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NaNo Prep

So who’s doing NaNoWriMo?

I’m so excited to start my newest WIP and I have been hustling to get everything ready for November 1st. I’ve done NaNoWriMo three times — I’ve won twice and lost miserably once. I also won Camp NaNo this spring which I spent editing. I have won both pantsing and planning, but I’ve also only won while unemployed or employed part-time. Thanks to editing a NaNo novel for the past year that I had thought was fairly well planned, I can see from the back-end how much was still missing from my prep.

This year I’m doing it differently… again.

This year, I found excellent resources over at shesnovel.com to help me tease my plot bunny out into an actual workable idea. I looked at Eva Deverell’s one-page novel plot formula and compared it to my plot structure (hero’s journey) and may still incorporate that into my outlining. But the real epiphany for me occurred when I found Rachel Stephen (rachelstephen.com) and her videos that recommend you start everything from your characters and their motives. Something clicked, and I’ve been using her method ever since. With a heavy emphasis on brainstorming, I know that this will work with how I write. See, some people have a tendency to write too much and have to cut later. I, however, have a tendency to short my novels, and then resist the urge to pad them with nonsense later when my word count is barely out of novella range. Not that novellas are bad, but word count is a consideration when you hope to publish. But I digress.

Anywho, not only does she have freakin’ awesome videos that explain the meaning of life, Rachael is also hosting preptober activities on Twitter @Prep_tober. I realize this month is almost over but you really should check it out and join in on the fun.

Okay, so what about calendars? I’ve used word count spreads and calendars in the past and they turn out to be a discourager for me especially when I get behind. I printed one off that kind of helps you calculate visually what you’ve done and how you may need to adjust your writing schedule to meet your goal. We’ll see if that helps or hurts this year. 

Don’t forget about the forums on the NaNo site. It’s a great resource for every little question that may be running through your brain as you prep. You can even search for accountability partners which leads me to…

Accountability Partners! I had one during the editing process, and she really helped me. We communicated through the mywriteclub.com site and were able to update word count goals right on the site and cheer each other on. It’s a nice thing to have someone in your corner who “gets” it.

And finally, a note about scheduling … You can never be too prepared and you have to be realistic going into NaNo. Some of the things I’ve considered this month include:

  • the fact that my son’s birthday and Christmas are in December. I’ve already begun shopping so I don’t have a time crunch when I come up for air after the month of November
  • calendaring events in November so you can build up your word count on other days when you have less going on. Thanksgiving is a biggie. It always seems like you have oodles of time because you’re on holiday, but it never quite works out that way.
  • I analyzed my word count trajectory from previous years to see at what point in the month I tend to fall down. One year it was the end of week one. Another it was middle of week two. And yet another was somewhere in weeks three. So, although my analysis didn’t give me a whole lot to go on, I’ll be building rewards into my calendar on a weekly basis so that I don’t get caught in a slump again. And preparing for rewarding yourself is FUN!

(Reward spread – under each milestone sticky is a reward for myself, populated from my Amazon wishlist and already ordered so they can haunt me into meeting my goals)

  • I am also taking the time to time myself. How many words can I write in an hour? This will help me schedule my time. And I’m timing both handwriting and typing because I haven’t decided which I’m doing this year yet.

I hope your October has been fruitful and that you are as excited about your current project as I am about mine. Until next time!

Story Bible: The Good Stuff!

So what’s inside my story bible?

Right now, I’m concentrating on prepping for NaNoWriMo, so I’m focusing on the front section for my new novel.

First Top Tab: BuJo

Right now, I have a to do list to help remind myself what I need to work on the next day – my breadcrumbs. I got it here.

 First Side Tab: Character

I’ve been working on characters for about a week, maybe longer if you count the thinking about them constantly part. Here I have “Character Sketch Templates” and “33 Ways to Write Stronger Characters” questionnaires (both from shesnovel.com), for each of my biggies. I also have some character balance sheets to make sure I end up with a well-balanced cast (these are based on copyrighted material I found on Tumblr via Pinterest).

