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Prep It

posted in: Writing Craft | 5

Good morning!

Well, we made it to the last week of October and you know what that means? Yep, Halloween and NaNoWriMo.

CP Bialois
CP Bialois

Yep, I’m excited. Why? Because this is my favorite time of year!

For me, Halloween is about having fun. I mean, let’s be honest, it’s the one holiday where adults can act like kids, right? So for me, this will involve a lot of horror movie watching and prepping.

Few things are as awesome as letting ourselves indulge in mindless entertainment whenever possible. It not only helps us to relax and recharge our batteries, but it can also give us some wonderful writing fodder. What better time for that than the eve of NaNoWriMo?

For those that may not be aware, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month. It takes place every November 1 through November 30 with the goal of writing a 50k word novel in thirty days. It’s a great tool if we need a kick in the pants to get started (I also need clones, but that’s another post. Lol) and a chance to regularly meet with other writers in our area or online for write-ins at local restaurants, coffee shops, and/or libraries. The write-ins are basically what the name implies. Once we’re there we get to pick each other’s brains for ideas if we’re stuck and take part in word wars (Who can write the most in a period of time- 10 or 20 minutes in our group) and word sprints (Basically the same as word wars). It’s an awesome experience I hope everyone gets to take part in at least once. (If you’d like more information, check out their website here: nanowrimo.org)

Now, I mentioned prepping earlier, remember? To be honest it’s not something I really do a lot of as I’m mostly a pantzer (Write by the seat of my pants without an outline), but it’s something to consider if this is your first time or you’re a plotter (Use outlines, plot out your stories, etc). Not to put it too bluntly, but prepping can make or break your NaNo- it all depends on what your style calls for.

Some of the basic prepping tips are outlining. How in-depth or at all depends solely on you.

I’ve known writers that take the time to write a book worth of notes and outlines. It’s time consuming, but it gives them a great advantage. I kinda look at this like a fill-in-the-blank style. With everything already figured out, you just need to stick to stick to the plan to remain on schedule.

Some prefer a bullet point style of outlining. This is my personal favorite when I do outline. It’s a simple as this:

– John meets Sarah after school and they find a body behind the school’s dumpster.

– The body is their classmate Rob Jervowitz.

– The police question them, but they didn’t remember seeing him since earlier that day, but Sarah babysits his younger sister on the weekends.

– When they leave, Sarah can’t stop thinking about Rob and convinces John to help her find his killer

For me, it’s nothing more than jotting down my brainstormed ideas, and it works great if I’m working on another story and don’t know when I’ll get to it.

Then there’s pantzing. Pantzing is simply just sitting down to write. Stephen King is my all-time favorite author, and I love his book, On Writing (I consider this a must read and highly recommend it for all writers) where he says (paraphrasing) that he likes to put two people in a situation and see how they react. That’s it. When using this we let the characters tell us their story and give them nearly full control. It’s important to note that it’s a good idea to keep them reined into the confines of the story if you know what you want to accomplish overall. It can be tough and they’ll surprise you, but losing control has caused the premature end to many a great story idea.

Finally, there’s the plotzer. A plotzer is someone that uses both a plot outline and pantzing. The best way to describe it is what I do. Usually, I’ll know how a story starts, what the climax is, and how it’ll end, but the rest is up to the characters. For me, it’s been the better out of all the techniques I’ve mentioned, but each of us will find or use a style that’s different and works for each of us. It’s important to remember that there’s no shame in doing something different if it works for us. Many times the one(s) giving us a hard time are among the first to bow out.

Those are some of the basics we already use as writers. The trick is, to use them effectively in the condensed time period of thirty days. One of the best pieces of advice I’ve been given and now give others is to just write. Don’t worry about making it perfect. Anything can be corrected with rewrites and editing, so just worry about getting your idea down first, second, and third.

Some other tips that are often overlooked but I feel are more important than those I’ve mentioned thus far are: Have a story going in and set aside time each day to write.

By: Ramiro Ramirez

I can here you laughing and looking at the screen thinking (or saying) “DUH!” Believe it or not, those are two things that are the most often overlooked part of taking part in NaNoWriMo. Believe me, there’s nothing worse than being a day or more behind the word count. Picture the scene in I Love Lucy when Lucy and Ethel are working in the chocolate factory, except this isn’t as tasty.

On NaNoWriMo’s site I shared earlier, they have a section on plot and title ideas in one of the forums, so if you’re stuck take a look there. You may find something that’ll spark your muse.

Honestly, I don’t think there’s anything more important than having a time set aside where you can write. It’s another thing we do on a daily basis, but when taking part in a challenge like NaNoWriMo, it’s amazing how often things pop up to interfere with our writing. It can be discouraging, depressing, and flat out piss us off when things go wrong, so having a set time where everyone leaves you alone can only help.

Unfortunately, the real world intrudes more than not, and we’re forced to compensate one way or another. There are time we may have to give up the challenge, and that’s okay. Again, there’s nothing wrong with putting it on the back burner.

After all of that is said, the most important thing is to have fun. Seriously. Relax and enjoy yourself. This isn’t a race or a challenge that we must win or else. There is no glorious trophy or prestige with winning over someone else. It’s about pushing ourselves to see how much we can write in a thirty day period, writing every day, and the feeling of accomplishing something we may not have done before. As long as we gave it our best shot, we’ve won and we can work to improve on that next year.

As always, I’d love to hear from you all. What are some of your ways of prepping? Do you like outlines or writing by the seat of your pants?

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5 Responses

  1. Tilly Grey
    | Reply

    I also love King’s book but my favorite writing guide is Story Trumps Structure by Steven James…I’ll never do another outline again…I’ve never found them helpful anyway.

    • CP Bialois
      | Reply

      Very cool, I’ll have to check that one out. Thanks! 🙂

      I hear you. The best I’ll ever manage is a bullet point one, but they only serve as a brief overview in case I get sidetracked and don’t remember what I was doing. Usually, I can just pick right up so they’ve been more of a wast of time for me. lol

  2. John
    | Reply

    Thanks, CP! I am an eight-year consecutive winner of Nano, never will forget the first year! A friend told me about an article in the newspaper mentioning Nano, I got started that very night! I was way behind, it was almost the middle of the month, but I pushed and actually got it done early!
    I have traditionally always been a pantser, but now I am becoming more of a plotzer,,,,,especially after taking part in a wonderful writing class this semester! You really capture the spirit of Nano,,,,work hard, write harder, but most of all have FUN!

    • CP Bialois
      | Reply

      That’s awesome! Good luck this year.:)

      This is my fifth. My wife mentioned it to me in 2011 about a month before it started. I kinda lucked out as I had an idea for a sci-fi/mystery type of story and it gave me the perfect excuse to focus on that.

      That’s so cool! I can’t tell you how many weird looks I’ve gotten when I managed to find a room full of outliners. You’d think I grew a second head or something. lol

      I keep bouncing back and forth, but I ususally put most of my energy into my panting projects. I guess it’s mainly to see what’ll come out next. lol

      Glad you found a system that works for you. You can’t beat that.

      Thanks! I try to look at it liek a game of sorts. If we don’t have fun, what’s the point in trying, right? 🙂

  3. aliciaminor
    | Reply

    If you have NaNoWriMo, we have PiBoIdMo-Picture Book Idea Month with Tara Salazar and it happens every Nov. of the year. I guess both are exciting to pursue depending on our comfort zones as writers. Nevertheless, the fun is on and our successes or failures to get published are at stake. But publishing is not all the end result of writing because what matters most is the joy it gives and that is priceless.

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