It was the fourth of July. Then I blinked, and now it’s halfway through September.
I love this time of year, and I hate how fast it seems to go. My to-do list right now is packed with tasks and events. Next week is Banned Books Week, the holidays are starting. We’re starting recordings for the next season of AA soon. It’s a busy time when all I want to do is warm up a pot of apple cider and read about cult leaders on my back porch.
And now, Preptober is in two weeks! Clearly, I need a plan if I’m going to get everything done.
The Preptober planner is six pages plus a cute cover page that will guide you through simple tasks each week. By the end of October, you’ll have a plan in place for how you’re going to write, when you’re going to write, and what you’re going to write. I’ll be printing out one for myself and getting in some planning time in October.
Probably with some warm apple cider.
I hope you’ll join me. It’s a great way to ensure you succeed in writing your novel, and it helps support Paper Beats World.
And I hope you’ll be here next week for Banned Books Week. We’ll have extra content galore because the stupidest thing anyone can ever do is ban a book.
It’s week three of Preptober, and it’s finally time to start writing!
I think I’ve mentioned this before, but I suggest a whole week at least of brainstorming before starting a novel. Maybe this is just my method. But my method’s gotten me four published books, so I guess it’s working for me.
That being said, how you chose to free write can vary dramatically based on your writing style and personality. Today I want to talk about some tips for making the most of your brainstorming Preptober week.
Freewriting is your best friend
Being a student of Natalie Goldberg, I firmly believe that freewriting is the best way to get to the core of a project. So every day for the next seven days I encourage you to free write about your novel project.
Do it by time
A lot of people like to free write by time. This is pretty simple, you set a timer and write for that set time. I like doing this myself, among other methods.
Do it by number
That being said, I also love a numbered list. I’ll write lists titled 20 things that can happen in this book. Or, ten jobs my character might have. Twenty ways this character’s voice is different from the other character. Whatever I can think of.
Now is the time for writing exercises
I love a good writing exercise. And during the brainstorming session, I do a ton of them. It’s a way to understand my world better before I dive into it for 30 days. There are tons of different writing exercises if you’re interested. I would definitely suggest checking out the Writing Excuses podcast for some starters.
Don’t stop for an entire seven days
If you’re anything like me, you’re going to want to jump the gun. After about three or four days of freewriting and exercises, I’m feeling like I’m ready to start working on my outline. Maybe even dive into my rough draft.
Over the years I’ve learned to ignore those feelings and keep freewriting for the entire week.
Yes, you probably have some great ideas. Yes, it’s exciting to start a new project. Yes, nothing feels like progress until it’s words on the page.
Keep free writing anyway.
The reason is simple. You are going to want as much raw thought on the page as you can get. When I’m writing I refer back to these freewriting notes often. Even better, I’ll surprise myself as I free write. As I dig further and further into the story, I uncover things I might never have thought of. It will benefit your book to give yourself as much time as possible to play on the page.
It doesn’t matter in the slightest if your ideas are bad
If you are going to be writing pages and pages of freewriting, some of your ideas are going to be bad. I know we often say there are no bad ideas, but I think we all know that’s bullshit. Saying there are no bad ideas is like saying there are no worms in any wild cherries.
Wild cherries are still worth picking and enjoying, still warm from the sun.
So what if all your ideas are bad?
Spoiler, they’re not. We’re always our own worst critics. We are always going to be hard on our work, even if it’s good. Even if it’s great.
Trust me when I say that your ideas are worthwhile. Yes, some of them are going to be bad. But not all of them. Not even most of them.
I hope you have fun during your week of freewriting. I know I will. Remember, writing is supposed to be fun. So have fun with it. And I’ll see you back here next week for the final task of Preptober.
2. Make sure you have all the physical things you’ll need.
Okay, don’t freak out. Yes, I’m suggesting you announce your Nano project on the website this week. Note that I didn’t suggest that you know what your project is going to be. You don’t have to know the title, or even what genre you want to write in.
You can literally label your project anything you want, and not be tied to it at all. You can just put untitled project number 69 if you want. It doesn’t matter.
So, if it doesn’t matter, why am I telling you to do this? Because it’s a concrete action that you’re taking towards your goal of writing a novel. You can see it right there on the screen, and so can everyone else. You are locked in now, you’re writing a novel. It’s on the internet.
Now, it’s time to consider some physical considerations. You don’t need a lot to be a writer. Just something to write on, and with.
If you’ll be writing your novel on paper, consider what kind of paper you want. I like college-ruled notebooks and le pen felt tips.
You can of course type it. This is easier because you can check your word count without having to count the whole damned things. So if this is the way you’re writing, get yourself a word processor and play around with it a bit. I like Dabble, but there are tons of options.
Another thing you’ll want to consider is where you’ll be writing. Do you have somewhere at home to write? Do you need to go to a coffee shop or library? Do you need a desk, lap desk, or just a better chair?
