Tips for NaNoPrep

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In 2015, I wrote a series of posts about NaNoWriMo, covering things like tips for prep time, tips for November, help in the actual prep work, and even some of my favorite writing tools.

The problem now is that, though those things are all still helpful and relevant, there’s not a lot to add to them. I have picked up a few extra tips since then, sure, but those things I wrote about 2 years ago are still some of the most helpful advice I could give.

I could just reblog those posts throughout the month, but I don’t like that idea. Instead, I’m going to pick some of my favorite tips and share them in a few, boiled-down posts, while also suggesting that anyone who is interested in learning more visit the page where I’ve listed all of those posts from 2015.

1. Start writing now.
Take the next 2 1/2 weeks to learn what works best for you, so that by November, you know how to make the most of your writing time. Do you require absolute silence? If yes, when can you find that? Is your ideal time late at night when others are asleep? During your lunch break? First thing in the morning?

It doesn’t have to be the amount of time you will need to write 1667 words each day in November, but find maybe 15-20 minutes when you can sit down and write. For planners, work on the plot, characters, outline, or whatever you’re doing. For pantsers who are doing absolutely no planning before November 1, you can still make time every day to free write in anticipation of daily writing in November. In fact, free writing can be a great use of your time whether you’re a planner, a pantser, or somewhere in between.

Try to write every day, which is a good habit to have even outside of NaNo, but also keep in mind that if you can’t get to it one day, it’s not the end of the world. Just remember that if you’re like most of us, the longer you let yourself stay away, the less likely it is that you’ll keep the habit you’ve developed.

2. Find your space.
In a similar vein as figuring what when you work best, it can also be good to know in advance where and how you work best. Do you need a comfy spot? Maybe you work better at a desk or table with a straight-backed chair.  Where can you go to have the solitude you need? Or do you prefer some noise? Give coffitivity.com a try for a steady coffee shop background noise available anywhere you happen to be. Sometimes a little noise is good, but too much (people in the room, or even music with lyrics) can be bad.

Use your planning time to try out different locations and environments and see what works best. Do some work with pen/pencil and paper and some with a computer. Do you enjoy the tactile feel of writing by hand? Do you prefer the speed that typing can provide? This is the time to find out!

3. Gather your NaNo necessities.
Whether this includes consumables, physical tools, or making sure your laptop is set up and ready to use, make sure you know what you want to have handy for NaNoWriMo now, and procure as much of it as you can. When November starts, you don’t want to find yourself lacking.

4. Involve other senses.
I touched on sound above, so we’ll start there. Some people create a playlist for every story. I’ve read about people who will find music that matches the theme of their story, make a playlist from it (even if just on YouTube), and listen to it all month. Then, when November is over and they want to go back later and either finish the novel or revise it, they can listen to that music again, and it will put them right back in the mood.

Whatever your taste in music is, an alternative to creating an audio scene for your story is creating an olfactory scene. Scent memory is said to be very powerful. Go to the store and smell all the candles or all the scented wax (if you have or are willing to buy the wax melter to go with it). Think of your story, what it’s about, where it’s set, who the main character(s) is/are. Is it a romance? Maybe something flowery or sensual. Is it set in a tropical location? Something with coconut or tropical fruit, perhaps. There are outdoor scents if your story involves a lot of forest or other outdoor scenes. Not every story lends itself easily to a scent, but pick something that smells right and have it burning/melting near you while you write all month. Then later, you may just be able to immerse yourself back into the book by activating that scent again.

Check out this post for some NaNo-related music, comic strips, and even a musical!

5. The midnight sprint.
NaNoWriMo begins at midnight on November 1. That falls in the middle of the week this year, but if you’re the kind who stays up late, or can make an exception for one night, you can start writing right at midnight and get some words under your belt before going to bed. It’s purely a mental trick, getting a jump start on the day’s word count, but many people love to do the midnight sprint.

When November looms closer, I will post tips about the writing itself, and how to survive–and even thrive–during NaNoWriMo. If you’re don’t want to wait, by all means, here’s the link again to the series of posts I made 2 years ago, from which I’ll probably be stealing some those tips.

What about you? How are you preparing for NaNoWriMo? If you’ve done this all before, do you have any tips on how to get ready?

