NaNoWriMo 2020 Planning Journey: What Does Prep Look Like?

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If you’ve been reading along for a while, then you already know that I participate in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) every November and try to write a brand new 50,000-word novel in 30 days.  I encourage anyone who likes writing, or hanging out with other writers, to give it a try and find your local NaNoWriMo community (online) this November.  It’s a great place to meet friends and an amazing challenge to try to get a draft down on paper while ignoring your inner editor and perfectionist.

You may also know that I tend to be what the NaNo community calls an Pantser.  Which is the opposite of a Planner.  Planners have outlines or scene lists or beat sheets, or in some way plan out what their novel is going to look like.  Pantsers fly by the seat of their pants.  This can also be called discover writing in other spaces.  While I’ve been experimenting with planning and plotting in advance (or at least between draft 0 and 1), I’m not very adept at it, but I still do NaNo prep every year.  So what does that look like?

It can look like a lot of different things depending on what kind of world I’m writing and what kind of story.  I’m going to take a couple posts to talk about what that’s looking like this October.  It’s only the second day of the month, so not a lot of work has happened, but I’ve started a process that I plan to continue, and we’ll see how it develops.

I have this history of writing a lot of story before the story starts.  A beta reader told me to cut the first 100 pages of book two, and they were right.  Last year, someone said I’d get an idea the week before NaNo and spend the first 6 days writing back story before I got to the actual story.  That was pretty close to what happened.  (And this was the same person in both cases…my friend really knows me well as a writer.)  So this year, I’m leaning into that.

I have an idea that centers around a female MC, who is going to be important because of the relationships she builds with the other characters.  I haven’t quite worked out why, but that’s not really important because the idea is to track her slowly building up a large group of friends and admirers who each want to be her most special person (whether that’s as a favorite sibling, a best friend, or a romantic partner) and how they jockey for position to be closest to her.  The idea developed from a reverse harem anime I watched recently.  It was just so genuinely nice.  The MC was sweet and caring and genuinely nice to everyone, and the characters in her harem were also genuinely nice people who for the most part liked each other too.  That’s the vibe I’m going for at any rate.

So in order to prep for that, I have to get to know all the characters.  I’m taking them one at a time and writing little scenes that would have been formative for them.  What gave them their life’s ambition?  When did they first meet the MC and what impact does that have on them?  How do they relate to the other characters around the MC?  What was they family or childhood like?  Those sorts of major developmental scenes.

Writing these scenes is also letting me play with the world building.  What sorts of technology is there?  What is magic like?  How much technology do I want?  What is the aesthetic of the world?  Is it a highly class based society or more egalitarian?  What kinds of clothes do people wear?  So far, I’m leaning toward slightly Victorian inspired clothes, a fantasy world with magic but also a hint of steam punk aesthetic with some tech and travel related things, and a definite class hierarchy (at least between nobles and commoners).  I’ll know more about the world as I keep writing and adding details.

Once I have enough of the characters planned out, I’ll start thinking about what order I want to focus on the secondary characters.  When does the MC meet them?  How does the MC feel about them?  When does each SC realize they want to be the MC’s most special person?  When does the MC clue into this?  Does the MC clue into this?  So far I’m writing her as intellectually fairly quick and studious, but socially a little but clueless, so she may not pick up on the hints the SCs are dropping, or at least not interpret them correctly.

I’ll report back in late October about how all this is going, and maybe give a few more sneak peaks at what I have planned so far.  I’ll also let you know what amount of outlining or scene listing I’ve been playing with.  I might actually try out planning each SC’s relationship arc with the MC (to a point at least) and then see if I can interweave them together in a pleasing way that gives the MC a coherent arc as well.  We’ll see how that actually goes, and if I even get to that point.  But stay tuned for more on how I’m prepping for this November.

Next week I have an image prompt and then the week after that is a response, but be sure to check back in on the 23rd for an update, and likely another on the 30th.

Happy prepping, planning, and writing, to all my fellow WriMos out there!

