Prepare for NaNoWriMo: Get Ready to Write

With just two weeks left in October, it’s time to prepare for NaNoWriMo, otherwise knows as National Novel Writing Month. Every November, thousands and thousands of writers around the world attempt to write a novel in 30 days. No prize awaits them. There’s no guarantee of publication. But writers still churn out hundreds of words each day, hoping to hit the goal of 50,000 by November 30th.

Why do people challenge themselves to write so much in a short period? Some do it for fun. NaNoWriMo has become something of a party over the years. Writers gather with other local participants to write in coffee shops or bookstores. Online forums provide a way to reach out and chat about your work-in-progress. Others use the energy of the event to force themselves to finish a first draft. Professional writers often join in, working on current projects or starting new ones. Writers with thoughts of publication know that 50,000 runs a bit short for a traditional novel, but NaNoWriMo still offers great motivation to get to work.

prepare for NaNoWriMo

Are you a plotter or pantser?

Plenty of writers just open up a new Word doc on November 1st and start typing at random. It can be entertaining to see where your imagination takes you. But if you prefer to plot, or you want to make sure the words flow daily, it’s a good idea to prep for NaNoWriMo. If you have at least some idea of where you’d like your story to go, it will help you build your word count and avoid facing a nasty bout of writer’s block.

How to Prepare for NaNoWriMo

Technically, you’re not supposed to start writing until November 1st, but you can still put together some notes.

  • Determine your major characters. Figure out who your protagonist is and what they want. Name some people. Give them jobs and relationships.
  • Do you at least have an idea for your book? If you do, dream up a few scenes you’re really looking forward to writing and sketch out a few short notes about them. (Not the scenes themselves, of course. That would be cheating.)
  • Get some research done. If you have to do some leg work or reading about your setting, the time period, characters’ careers, etc., now is the time to do it. Plus all that wonderful detail and vocabulary you dig up will help you increase your word count.

There’s nothing wrong with deciding to use NaNoWriMo as a time to play. But if you plan to use it to work, just a little bit of prep will help you make the most of your experience. And don’t forget: the manuscript you finish on November 30th will be a first draft. So don’t waste time editing while you write. Plenty of time for that later.

Good luck to everyone participating this year!

Friday Links: An Assortment of Building Blocks for Writers

TGIF! I hope you’ve all had a terrific week, and have some equally terrific plans lined up for your weekend. It’s the final weekend in February, so it might be a good time to take a quick peek at your goals for the last month and for the year and see how you’re doing so far. Are you on target? Are there some areas where you might do a little better? Set aside an hour or so to check in with yourself so that you can steer the ship back in the right direction if need be, or by all means treat yourself to a mini celebration if you’re ahead of you’re ahead of the game. But regardless of where you are, it’s important to do these small reviews periodically throughout the year so you won’t be facing big surprises come December.

But of course it wouldn’t be Friday without Friday Links. I have a great assortment for you this week and I hope you’re inspired to do some new writing or work on your current project as a result. Enjoy, and happy writing!

Comma Queen: “Awesome” Is the New “Massive” – A quick, fun video from The New Yorker‘s grammar guru.

An Unparalleled Influence: The Man Who Invented Fiction – The role of Cervantes and Don Quixote in bringing about the modern novel.

Simon & Schuster Creates Imprint for Muslim-Themed Children’s Books – This week’s announcement of Salaam Reads, a new imprint to be headed up by Executive Editor Zareen Jaffery.

Ancient History Resources – A collection of links to some wonderful research material.

The Architecture of Fantasy: How Authors Use Real Places to Build Imaginary Ones – Some helpful tips for world building.

Notes on Record-Keeping – A look at journaling as a means of keeping track of all the bits and pieces of your life and memories.

Why I Became a Travel Writer – On delving into a career that calls to you, despite the risks.

Friday Links

TGIF! I mean that in so many ways, the most pressing one being that I intend to pack up my books and my laptop and go work somewhere cool this weekend. The HVAC for my entire condo complex died a few months back, and while the HOA finally approved the money to go ahead with the repairs, they have not actually fixed anything yet. Which… hasn’t been so helpful this week when it’s hit 90 degrees every day.