Second Side Tab: Setting

Here, I have printed the “Introduction to Worldbuilding” workbook from shesnovel.com. I also have two world maps, one of the ocean floor, and another of potential coast lines after major sea level rise.

Third Side Tab: Conflict

I couldn’t find exactly what I wanted, so I drew a diagram of the Hero’s Journey plot structure and folded it so that it would fit in this section. When it comes to actual plotting, I haven’t decided what method I’m actually going to use (and I may end up using an amalgam of several). I have included notes from “How to Create a Plot Outline in 8 Easy Steps,”  Notes on adding conflict from onestopforwriters.com, a printable I made for the Snowflake method, and a neat little brainstorming activity from Eva Derell’s site. Kristen Kieffer at shesnovel.com also has resources for plotting.

Fourth Side Tab: Concept

I started this whole thing using Kristen’s “Turn Your Plot Bunny into a Full Fledged Novel” worksheets, and so they are stashed here. I have also recently found (and fallen in love with) Rachel Stephen’s website and videos. For some reason, her novel-building method just clicks for me, and my character work this past week has been really, really good thanks to her techniques. My notes on that method are behind this tab, at least for now.

(I apologize for the messy links – I’m working with a really uncooperative mouse and will have to go back and fix them in a bit – ARGHH!)

I also have plenty of just blank pages throughout for my own notes, inspirations, and thought processes. If you have more resources to share, please do so in the comments!

 

A Story Bible in Rings

I’ve been wanting to create a series “bible” for awhile now, as I’d like to extend my current WIP into a series. Since my draft will be going out to alpha readers at the end of the month, now is the perfect time to re-read with a new purpose: mining the novel for story elements that can be carried forward.

Along with my WIP, I am very excited about a plot bunny I’m developing for this year’s NaNoWriMo in November. I’ve begun pre-writing tasks, but would love to allow myself some extra room for later, when I’ve really dug into drafting and would like to add to my character development, conflict, worldbuilding, overarching concepts.

And I’ve been struggling with how to do both of these within my usual Travelers Notebook framework, and still keep the information organized and quick to access. Yes, I could develop a detailed index, or… I could go the ring-route.

Down yet another rabbit-hole in the bullet journaling world, to be sure. I researched Filofaxes and although I felt the pull (as I have with the Leuchtturm 1917), I resisted primarily due to price. I do not have extra cash to spend on another type of journal, and knew I couldn’t justify the expense to my husband at all.

Then I remembered that back in the day, I was given a Franklin (Covey) Planner. A very nice one. One that I never threw away because it was so nice. Due to moving recently, I even knew where it was. I pulled it off my bookshelf and discovered that although I hadn’t used it since 1999 (Wow… how am I even that old??), it was in pristine condition, waiting to re-discover its purpose in life.

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I have re-purposed this beauty into my story/series bible for both of my current projects – there is enough room to handle both, at least for now! I purchased a 7 ring hole punch, and purchased a ream of 28lb. 8 ½ x 11” paper (about $14), having it cut into half size (about $4) to use for my own purposes. And thanks to the resurgence of the Filofax, there are plenty of free printables available, which I can re-size should the need arise.

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These are from the shesnovel.com library – a great resource! – and resized to 8″x 5.5″

 

The Set-Up:

I have decided to use top-tabs (made from scrap cardstock) to identify each WIP and my BuJo section. Each WIP has four categories identified by side-tabs: Character, Setting, Conflict, and Concept.

Character: Under my character tab in each, I will have an in-depth character sketch and profile for each major character. Secondary characters will get a paragraph, and tertiary characters will be included in a list. If I decide to add a character later in the series or novel, I can plop a new profile or paragraph in, because rings

Setting: This is where I will have my worldbuilding resources for my current WIP, and notes about my setting for my series. I have re-sized and printed some maps for this section, and included sub-sections for Geography, Cultures, Social Classes, History, and Technology. This will also include a Scene Setting List which will describe every scene in the novel. Again, when a new scene is written in a new setting, I can add it here easily because… RINGS!