September Means It’s Officially NaNoWriMo Prep Season Now

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In my defense, I’m a Municipal Liaison (ML), so I’m planning for the actual events side, not just my novel project.

But yeah, it’s NaNoWriMo prep time.

Not for my novel, that happens the last week of October in a good year, November 1 most of the rest.  This will be my 10th year participating in the November writing challenge to create a 50,000 word novel from scratch in the 30 days of November.  It will be my second year doing so without attending in-person writing events.  This year NaNoWriMo HQ has (wisely imo) decided to not allow the organizing or advertising of in-person events associated with NaNoWriMo to protect everyone’s health and safety during the pandemic.

My very first year participating, I didn’t even know there were online forums, let alone actual human interaction events to attend.  I probably would have been too scared/shy to show up anyway.  But year two I found both, went to a Kickoff Party, and got to meet some people.  It’s been an amazing journey since then.  Some of my dearest and closest friends I’ve met through NaNoWriMo.  And I owe it all to my bestest friend and biggest fan, who actually got me started on it in the first place.  (I love you for it so much!  You know who you are.)

So what does NaNo prep look like in September?

I’m sprucing up our Discord server.  One of the other MLs in our region is running daily productivity hours.  I’m flexing my lunch hour a bit so I can join for at least part of them and either write or work on ML tasks.  We have an ML meeting coming up to lay out the plan for all of October and November and start divvying up tasks.

To be perfectly honest, it’s also never not NaNo prep season for me.

I’ve been collecting writing prompts (short phrases, sentences, or ideas heard in the wild) since December 1.  I have over 175 of them waiting to share with my region.  I expect it to be over 200 before November.  I’ve been keeping a list of ideas for November for a few months.  I randomly discuss ideas with other WriMos and my fellow MLs whenever they occur to us.  I’ve been chatting with the national ML team on the forums and Discord basically non-stop since I joined both spaces (admittedly Discord was only this past year).

In addition to all the ML NaNo prep, I’ve been thinking about how to prepare myself as a writer for the challenge.

Writing has been a bit of a struggle lately (there’s a reason last week’s post was about motivation).  My solution was to stop working on the project that was making me struggle, and return to some editing and copy editing for some old fanfic.  The original site it lived on went down, so I decided to repost it elsewhere and clean it up in the process.  I reconnected with a few old readers from the original site in the process of reposting, which really helped me remember why I write in the first place (to share a good story).  That led to drafting a bit on an incomplete story in the fanfic series.  I’m hoping this will be a nice rejuvenating palate cleanser project and then in November I can get back to original stuff again.

And that’s the current state of NaNoWriMo prep happening in my world.  I expect you’ll hear more about various aspects of it over the next couple months, and then it will be November, which I’m already excited about.

Who else is ready for NaNoWriMo?

NaNoWriMo 2019: An Experiment in Planning

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So I’ve had my NaNo idea for about three weeks now.  Which is three to four weeks earlier than usual.  I’m happy with the progress I’ve made so far and I’m starting to get to know my characters a little writing some pre-novel scenes that were important in their lives.  I used all the resources from the plot and character workshop our amazing former ML did for the region and I feel pretty confident about the plot idea (well except a bit of the nebulous middle, but who is really confident about that?) and I’m excited to get started.

And I’m a little terrified.  The last time I tried to draft a novel from scratch with an outline and a clearly defined ending, I ended up completely blocked and unable to write the story.  I’m trying so hard to have a growth mindset about the whole thing and believe that I can do this.  I rewrote the entirety of book two from a pretty strict outline and it turned out amazing (especially compared to draft zero!).  I’ve written to an outline successfully.  I can do this.  (If I keep repeating that, I have faith I will make it true.) Continue reading

Happy Preptober! NaNoWriMo T-minus 26 Days

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If you haven’t yet figured out that I’m a huge evangelizer and participant of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) then you haven’t been reading the blog for very long.  I love telling people about the challenge and urging them to join me in a crazy month full of literary abandon.

