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October 2020 #AuthorToolboxBlogHop: My (Condensed) Preptober Essentials for NaNoWriMo

 Hallelujah! Fall is finally, finally here and after months of miserable summer heat, my writer heart is singing praises for this beautiful October weather. I don't know about you, but my creativity always goes into hibernation in the summer and reawakens in the fall. Perhaps it's my minds way of preparing for what I like to think of as the writer's version of a marathon. Yes, that's right. I'm talking about NaNoWriMo.

If you've never heard of National Novel Writing Month, I'll give you the gist. Every November, participants undertake a complete rough draft of a brand new novel. In order to "win," your manuscript must reach 50,000 words. And while the prize consists mostly of bragging rights and a general feeling of achievement, Scrivener does offer a 50% discount to verified winners. 

While this year will be only my second to participate, I resolved after last years win to commit every year going forward. For me, NaNoWriMo is a perfect excuse to drop whatever project I'm dwelling on and focus on that shiny new idea. In just 30 days I can say that I've written yet another book, even if it's several drafts away from being anything I'm not embarrassed to show people.

Now that I've explained NaNoWriMo, let me clarify Preptober. Some participants choose to spend the month of October prepping for their rough draft: outlining, research, character work, etc. Basically getting mentally and logistically prepared. Hence, Preptober

If you missed it, I shared my comprehensive 2019 Preptober Essentials and planning process that you're welcome to check out if you're looking for more resources. This year, however, I decided to trim it down and focus on the bare necessities (please enjoy the Jungle Book song that has just entered your brain as surely as it has mine). 

While I've noticed different schools of thought regarding the rough draft, personally, I've learned to plow through it. This is of course with the understanding that I will be doing a significant amount of rewriting during the second draft, if not a full gut. For me, the first draft isn't supposed to be anywhere close to perfect, but rather an opportunity to tell myself the story so that I can hone in and finesse it later on. 

For this reason, and perhaps because I've done NaNoWriMo once before, I didn't feel compelled to place a lot of pressure on myself this year to overly prepare. Instead, I'm focused more on the excitement of flexing my fingers and telling a fresh new story. With that being said, there are still a handful of tasks I simply can't begin a rough draft without first completing.

Here are my (condensed) Preptober Essentials for NaNoWriMo:

1. Creating Character Arcs Workbook by K.M. Weiland

I purchased this book within the last year and already it is swiftly becoming a staple in my collection. Weiland's character workbook takes you through your outline from the first page, through each important element of Acts 1-3. It also helps you establish the type of character arc for your specific story, asking pivotal questions to help you get to know your character intimately. 

Because the workbook does focus specifically on your protagonist's journey, it does leave out supporting characters, only briefly touching on setting. However, by the end of the workbook, you've established all major plot points, handing you the majority of your outline.

2. General Research

Of course I've been using good ol' Google throughout the month as I research elements of my novel that are foreign to me. And while I personally think a lot of this can be done further down the road, it can be a good idea to reach out to experts during this time for more insight. #AMA (Ask Me Anything) on Reddit is a thread in which users post their area of expertise. Others can then post their questions regarding the topic. 

Another idea that occurred to me this month is to seek out information from my own Facebook groups. Perhaps this is an obvious one, but I tend to shy away from interviewing people that I know on a more personal level. Funny enough, these tend to be the very people most willing to help me. You never know when their insight might inspire a conversation, a scene, or an entire subplot. 

3. Setting

While setting is always important, for my particular novel, it is vital that I know each of the locations I'm writing ahead of time. Pinterest has become my go-to resource for brainstorming settings. A lot of the images are typically tied to travel bloggers that describe the locations in detail. I also like to pull up each destination in Google Maps for street views and directions, to make my descriptions as vivid and accurate as possible. Angela Ackerman's setting thesaurus is also a fantastic resource for general settings. 

4. Music Playlist

Another go-to resource for me has always been music. Stories told through song always inspire me to dig a little deeper into my character's mind and help me establish their dynamics with other characters as well. I like to listen to my playlist when I'm driving and allow my imagination to run freely. More often than not, I end up crafting a lot of my scenes and characters this way. 

5. Outline

As a plotter, a breakdown of my rough 3-Act structure and major scenes is absolutely essential to me before I ever sit down to write. If I don't know where the story is going, it will inevitably go sideways. While I used to bullet my outline in Word and save it to PDF for easy reference, I've recently begun using Scrivener instead. I now have separate lists for scenes, characters, general research, locations, and random ideas that pop into my head as I'm writing. If you've never used it, the software has convenient split-screen displays so that you can easily reference a section of your outline or notes without having to leave the page you're typing in or opening a new window.

If you've never used Scrivener and you're debating purchasing it, let me know in the comments below and I will post my pros and cons list if there is enough interest!

Those are my 2020 Preptober Essentials for NaNoWriMo! Are you participating in NaNoWriMo this year? How are you getting ready?

This post is part of the October 2020 Author Toolbox Blog Hop, hosted by Raimey Gallant. Be sure to check out the rest of the awesome bloggers here!

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  1. Sounds like you really love doing NaNo! Good luck this year.

    Ronel visiting on Author Toolbox day Writing Story: A Case Study

  2. My idea took me by surprise as it is a 3 book series! Not something I have tackled before. So I have been planning & researching. Thanks for this post.

  3. I love the term: Preptober. Bravo! What a great idea. Yes, we need to prepare for our stories and K.M. Weiland has wonderful books and podcasts to help writers. I listen to them all the time. All the luck with your NaNoWriMo project, Christy.

  4. These are great resources! We're preparing for NaNoWriMo in my Creative Writing class. My students are excited, especially since we only have two more steps left before November starts!


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