Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Your Guide to NaNo Prep

Deb McLeod's NaNo Prep
by Deb McLeod

It’s October! Time to get your NaNo project ready for the race.

I love using the NaNoWriMo contest as a way to focus on my writing for a month out of every year. I love the camaraderie and support. I love that at the end of the month, I’ve got at least 50,000 words on a new novel.

I assign NaNo to many of my clients.

There’s something about putting your writing front and center for an entire month. With the support of other writers and the support of your family, you will change forever how you write if you participate in NaNo. I’ve seen enough of my clients take on the NaNo contest and be changed by it. So many of them take their writing more seriously. Their families “come around” to the idea that they are serious about this crazy hobby they have. They begin to see what it takes. And my clients learn what it really feels like to immerse yourself in your project for a solid month.

So what could go wrong?

Lack of preparation

The first week will likely be easy peasy. You’ll be going to write-ins and writing with friends. You’ve likely thought somewhat about what you want to write so you just jump in and have at it. It’s Week Two I’m worried about.

It is typical that you will run up against a wall somewhere in Week Two. Your idea has kept you going for a week, but now you’re a bit written out. You’re starting to get tired. Your family is realizing just what it means that you aren’t around. They’re digging the last pair of underwear out of the drawer. They’re starting to whine about take-out again.

The answer to this, of course, is to prep before NaNo.

For the pantsers – I used to be a die-hard pantser. I only wrote organically. I only wrote what I felt like that day; it had to move me or be inspired by the muse. What I learned over the years is that my organic writing caused me to have to rewrite a lot. I wrote to discover the story. But by the time I did, I needed to go backwards and bring the rest of the writing in line with the story I discovered.

There is nothing wrong with this method. But, if you’re like me, you’re impatient with how long it takes and how much rewriting you have to do. So pantsers, my hat off to you. And I invite you to try just a little prep so you might produce your wonderful and organic books just a bit faster and better the first time around.

For the plotters – NaNo Prep was made for you. You will get to delve into the story you want to write and make decisions ahead of time. You won’t be at a loss for what to write as long as you have prepared. You can always go back to your prep and flesh it out even more during NaNo as you discover changes that need to be made.

The following is a short prep guide to your NaNoWriMo novel.
  • Sign up for NaNoWriMo
  • Make a public declaration about your intention to participate
  • Create a daily writing schedule
  • Prepare your family
  • Schedule write-ins (check out the write-ins in your area at
  • Set a daily goal (1667 a day will get you to 50,000 words)
  • Create rewards for yourself
  • Find a writing buddy
  • Look at the kinds of books you like to read – write that kind of book. Analyze it for its story. Can you write a story like that?
  • Hobbies, interests, expertise. Can you use what you like to think of an idea for a story?
  • Use a real story as your base to start with. Lots of people do this and the story often changes by the time they’re finished. It’s just a jumpstart so feel free to write fiction from fact.
Story Development
  • Play what-if; ask questions and try possibilities. Hold nothing back here!
  • Work backwards – try the backwards outline. This happens because that happened because….
  • Cluster – mind-map – brainstorm
  • Freewrite – pen to page for a timed writing. No grammar. No thinking. Just go.
  • Do a narrative summary of the story – write an outline in narrative form
  • Create a character worksheet. There are hoards of them on line. Find one, combine three. What helps you know who your character is?
  • Know your characters emotional and psychological issues
  • Who is your villain? (Remember villains are people too, and they don’t think of themselves as villains.)
  • Who is your antagonist? The one that keeps the story going.
  • Where does your story take place?
  • What are the current events surrounding your story?
  • What are the local politics?
  • Does the larger world have an effect on your story?
  • What’s your character’s favorite room in their house?
  • Where do they work? Eat? Socialize?
  • Write a preliminary synopsis of what happens in your story
  • Write a book jacket
  • Create a logline
  • Create a scene list (invaluable during NaNo!)
  • Weave plot chains – this happens and my character decides that, so now…
Your NaNo Prep will be there when you’re trying to fulfill your daily goal. When it’s Week Three or your in-laws are coming for Thanksgiving and you’re making pies and writing with your laptop open on the kitchen counter and you’re searching for something to write, just go back to your NaNo prep.

If you can get into the chair and you can carve out the time, if you’ve prepped your novel, you can do it.

If you prep, the bonus is that not only is it more likely you’ll finish, you’ll end up with a better book.

About the Author: Deb McLeod, MFA, practices novel research immersion. For her novel, The Train to Pescara, Deb journeyed to Sardinia to study ancient goddess worship and spent time in the Abruzzi village her great-grandparents left in 1905. Her metaphysical knowledge for the Angel Thriller, The Julia Set, culminates from four years of studying and teaching meditation, clairvoyance and chakra healing. For over fourteen years, Deb McLeod has been a creative writing coach helping other writers to embrace their passion and get their words on the page. To get a NaNo Prep PDF file and receive daily NaNo writing prompts, see

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