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Daily Writing Check-in: October 12, 2017

Words/Time: 1047 words

I answered the first 17 questions from this list, with Vin in mind. I think he has sufficiently changed even from the realization I gained about him 2 days ago. I had motivation for his actions, but even those turned out to be shallow. Unfortunately, the more I discover about him, the more I fear that I will be unable to write him well.

 


For anyone out there who is participating in NaNoWriMo, feel free to check out my series of tips and tricks for the month, and also to add me as a writing buddy! (Let me know you came from here, and I’ll add you back!)

Beautiful Books 2017

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If you don’t know what “Beautiful Books” is, click the above picture to find out! It’s a wonderful place, and if you’re a writer, it might just inspire you.

1. What inspired the idea for your novel, and how long have you had the idea?
It has been a long time coming. The inspiration (which feels more like necessity than inspiration) came from the adaptation of some old fanfiction of mine to a new, from-scratch story world. Some of the things that made sense in the fanfiction couldn’t be explained naturally and organically in the closer-to-real-life story world, and so the need for a very powerful, over-arching villain came to be.

I have a vast, intricate plan of up to (so far) 7 books that all take place in the same story world, in a smallish period of time, and with some of the same characters. This story, which encompasses most of the others, was always out there, but I figured it’d be one of the last story arcs in my list that I would get to writing. I think that was simply because I was scared of it. Until I committed to writing this story, and outlined it, gave Vin a real life, I didn’t have to think about what he was actually up to. But the truth is, I should have done this story years ago, because some of the other books hinge on this one, and if something in another story that involves Vin doesn’t actually work in his story, that affects the other book. And what if I’ve published it, and it’s out there now? I’m not really interested in doing the whole ret-con thing.

So that’s why it’s time to write this story this year.

2. Describe what your novel is about!

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Novel title: Vin

I haven’t done nearly enough planning yet (just decided to write this 2 days ago), so all of this is subject to change.

First, you should know that this story takes place approximately 2000 years in the future. That part is not subject to change.

The story will show the inner workings of an obsessed man as he tries to become perfect—just like his father always wanted him to be. In his quest for perfection, he stumbles across a way to become incredibly, dangerously, illegally powerful—more powerful than anyone in his country, his region, and presumably, the world.

Then he learns about two men who have joined together to defeat a beast that was thought unbeatable, and he realizes that as he pursues perfection in the form of ultimate power, these self-righteous men might decide to oppose him. He decides that the first thing he must do is find a way to keep that from happening.

A subplot (how sub this plot will be, I don’t know yet) involves a man who had just begun to find happiness in a life tinged with tragedy and loneliness, who suddenly finds that everything he cared about has been stripped away.

3. What is your book’s aesthetic? Use words or photos or whatever you like!

Vin moodboard

4. Introduce us to each of your characters!
Vin – He’s not trying to take over the world; he only wants to find some peace. His father died before Vin could reach the level of perfection that the older man wanted from his son, but his continued striving quickly reaches the point of obsession.

Naolin – He never expected to find “normal” in his life, but since he did, he certainly hoped to keep it. Now that he’s lost it, the loneliness feels familiar…almost comfortable. But maybe…just maybe, it doesn’t have to last.

Missy – It turns out that being stalked by a madman, who she is just learning had his hand in more events in her life than she could have realized, was just the beginning of her problem. She’s still recovering from a recent upheaval in her life, and the last thing she needs is to have her first love show back up after five years and leave her feeling guilty about moving on with her life.

Drear – He is Naolin’s brother, and the narrator of the book. Though truthfully, he is not present for most of these events, he has compiled interviews, letters, journals, and anything else he can, to find the truth behind these events and to present them to the reader.

5. How do you prepare to write? (Outline, research, stocking up on chocolate, howling, etc.?)
Things like this, for one thing. Until 2 days ago, I still didn’t know what I was going to write. When I started thinking about doing this story, I wasn’t sold right away. I had some free time while waiting for a meeting to start at work, and decided to delve a little into the mind of one of the primary characters (Vin) to see if I could come up with motives for what he ultimately does, other than, “Because he has to.”

By the time I had finished that mere 500-word exercise, I had his main motivation (his dad driving him to be perfect). But it’s still a very shallow understanding of this man who, most likely, will drive the plot.

So I’ve filled out this questionnaire in the hopes of discovering more about this story. I’ll do free writing with Vin and the overall story in mind. I will possibly answer other question lists like this one, even if I do end up skipping some questions because they just don’t make sense for my character(s).