What I don’t usually love is planning my story in advance.  I’m a bit notorious in my region for not having my idea until the very end of October (sometimes even Halloween).  This year I’m trying something different.  I’m going to follow along with the regional prep workshops to try to get my idea together over the next week, so I’ll be ready for the plot and character workshops after that.

I’m going to try to have a clear idea of not just the vague ending, but major plot points on the way there.  I’m even going to try to sketch out characters in advance.  I’m not entirely sure how I’m going to do all that, but I’m sure going to try. Continue reading

Is it Ever Too Early to Prep for NaNoWriMo?

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So I may have a slightly skewed perspective on this since I’m a Municipal Liaison (ML) for my local National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) region, but is there such a thing as it being too early to prep for the upcoming NaNoWriMo challenge?

Let me give you a little perspective.  NaNoWriMo HQ usually starts the NaNo prep emails to participants (WriMos) sometimes in mid-September.  NaNo HQ themselves start prepping for November 2018 before November 2017 is actually over.  It’s fairly common for MLs to start prepping for November in June or July.  My two coMLs and I started prepping for November 2018 in December of 2017 and finalized our major dates in May 2018.

Just as a writer, I have a bit of a local reputation for not planning.  It’s completely unsurprising to my WriMos now when I tell them on October 27th that I don’t know yet what I’m writing for that November.  The actual story idea may not solidify until October 31, or even November 1.  But the scheduling, the funds saving, and the gearing up are definitely happening far in advance.  Before I was an ML, I still liked to host write-ins and I loved to attend write-ins, so I saved money all year so I’d have the funds to eat a snack or meal at each and every write-in I attended in November. Continue reading

Camp NaNoWriMo Time Approaches

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For anyone who’s been on my blog across a November, April, or July, you’ve probably heard me talk about National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) before.  This paragraph will be to catch up anyone new to the concept.  NaNoWriMo is a writing challenge that occurs every November.  Hundreds of thousands of people around the world challenge themselves to write a 50,000-word novel from scratch in the 30 days of November.  Whether someone makes it to that word count or not, it’s a month full of crazy inspiration, challenge, and an amazing community.  Camp NaNoWriMo is a similar challenge held in April and July where participants can select their own goal (words, pages, lines, hours, or minutes are options this year).  This gives participants the versatility to say they want to do 500 lines of poetry, a 100-page script, or a 120-minute screenplay. Continue reading

Prep Season: Halloween, NaNoWriMo, & Holidays

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There are a lot of things in my life that I’m in prep-mode for right now.  Halloween is approaching, and if I want to make my own costume I need to get to work sooner than later.  NaNoWriMo season starts in October for me, so I definitely need to finish prepping for that since it’s only nine days away.  Thanksgiving happens in the middle of NaNoWriMo so I need to have a plan for that well before November 1, and I’m making a lot of my Christmas gifts this year, so it’s time to get cracking. Continue reading

Personal #NaNoPrep

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Last week I talked about some of the NaNoPrep I’m doing as an ML for my region.  (If the terminology is confusing, checkout the last post for a brief vocab guide.)  This week, I’d like to talk a little about how I’m preparing (or not) for NaNoWriMo as a participant myself.

So I’m a pantser.  This is a commonly used term for an author who “flies by the seat of their pants” while writing, and is the opposite of a planner, who has a plot outline and a lot of other planning and prep done prior to writing the first word of the story.  These aren’t the only options, obviously, just the common extremes (who playfully battle for supremacy in NaNoLand). Continue reading

It’s #NaNoPrep Time!

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It may not be officially October yet, but I’ve already been in prep-mode for NaNoWriMo for over two weeks.  And that doesn’t count the prep I’ve been doing on and off since December.  This may have something to do with being an ML.

An ML, for those who haven’t been infected by the NaNoWriMo virus yet, is a Municipal Liaison, also known as an unpaid but very appreciated local volunteer.  Basically, we’re in charge of keeping our regional forums moderated, hosting one write-in a week, and generally being available to WriMos in our region for explanations, cheerleading, and other help.

I’m throwing around a lot of NaNo specific jargon in this one, so let me take a minute to explain my terms for those outside the community.  Continue reading