the end of the plan, see where it goes, plan, write …etc)
I’m sure there are other ways, but these are the most common.
It’s important to know how you plan on writing before you actually write. For me personally, I love the pantsing method. I love to see where my characters take me. And they often take me to surprising places. It’s fun and I thoroughly enjoy it.
I inevitably get to a point in the story where I have no idea where it’s going, how it’s going to end and does it even make sense at this point? I then get frustrated/discouraged and just chock the whole project. This is why I love short stories because I can write to the point where I get stuck and then, well, it’s a short story, it’s SUPPOSED to end, right??
I’d like to flex my writing muscles a bit this go around. I want to combine both the bookend method and the headlight methods. I want a start, a general ending, and then loosely plan the chapters, allowing my characters to take me somewhere, but at the same time, put up road signs for them to follow along the way. I could write a full outline but ZzZzZzzz .. it sounds so boring. But then again, I said I would NEVER outline, in any form, a mere ten years (minutes?) ago, so, don’t hold me to that.
Anyway, enough about me. Let’s get to the Preptober stuff.
I’ve participated quite a few times in NaNoWriMo over the years, I’ve won a few years. But I never plan ahead and by the time the proverbial gun goes off at the starting line, I’m left in the dust blinking in confusion. Where to start? So. In an attempt to avoid that feeling, I want to actually be as prepared as I can be this go around.
Because I’m a big child at heart, I like to make things fun. So when I found this Preptober Bingo placard, I couldn’t resist to share it with you guys.
You can find more fun cards at Ink and Times. (I put the free space on there. I figured, free space equals one day off to decompress). The site even offers ideas on what to put on your Bingo card. For example here are the ones that caught my attention from the site and from this site that I think will work for me:
I want to work toward some sort of reward, and I will DEFINITELY reward myself if (WHEN) I win NaNoWriMo, but for now, it feels weird to reward myself for prepping. (Yay! Good job, Karen! You prepared for your challenge!) Uh … no.
But, I thought it would be fun to make prepping for NaNoWriMo more fun. Feel free to copy this for yourself, if you like.
Here are some more helpful resources in planning for NaNoWriMo.
I plan on using the SmartEdit program as my writing software of choice. I’ve been liking it so far and best part – IT’S FREE.
If you Google Preptober and/or use the #preptober hashtag on Twitter, you will stumble across many more resources – the ideas are endless. These are the rabbit holes I tend to get sucked into (hence the reason I gave myself two research days because I loves me some research, ya’ll!) and if reading over these ideas and resources doesn’t inspire you then … I’ve got nothing else.
I’ll try and remember to update you on my Bingo card throughout the month of October. I’d like to post excerpts from my NaNoWriMo project in November, too.
I think my biggest challenge won’t be the writing part – I can write/type fast and make my characters do/say all sorts of stupid things, no, I think my biggest challenge is going to have the energy to actually write. Working 40 hours, making time for family, holidays, and you know, SLEEPING, and then finding the energy and time to actually write something …. that’s going to be hard. The few years I won NaNoWriMo I wasn’t working so …. that should tell you something.
We are also planning a short camping trip in November, which we plan on vlogging, so it will be challenging to find time to write while doing that, too.
Anyway. I hope this information was helpful and that I’ve given you some places to check out and poked your writing beast.
By the way, my Wrimo username is Take2max if you want to look me up on the NaNoWriMo site and friend me. I even made a writing group on the NaNoWriMo site called Write Away if you want to chat. (Search for that name when you go to your NaNoWriMo account under “groups.” Send me a note and I’ll send you an invite).
Of course you’re not ready – is anyone truly ready for this monster?
I have a few tricks up my sleeve. As mentioned, I will be working on my novel as well as blogging and/or writing short stories to keep the creative juices flowing. I know me, and I know I will get bored out of my skull if I’m ONLY working on one thing at a time. So. I have my handy-dandy index cards close by so when an idea strikes, I can add it to my stack. Ideas usually pop into my head when I’m reading something, or writing something unrelated. (This is how I prep for my podcasts, too. I’ll be watching a video, or reading an article and suddenly, I have an idea to talk about and I write it in my podcast journal. Yes, I have a podcast journal because I’m TRYING to be organized here).