Even though we’re only 3 weeks away from November 1st, I’m still very much in the discovery period of this story, which is not where I need to be when NaNo starts. But I will do freewriting and brainstorming, fill out my timeline, and just…discover.

And then sometime during the last week of October, I’ll make an outline.

6. What are you most looking forward to about this novel?
I am most looking forward to being able to work with Naolin again. He’s far too important of a character in my mind to have been in only one book so far.

7. List 3 things about your novel’s setting.
Graveyards, underground lair, city streets

8. What’s your character’s goal and who (or what) stands in the way?
His goal is to reach perfection, and one single little girl stands in his way, albeit indirectly.

9. How does your protagonist change by the end of the novel?
It doesn’t take long before “perfection” morphs into “power.” He then has to do away with any threats to his power, a goal that he is still able to justify. But by the end of the story, his obsession has turned into a pure hatred for his nemesis, and then the only thing he cares about is destroying her life.

10. What are your book’s themes? How do you want readers to feel when the story is over?
There’s a major good vs. evil theme in my story. It is going to be a dark book in many ways. I want readers to feel shocked, amazed, maybe even confused?  (I’m really not good with themes, whether in my own writing or in others’.)


For anyone out there who is participating in NaNoWriMo, feel free to check out my series of tips and tricks for the month, and also to add me as a writing buddy! (Let me know you came from here, and I’ll add you back!)

Daily Writing Check-in: October 11, 2017

Words/Time: Just over an hour working on NaNoPrep

I have officially settled on what to write for NaNoWriMo this year. I posted the mood board for it yesterday, but I still have a lot of the discovery phase to work through before I’m ready for November. I have never thought much in depth about this story idea.

After finally looking into what this “Beautiful Books” thing is that I’ve seen so many times, I realized learning what it was couldn’t have come at a more perfect time. For those who don’t know, you can find out here.

I answered the questions as a way of learning more about this story, and about the main character, and boy did it help (that’s what I did for my hour of work today). I will post more about that tomorrow though. Yesterday, I mentioned that, along with the mood board, I created a cover for my novel. I don’t normally do that. Only once before in my 7 previous years of participating in NaNoWriMo have I made a cover, and it was just a close-up picture of a forge.

I always assumed covers had to be complicated and fancy, but I got smarter. Here is the NaNoCover for my 2017 NaNoNovel, “Vin.”

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For anyone out there who is participating in NaNoWriMo, feel free to check out my series of tips and tricks for the month, and also to add me as a writing buddy! (Let me know you came from here, and I’ll add you back!)

Daily Writing Check-in: October 10, 2017

Words/Time: 104 words written and 1 hour, 27 minutes worked

I finished the little bit of writing about a possible primary character for a possible NaNoNovel, because I didn’t want to leave it hanging.

Then I decided to try my hand at making a mood board of sorts. I’ve never done anything like this before, outside of designing the icon for my story blog and, in a similar vein, the working cover for “Pithea.” I am not much for visual arts overall. But I thought it would help to solidify this story as what I wanted to write for NaNo, and it did. So I spent almost an hour and a half finding pictures, and then building this fancy layout. I also created a cover for the NaNo site, which I’ll post more about tomorrow. Again, I’m not much of a visual creator, so keep that in mind. It’s more about the themes, moods, and actions this board brings about:

Vin moodboard


For anyone out there who is participating in NaNoWriMo, feel free to check out my series of tips and tricks for the month, and also to add me as a writing buddy! (Let me know you came from here, and I’ll add you back!)

Daily Writing Check-in: October 9, 2017

Words/Time: 78 words written.

And no amount of NaNoPrep, and I’m not even bothered by it. It puts me below par in my goal for this month, but it just wasn’t going to happen tonight. This is my first time trying to get back to a writing habit for a year and a half, and the family situation and bedtime rituals are different than they were that long ago. My biggest obstacle from now on is going to be just getting to my writing time. However, since I’m a night owl, I will probably do some prep work after midnight, and count it for tomorrow. Maybe that’s how my whole NaNo will go too.

Last night I had a sudden idea about what I might write for NaNo, and it’s not one of the options I laid out for myself a few days ago. But it might just be what I need to write next, so my writing today was while I was waiting for a work meeting to start, as I decided to delve into the mind of one of the primary characters of that story. (So I guess it was a little bit of prep work! It’s going on the goal tracker!)