Conflict: Here, I can write my synopsis, outline my plot, draw out the story arc(s), and include a diagram of my plot structure to make sure I’m following it as I write. I can jot down beats as they come to me, to be turned into scenes later. I can map out my subplots to make sure the tension follows the arcs.

Concept: In this section, I can keep track of themes and motifs, small and large. I can jot down questions that arise and check them off as they are answered in the story.

And Don’t Forget The BuJo in the Bible: The most important tab of all – The BuJo tab, which keeps me on task, and keeps me using my writing routine to get this done. I’ve made it my goal to increase my efficiency by leaving myself what I call breadcrumbs – clues to myself about what needs to be done next – when I finish my writing tasks for the day. This allows me to pick up right where I left off, and helps me settle into writing quicker. I can also keep track of word count and self-imposed deadlines here.

In my next post, I will share some of the content I’m using to help corral my thoughts, and layouts I’m creating to keep everything organized. Have you started a story or series bible? Let us know how it’s working for you in the comments!

 

Editing & Revising

I have this novel that I’m trying to get to a read-able state and WOW is editing more difficult than writing! I’m usually motivated to write, but editing seems like such a slog that it’s difficult to know where you are, what you’re supposed to be doing, and how close you are to your goal.

In my case, I’ve learned that I just need to re-assess every once in awhile, consolidate all of my notes to myself, put them in a checklist, and make myself tackle a few each day. During my latest reassessment, I also jotted down suggestions for an overall editing structure that I’d like to try with my current draft. You can see my spread above. Let me know what you think!

 

Word Count Motivation

Sometimes I need a little motivation to just get words on the page.

With my current wip, I actually think my total word count is a little low. I’ve gone back and done some character work, and now I need to flesh them out and write some more scenes that make sense within the arc of the story. For the past couple of weeks, I’ve pledged to my accountability partner that I’ll be writing 1000 words a day. Some days it’s a struggle, so I came up with a tracker to give myself some encouragement to keep going:

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Each block represents 100 written words. With this I can give myself a pat on the back for the words I have managed to scrape off the recesses of my mind, and a way to push myself toward the daily goal  of 1000.

Would this work for you?

Why BuJo?

 

I think we can all agree that there is no one right way to write. Some thrive on routine, methodically writing 1000 words a day, while others can knock out an entire novel in a weekend with nary a thought about organization. Some swear by Morning Pages, and others write what they want, when they want. There as many “right ways” to write as there are individuals.

But, as writers, we also know how to borrow ideas, inspiration, and habits from others in an effort to improve our writing, and the way in which we go about writing.

Bullet Journaling

Bullet Journaling is a system, as described on the bulletjournal.com website: “The Bullet Journal is a customizable and forgiving organization system. It can be your to-do list, sketchbook, notebook, and diary, but most likely, it will be all of the above. It will teach you to do more with less.”

But Bullet Journaling is more than that, and this is the part that many who write about it forget to emphasize. Trapper Keepers are a system. The Cornell note taking system is a system. KonMari is a system. All of them work for some people, and not others. But they will not work if you don’t make it a routine, a part of your daily habit. When you do that, you not only make using the system a habit, you make thinking about the object of your system a daily habit. Using a bullet journal to organize your writing life will not only help you to organize your writing tasks, but it will provide an avenue for reflection and meta-cognition, both essential to improving your writing. 

Why the Bullet Journal?

  • Because inspiration hits me at 2 in the morning like a bolt of lightning, and I need somewhere to write things down before they escape into the ether.
  • Because I need motivation to edit & revise
  • Because, without a plan to accomplish writing tasks, I flounder, sometimes for months
  • Because, as stated above, reflecting on my writing as part of my daily routine is essential to my growth as a writer

 

I’ll share much more here in future posts about what using a Bullet Journal for writing looks like (BuJo BasicsSpreads), how you can use it to help motivate yourself (Motivation), how to use it to plan and set goals (Planning), and how to use it to reflect on your writing (Reflection). See you back here real soon!