Some last minute tips:
I’m using SmartEdit Writer software for my novel. It’s similar to Scrivener but it’s FREE. I’m loving it so far. Try it out!
Here’s someplace you can host writing sprints – for either you or for a group! Writing sprints really work well if you need a concentrated time period of just writing. I will be trying the Pomodoro Technique – I think that will work well for me. (Remember the short attention span when it comes to writing … but only when it comes to writing – not sure why that is).
These are just a few of my resources. I hope they’re helpful to you. Maybe they will spark an idea … or two. Don’t feel like you HAVE to work on just one project – maybe you have several ideas in your head – write them all. It’s perfectly fine to be a NaNoWriMo rebel. Don’t fight your writing process. Embrace it. The important thing is to continue writing, no matter what that looks like.
My plan? *sigh* Who knows. My next writing project is to post Maya’s PRE story. I think it will help me understand what makes her tick if I write THE moment that shaped her personality and her beliefs. I have quite a few scenes written out in my index outline and maybe I’ll get a few more if I write her PRE story.
I still want to blog and I know I simply won’t if I put all of my eggs into my novel basket. I think it’s important, for me at least, to step back and take a breath of fresh air from my novel and shift gears a bit on to something else. Kevin and I are still participating in our podcast every week and I’m working on recording my own podcast each week, not to mention, still trying to read books though now I don’t think I’m going to make my 100 book goal since I will be lucky to read one book a week, let alone two plus a week like I’ve been doing up to this point. (I changed my goal to 90 books – because I’m a wimp).
Anyway. Don’t get too stressed about NaNoWriMo. The project is what you make of it and for me, I simply want to develop a habit of writing on a daily basis again – however that looks for me.
Let me explain my thought process … the first week of November I am going to be chomping at the bit to get started. I’m always very enthusiastic the first week, somewhat excited the second week, start burning out the third week and then the fourth week I’m motivated to make it across the finish line.
So. I figured the weekends will be my heavy word count days – I will hopefully knock out the word count goals. I figure I can stop, take a break, then come back and keep writing on Saturdays and Sundays. That’s the easy part. My weeks are going to be challenging. I will most likely get up early and knock out 1000 words before work, then sit right down after work and knock out another 1000 words before the day catches up with me and I’m nodding off in my chair. (I can’t even tell you the number of times I’ve practically hit my head on my desk because I’m just going to shut my eyes, just for a second and … *SNORT-SNIFF* Where am I?)
I’m taking it easy on Mondays and Wednesdays. Those are my clinic days and by the time the day ends, I’m checked out. I’m mentally tapped out. I’ve dealt with patients and doctors all day, I don’t have any mental stamina left. On Tuesdays/Thursday, I will try and write before and after work again – we’ll see how it goes. I anticipate these days being my biggest struggle, especially if I”m asked to cover another MA on one of those days.
Fridays are also light days. Not because it’s crazy at work but because Kevin and I go out to eat and then do our grocery shopping every Friday night so we’ll get home late(ish) and I will be losing steam by the time I sit down to write anything. I’m not sure I will be able to write 1000 words, but I’m going to try it.
I will probably use the day before Thanksgiving to look at my outline and plan enough for me to cross the finish line because by that point, I’m usually stuck in my head and I’ve convinced myself that what I’m writing is trash and I SUCK – WHY FINISH??
And then the 30th – I’m using as an extra day just in case my count is off and I haven’t done as much writing as I need to – that will be my last ditch effort to make it across the finish line – I wish it wasn’t a Monday, but it is what it is.
I think the total is 53,000 words, or thereabouts. I wanted to give myself a little wiggle room – just in case.
We’ll see how this pans out.