For anyone out there who is participating in NaNoWriMo, feel free to check out my series of tips and tricks for the month, and also to add me as a writing buddy! (Let me know you came from here, and I’ll add you back!)

NaNo After November

Did anyone else see this?

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There is a feature on the NaNoWriMo website where you can track writing goals any time you want! According to my NaNoMail, this was announced this year in May, but I don’t always read all of the mail they send outside of November, even less so when I’m living in a cave.

You pick a start date and a stop date (up to a 100-day range), and set your own goal, which can be a word count, or an amount of hours worked. Then when you click create, this is what you have:

goal trackers 2I have seen many ways that writers try to keep track of their progress toward a goal, from Excel spreadsheets to filling in a calendar (well, maybe not that many ways…mostly just a lot of variations of spreadsheets). I used Final Deadline after NaNo in 2013 to set myself a goal for finishing the novel I started that month, and I know that without a tangible goal, I would not have finished my very first novel draft 3 months after NaNo ended.

Just like NaNoWriMo doesn’t work for everyone, continuing to track goals and fill in a chart during non-NaNo months might not be something even every Wrimo will want to do.

But for the rest of us, this is a really helpful addition to the NaNo website. I’ve already created a project to help me keep moving on my NaNoPrep this month. Since I started with it a few days ago, I haven’t felt any lack of motivation, but it could definitely still happen. (Though so far the fear of not being ready at all when November 1st comes is keeping me going.)

Besides, I always love watching the graph climb higher during NaNo…it appeals to some specific part of my brain. So I’ve set a goal that will average out to 1 hour of prep work per day for the rest of the month, and we’ll see how this goes.

(I don’t know why my graph has those flat spots. That is the “par” line, and twice it keeps the same amount of hours for 2 straight days, then jumps 2 hours for the next day. I don’t know if it’s a glitch or something they built in that I just don’t know about.)

What do you think about this feature? Do you plan to make use of it or give it a pass?

 

Tools for NaNoWriMo: Write or Die

crest-bda7b7a6e1b57bb9fb8ce9772b8faafbI came across Write or Die for the first time a few years ago. I believe my region’s ML posted it in a list of other tools for writers. I was hooked as soon as I tried it out.

The idea behind Write or Die is that an immediate consequence for not writing is more effective than a far-off reward for writing. The biggest benefit for me is that using Write or Die helps me avoid distractions while I’m writing.

There is a downloadable software that you can buy, or you can use the web app. I’ve only ever used the web app, not because I don’t think it’d be worth buying, but because my family’s budget hasn’t afforded me the ability to buy the software yet. For that matter, I prefer the older web version to Write or Die 2. The older version is what I’ll be using to explain the tool further.

writeordieThe above is what you see when you go to the link for the web app. There are four choices to make: word goal, time goal, consequences, and grace period. The first two are self-explanatory. You choose how long you want to write–sprint for 10-20 minutes, go for hours, etc. I usually set my word count goal higher than my average for the time I’m choosing, so I don’t quit early. (Edit: I recently discovered that if you leave the word goal at 0, the program won’t let you quit until you reach the time limit. So if you’re wanting to time your sprint, and just get as many words as you get, that’s the way to go.)

Once you start typing, if you stop to think about what to write next, you will start to incur the consequences. There are four modes for consequences: gentle, where a box pops up to remind you to keep writing if you stop for a while; normal, where some sort of obnoxious noise plays if you stop writing for a while; and kamikaze, where your words begin to be deleted if you stop writing for a while. (I’ll let you figure out the electric shock setting for yourself.)

After a few seconds of inactivity, the screen will begin to turn red in increasing shades. The amount of time you can pause in your writing before your chosen consequence kicks in is determined by the grace period you choose.

There is a pause button in the top, right corner. If you push it, a dialog box pops up and gives you as much time as you need to stop writing with no consequences (though sometimes when you unpause, the consequence is going off, so you just need to type something quickly to make it stop). You get one pause per session, so use it wisely. I save them for when my time is interrupted by a family member, or when I spill my water on my lap. I try very hard not to pause it just to think of the next thing I want to write.

When your time is up or your word count is reached, make sure you copy and paste your words to a file in a word processing program. Write or Die does not save your work. There will be a reminder before you leave the page, so it’s not something you should be extremely worried about, unless you tend to have bad luck with this sort of thing.