Think also about the little things you might need but not think of. I, for instance, like to outline things on index cards. Even if I’m typing my novel, which I’ll be doing this year, I still need pens to brainstorm on paper.
I’m not saying these are all things you’ll need. But I am saying you should consider how you want to write, brainstorm, and do all the other things related to your project. Make a list, grab what you’ll need, and get ready to start writing.
That’s it for this week. See you again next Friday when we get into some actual writing.
Alright, it’s the first day of October. And this month is dedicated to exactly two things in my house. Celebrating Halloween as hard as possible, and getting ready for Nanowrimo.
So this year I’m going to take you along for the ride with me, in a four-week course that will let you hit the ground running on November first. I’ve done Nanowrimo or Nanoedmo every year for the last eight years. And I never lose.
Why don’t I ever lose? Because I plan my life and my project in such a way that failure is not possible.
If you’re with me, we’re starting today. This week, you have two tasks.
1. Make your plan of action.
2. Get your people together.
Let’s break these down.
Make your plan of action
Especially if you’re new to the whole novel-writing thing, you need to make a plan for how this is going to happen. Because it’s sure as hell not going to happen by accident. Especially if you have other responsibilities. Like, you know, a life.
So you’ll want to ask yourself these questions.
When am I going to write?
What projects do I need to wrap up before November to make space for this?
Are there any days I know right now I won’t be able to write? What days will I work ahead or catch up?
What are the other obligations that I still need to meet like work, school, finals, or home care?
What I’m saying is this. You are going to have excuses aplenty to not write. Get rid of those excuses by planning for them, not succumbing to them.
Find your people
This is broken down into two groups. Who are you writing with, and who is supporting your writing?
Do you have any friends, online or IRL who want to write with you? Nanowrimo is always better when you have other people participating with you. Start talking to your buddies now, and see who’s going to join you.
More important even than that, though, is your in-person support team.
Who’s going to help you out during November? My support team is my husband, who will help me out with the house and give me space. My best friend, who will be there for emotional support. And my group of friends, always ready for weird questions at random moments.
Make a list of your support team. Ask them if they’re ready for that. Let them know what you’ll need of them. Do you need your mother-in-law to watch the kids an extra hour a week? Do you need your wife to make dinner on a night that would normally be yours?
You need time to prep. Your support system does too. And if you’ve got to do something extra to support your loved ones in return, best to know that early.
So that’s it for this time. You’ve got a week for these two tasks. I’ll see you back here next week for a new assignment.
It’s October 16th. If you’re participating in Nanowrimo, we have half a month left to get ready.
If you’ve been procrastinating, now is the time to get started on your Preptober list.
If you have no idea what the hell you’re supposed to be doing for your Preptober list, I’m here for you. Each of these things can be done over the next two weeks and will help you succeed in Nanowrimo this year.
List five ideas every day
Notice that I didn’t say good ideas. You should feel free to write the worst ideas you can think of. Just get yourself thinking about your story. What might happen?
Remember, you’re not required to use any of this in your novel. It’s just there to start you thinking. You might even use this to list things that for sure will not happen in your novel.
Gather your supplies
What do you write with? I’m writing my Nano novel this year on paper because my eyes have been messing with me and I don’t want to stare at a screen any more than I need to. So, I’ve stocked up on notebooks and the specific felt tip pens I like. I’ve got a big stack of index cards for outlining. I’m ready to go.
Make a list of things you need to write your novel, and get them now.
Let the people in your life know your plans
This is especially important if you’ve never done Nanowrimo before. I do this all the time, so my darling husband just rolls his eyes.
We can’t expect our family to respect our goals if they don’t know what the goals are. So let your family know what to expect over November. You’re going to need time away, daily, to write. Figure out if things need to be taken off your plate and whose plate they can be comfortably set on.
Plan your time
When do you have time to write? Are you a morning person or do you work best late at night? Can you write right after work or during a lunch break? Would you be better off getting your writing done in one long session, or breaking it up over the day? Are there going to be days this month you can’t write at all?
Take a look at your calendar and block out time now. If you have this time in your calendar already, you’ll have fewer excuses when the time comes.
Brainstorm for a full week
You need time to think about your story. Mull it over. Write about your characters, their background. Just play around on paper for a full week. Set nothing in stone yet. Right now, your ideas are play dough.
Outline for a full week
If you’re a pantser, go ahead and skip this one. You’re wrong, but you can do it.
Outlining is time-consuming. But if you do it right, it makes the rough draft a lot easier. You’re not lost, wondering what to do with the story next. I mean, that might happen when you’re outlining, but that’s sort of the point.
Keep in mind that the outline is not written in stone. In the course of your rough drafting, you might find the story going in a different direction. That’s okay, let it. The outline is just the start.
We have half a month left to go before Nanowrimo. Are you ready?