I’m not really worried about the word count – I can write and spew crap all day long. I just need to not worry about whether it makes sense or not, I guess. I’d like to post excerpts here but I won’t make any promises because if it’s really bad … well … I won’t put you through that. ha!
Remember, you can friend me on the NaNoWriMo website if you wish. My username is take2max. We can cheer each other on. Also, if you’re interested in chatting on the NaNoWriMo website, let me know what your username is in the comments and I’ll send you an invite to the Write Away group I created. Or, you can join the group by clicking this link (just know that it will make you sign into your account – so if you haven’t made an account yet, now would be a good time to do that!).
I spent nearly all day yesterday Preptober(ing). I learned a lot, I was inspired, I bought a NaNoWriMo t-shirt and I ended the day more confused and frustrated than when I started.
This outlining thing is for the birds, ya’ll. I feel like giving up before I even start and just go back to pantsing it.
However, I don’t want to get to 25,000 words in and completely dry up, like I usually do when I attempt NaNoWriMo. So. I will force myself to slow down and start putting one foot in front of the other and waddle my way through this mess.
Beginning with a story idea.
I found an excellent site that lists a few hundred story ideas. I read through them all and these are the ones that caught my attention:
1.A hair stylist overhears something she shouldn’t while cutting hair.
2.Three friends go on a trip to a foreign country together, only for them each to get lost.
3.A character is sold the “Best Year of Their Life” by an illustrious company, with the caveat that they must die afterward.
4.An adopted child starts to receive tens of letters from people who claim they’re her parents.
5.An adopted child starts to receive tens of letters from people who claim they’re her parents.
6.In the midst of a war, the women of a local town abandon their neighborhood only a week before their husbands and sons return.
7.A dictator forces an illustrious fashion designer to design the new military uniforms for the war.
8.In a series of weekly sessions, a man recalls his experience of Vietnam to overcome his PTSD. – only it’s a woman and she is forced to recall a crime in which she was a major player
9.A character discovers they have the ability to visit the past and future, but at the risk that they’ll lose something valuable.
10.In the midst of a plague-ridden Venice, an inspector begins a series of unethical experiments to find a cure.
11.Three strangers win a getaway vacation together – one is a psycho path and plots to kill the other two for unknown grand prize
12.A diver uncovers government secrets buried at the bottom of the ocean.
13.A woman is called on a mission to save her lover.
14.A character travels back in time, where they realize they are more important than modern day.
15.A character develops the power to alter their personality, but cannot control it.
16.A matriarch deals with a rising male leader threatening her power. – flip it – patriarch threatened by a rising female.
17.A character’s home is split in two by a sudden Earthquake. They must work to find a way to the other side, where something valuable is.
18.Three friends go on a trip to a foreign country together, only for them each to get lost. Series?
19.A closed exit road sends a character on a six hour detour road trip.
20.A character participates in a march for a cause they believe in when violence breaks out against the people.
21.A prostitute meets with her family for the first time in 10 years.
22.A psychiatrist befriends one of their patients only to realize it was a fatal mistake.
All of them appeal to me in one way or another, but there are a few that really spark my imagination. But believe it or not, the idea that has been percolating in my head for several months now is not listed here. I may, or may not, massage that idea into fruition, I just haven’t decided yet. I need to stick to an idea though because I need to start developing my characters.
Also, something else to consider when you’re picking your idea and thinking about when you’re shaping the story in your head:
Start with the unexpected.
Start with action
Start by appealing to the reader’s curiosity – make the reader want to read more to find the answer.
Start with an understanding of your fictional world – if you are confident about your fictional world, it will make it more believable and interesting to your read.
Start with intensity – “draw us in like moths to the flame, but don’t let the bonfire rage so fierce we can’t get close.”
Build momentum – “The first cardinal rule of opening lines is that they should possess most of the individual craft elements that make up the story as a whole. An opening line should have a distinctive voice, a point of view, a rudimentary plot and some hint of characterization. By the end of the first paragraph, we should also know the setting and conflict, unless there is a particular reason to withhold this information.”