I love Write or Die when I’m writing on my own, or especially for word wars. The time set by fellow Wrimos can be set in the app, and I can see my time going down and words going up. I use this during almost all of NaNo, only writing without it when I have to write in a notebook for some reason, when I’m warming up for word wars, or when I am just so into what I’m writing, I nothing could possibly distract me anyway.

The newer version has its merits, but I like the old version, I’m used to it, and it suits what I need it for well enough to not need to mess with the new one. If you have any interest in using Write or Die for your writing, during NaNo or any time of the year, you can play around with the features, and both versions, and figure out what works best for you, or if it works for you at all.

Tools for NaNoWriMo: Coffitivity

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When I was in high school, I remember realizing that to be able to concentrate on my homework, I needed complete silence. Though I tried to convince my mom (and myself) that I could study in front of the TV, she never bought it, and really, neither did I.

Fast forward to now, and things have changed a little. What I’d like to do is listen to music while I’m writing, plotting, or revising, but that’s usually a bad idea. The only time it really works is when I’m doing something that doesn’t require as much focus, like transferring edits I made on my hard copy into the computer (which, frankly, barely counts as writing work anyway, but it has to be done now and then).

The lyrics are the main reason music is a problem for me. I start singing along, even in my head, and I lose what I’m doing. Music without lyrics would work–I know people who like to write to sound tracks from epic movies about adventure and magic. I don’t listen to that kind of music normally, so it would really just take too long trying to track down a playlist that I like or fits the mood of my story.

So I stay away from music most of the time, but I don’t like absolute silence either.

That’s why I use Coffitivity. I just found out about this website sometime earlier this year, but I use it almost every time I sit down to do any kind of writing work.  It’s basically just the sound of a coffee house or diner. On a loop. There are three options (or more, if you want to pay), though I honestly don’t see how any one is better than the others.

This doesn’t work as well for people who write with the internet turned off to avoid distractions, but for the rest of us, it could be a crucial part of our writing environment. If you’re not sure if you need silence, noise, music, or something else, try it out now, during NaNoPrep season while you plan your novel.

Tools for NaNoWriMo: Aeon Timeline

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Years ago, when I was writing fanfiction, I struggled to create a timeline for my large group of stories that stretched across many years and contained a lot of the same characters. I started on paper, and eventually tried to make something with Excel. I did end up with a format that I have since used for other writing, but it was still a pain to use and especially to make edits.

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It gets really messy when the events of the story pick up.

A few years ago, at the end of NaNoWriMo, I noticed amongst the winner goodies a discount for a program called Aeon Timeline. I downloaded the free trial and spent a few days putting several stories worth of information into it. I discovered very quickly that it was exactly what I needed.

There are many settings you can play with, including having the timeline stretch out over thousands of years, or one single day. If you choose the latter, the timeline will show much more detail than with the former. I’ve read that a user can create their own calendar system in the program too, which would be useful for fantasy writers, though I haven’t used the feature myself.

You can have individual sections for different stories, different story arcs, or whatever else you may need. You can also toggle those individual arcs on or off to your liking.

Aeon arcs

“Arcs” are shown along the left.

And one of my favorite things about the program is that you can add in all of your characters and attach them to the entries. If you set up a birth date, it will even tell you how old the character is at the time of that entry. The feature is called “Entities,” because it pertains to more than just characters too. I used it to remind myself of when a particular device (listed in the picture below as “com-disc”) was introduced into my story world, because I was having a hard time remembering when it was available to be used by characters.

Aeon entities

The lines go up to entries. The dots indicate that the character was a participant in that event (the one that’s not colored in indicates “observer” rather than “participant”).

Not every story needs a timeline. Sometimes events only happen over the course of a few days. The story I’m planning for NaNo this year will cover 9 days. I still plan to make a timeline for it as I plan this month. Even if in the end it turns out to be unnecessary, I know I’d rather have it anyway.

Though I’ve been mocked (all in fun, I assure you) for how meticulous I am with my timeline, it is crucial for keeping track of things for my group of stories that include “Pithea,” “Pursuit of Power,” “Outcast,” and other plans that will take place before, after, and during the others. There is so much to keep straight–character’s ages, how long ago a certain event happened, how long a certain event lasted, etc. So whether your writing is as complicated as mine or not, if you’ve ever felt the need for a timeline for your stories, Aeon Timeline is worth checking out.

How about you? Have you ever used Aeon Timeline before? Do you have a program you use for keeping track of a timeline?