There’s no denying it’s summer in my neck of the woods. Have you all started your summer reading yet? If you’re still searching for some great reads, I have a few ideas for you in this week’s links, and there will be more coming up in the days ahead. I hope they inspire you to get some writing of your own done, as well. Enjoy!

The List: 100 Great Science Fiction Stories by Women – Some wonderful recs, including a bunch that are available online.

Why Startups Love Moleskines – Vindication for those of you who like to take notes by hand. (And maybe a mild suggestion for everyone tapping away on their keyboards in the audience of presentations.)

‘Mortal Instruments’ Creator Reveals How Female Authors Can Be ‘Dehumanized’ By Their Own Fandom – Male authors, too, but I think it’s a more volatile situation for women. I have my own issues with Cassandra Clare, but this is a really thoughtful and disturbing look at something I’ve noticed happening more and more on social media.

The Places We Read – A look at how location can affect our reading choices and experiences.

Peek Over Our Shoulders – A juicy, long list of the books various Book Riot staff members are reading (as of yesterday).

Linkity Link

Greetings from beautiful Surrey, B.C., Canada. This is just a quick wave from the conference, as I have a full schedule ahead of me. But I promised some weekend reading, so here you go. Enjoy!

A good wrap up of the National Book Awards/Lauren Myracle Situation – courtesy of Publishers Weekly.

Julian Barnes Wins the Bookercourtesy of The Millions

Bram Stoker’s Notebooks Unearthed – A perfect follow up to my question about writers’ notebooks earlier this week.

On Reading North American Books in Cuba – Writer/translator Jose Manuel Prieto on the books he read while growing up in Cuba.

I Was No Longer Afraid to Die – A fabulous look at Joan Didion’s new memoir over at New York Books.

Keeping Notes

Lots of people keep notes, make lists, and otherwise track things they need to remember, whether they’re writers or not. But I’m most interested in how writers keep track of and organize their thoughts, because in addition to all those other things they need to recall — doctors’ appointments, play dates for the kids, due dates for work projects, dinner parties, shopping lists, birthdays, the annual flu shot, getting the gutters cleaned — writers have to keep track of their ideas.

There’s a myth that all writers keep a pen and paper on them wherever they go, be it a nice notebook and a pretty fountain pen or just some scrap paper and a stubby pencil, so when the muse strikes, they can jot down a few words or sentences to avoid forgetting what might be the germ of a poem or article or story. In reality, I know a lot of writers who do no such thing. You’d be amazed how often I attend a writers conference only to have someone borrow my penduring a pitch session so they can make a note of what I’ve asked them to send me.

credit: www.notebookstories.com

But many writers do have a system, generally some sort of small, portable notebook where they can accumulate bits and pieces over the course of their day, ideas or things they’ve seen or smidgens of dialogue that felt inspirational in the moment. I’ve heard of writers with notebooks for different purposes; one for actual writing of drafts, another for jotting ideas and notes, and separate notebooks to serve as story bibles for individual projects where all the details of the world are kept in one place.

In this electronic age, however, I see more and more writers who have gone digital. Notes are kept on tablets or laptops or even in smart phones. I acknowledge the convenience, but I can’t help but feel something is getting lost in the process this way. I like the idea of notes that include sketches or scribbled out bits, or of notebooks that have things slipped between their pages — maps or postcards or flyers from tourist spots. Yes, you can snap photos on your smart phone to serve as visual reminders of a particular landscape or site, but it’s not quite the same.

Charles Simic writes about his own adherence to the old fashioned way of tracking his day and his ideas for the New York Review of Books Blog. I love how for him the act of writing down his thoughts is partly about creating a lasting work, almost an art form in itself, that is in no danger of getting deleted or recycled when he upgrades his electronics. Of course, notebooks are not permanent in the sense that they can be damaged or lost, but these seem less of a danger.

How about you? Do you keep a notebook or journal of sorts, whether as a writer or just as an individual interested in keeping record of your life? What form do your ramblings and memories take? And do you ever go back through old writing to visit your past self?