Resist the urge to start too early “You might be tempted to begin your narrative before the action actually starts, such as when a character wakes up to what will eventually be a challenging or dramatic day. But unless you’re rewriting Sleeping Beauty, waking up is rarely challenging or dramatic. Far better to begin at the first moment of large-scale conflict.”
Remember that small hooks catch more fish than big ones – “Many writers are taught that the more unusual or extreme their opening line, the more likely they are to “hook” the reader. But what we’re not taught is that such large hooks also have the power to easily disappoint readers if the subsequent narrative doesn’t measure up.”
Avoid getting ahead of your reader – “One of the easiest pitfalls in starting a story is to begin with an opening line that is confusing upon first reading, but that makes perfect sense once the reader learns additional information later in the story. The problem is that few readers, if confused, will ever make it that far.”
Keep talk to a minimum – “If you feel compelled to begin a story with dialogue, keep in mind that you’re thrusting your readers directly into a maelstrom in which it’s easy to lose them. One possible way around this is to begin with a single line of dialogue and then to draw back and to offer additional context before proceeding with the rest of the conversation—a rare instance in which starting close up and then providing a panorama sometimes works. But long sequences of dialogue at the outset of a story usually prove difficult to follow.”
Revisit the opening once you reach the end. – “Sometimes a story evolves so significantly during the writing process that an opening line, no matter how brilliant, no longer applies to the story that follows.”
I personally like shocking my readers. Nothing too drastic, just enough to make them raise their eyebrows in slight surprise. I love starting with action because I love reading stories that begin with action. The tip that I think I have the hardest time with is starting with dialogue. I LOVE writing dialogue and I always have way too many conversations in my stories – I definitely need to work on settings. However, I’m going to write my story first, and that may be all dialogue at this point, and then go back and put in fillers later. I think trying to stop and write about the setting my characters are in will slow me down and frustrate me. I never have to worry about being one of those authors that info dump on their readers – but, leaving that information out is basically two, or more people, walking around talking each other’s heads off too much and no one is interested in reading that.
Analyzing elements of a good story
Ask: What If …
Challenges seem realistic
Get inspired by living your life
A. Pay attention to things that evoke your own emotions
Develop the hell out of everything
A. Character B. Worlds
Focus on your characters
If you Google story ideas, you will find many, many, MANY more ideas that might spark your imagination. Even if the idea is enough for you to lift your eyebrow and go “Hmm”, keep track of it. You’ll be surprised what your subconscious percolates when you’re not paying attention. And if your subconscious picks a tough moment to tap you on the shoulder, (because let’s be honest – ideas always come at the WORST possible moment), do not hesitate to write it down. Before long, you will have a slew of ideas for future writing projects, and/or, who knows, maybe you can combine a few ideas for your NaoNoWriMo project.
Also – side note – look over your calendar for November and come up with a writing schedule. I don’t know why I never really thought about doing this before, I guess I always just assumed I would write 1,667 words per day. (Where did I get that number? That’s the approximate number to write every day in November to reach the 50,000 word mark). But let’s be real. There will be days I’m mentally tapped out from working a clinic, or I’m so tired I literally can not keep my eyes open so it’s unrealistic of me to expect I will uphold that 1,667 daily word mark. Not to mention, my father-in-law’s birthday, my birthday, my husband’s birthday, my oldest son’s birthday and of course, Thanksgiving is during the month of November, so my time is stretched. I am going to come up with a realistic writing plan for me. I know that weekends will be the majority of my writing time but I really want to get up an hour early before work and then immediately sit down right after work for an hour and write some more will likely work for me. I’m still coming down from an adrenaline high when I get home from work and my brain is still firing on all cylinders., that would be a good time to catch my brain before it checks out for the night. After about an hour of sitting quietly and no longer being overstimulated, it’s like coming down from a sugar high, I just CRASH and I become a bumbling idiot who can’t string two words together, let alone write them.
Anyway, start thinking about your writing schedule and keep it real.