NaNo Prep List

Chapter 9 – NaNo Prepping List

I’ve noticed a lot of people posting about Nano, and I always enjoy reading about other people’s methods for prepping and then actually doing Nano. Since this is the last longer post I’ll be making before November, I’m now going to share how I’m prepping and what I’ve figured out of my story so far.

The more or less easy list I try to follow before Nano is:
1. Come up with the core plot and/or main characters
2. Outline the plot
3. Figure out rest of the major characters and fill out character sheets
4. Divide the story into sections per word count
5. Find inspirational music and pictures that fit the story
(6. ???
7. Profit…?)

And then to open up those steps a little and tell you how I’m doing this year!

1. Come up with the core plot and/or main characters

This year I’ll be writing a science fiction novel with a basic “treasure hunt”-plot. There shall be spaceships, aliens, a lost energy source, and characters trying to somehow endure each other’s company.

The main character is a thief whose latest ‘job’ unfortunately got him into a very bad position with a group of aliens, so he’s forced to seek out refuge from another spaceship. The idea for the main character actually came from my boyfriend, although the plot has evolved quite a bit from it.

At first I was thinking about doing a short story collection but now it looks like it’ll be a proper novel. But I will admit it right now: this year, it’s all about winning. I have so much stuff going on in November that I’m going to fully embrace the Nano-spirit, caring only about quantity instead of quality. We’ll see how that goes.

2. Outline the plot

Outlining is both my friend and enemy. I like to outline because it prevents getting stuck, but I don’t always follow my outline exactly. For this year’s novel, my outline is still incomplete. I’ve made it about half-way through but I still need to figure out how it all ends. Or maybe I’ll just let my characters do the work and follow where they want to go.

For outlining, I like to use Scrivener. The corkboard in it is perfect for me because I can move stuff around and add/remove things as the story evolves.

Scrivener Corkboard Outline
First four outline points of an older story of mine on Scrivener’s corkboad

3. Figure out the rest of the major characters and fill out character sheets

If I’m going to trust my characters to finish the plot for me, I need to have some characters ready, obviously. I like planning characters and filling out character sheets, and over the years I’ve made at least one character for which I’ve written more character sheets and questionnaires than actual stories.

For this year’s Nano, I have a pretty good idea about five major characters already, but I haven’t started the sheets yet. In case anyone’s interested, I can post some of those when they’re ready.

If you’re looking for some character sheets to use, here are a few:
Character Chart for Fiction Writers
Character Questionnaires
How to Create a Character Profile

4. Divide the story into sections per word count

This is quite helpful, even if it doesn’t sound like it. The daily wordcount is 1,667 but I usually aim for 2,000 just to have extra words ready in case I can’t write every day. I don’t add chapters when I write, but I like knowing roughly where the story needs to be at 10,000 or 25,000 words. Then, if I’m really far away from the target or going over it, I know to change my writing until I get back on track.

Again, the corkboard in Scrivener is extremely helpful. Sometimes I put the target word amount in the outline; for a really bad example: “Main character meets main antagonist and they brawl, getting thrown into jail, which means they’ll have to agree to work together (10,000 words)”. That’s not really from my story by the way, but it should give you an idea. This way I know that if these two characters have agreed to work together A) around 5,000 words = the story will be too short, or B) around 15,000 words = the story might not get finished in time. I don’t do the targeting for every scene or event, just the big ones.

5. Find inspirational music and pictures that fit the story

Music influences my writing heavily and even when I’m not that inspired, music can get me writing. Keeping a special soundtrack for Nano helps my mind understand when I need to write. Apart from Scrivener (which I feel is better for planning, editing and ‘normal’ writing outside of Nano), I like to use FocusWriter when I’m doing Nano. I can use my own background picture in it, so it also helps with the mood. Sometimes the pictures affect me so much that if I’ve been looking at a summer photo for a long while, I’m almost shocked to find snow when I leave the house.

Summer Inspiration

I search for inspirational pictures from anywhere on the web and I also regularly go through my own photographs (they also include that summery scene above), usually meaning DeviantART or just Google as the pictures will only be for personal use. For music, YouTube is my best friend. I’ve discovered some great bands while trying to find an appropriate soundtrack for a story (good way to lose money that; the CDs just keep piling up). Also there’s a whole forum on the Nano website for soundtracks so if you’re struggling with yours, check it out here!

(6. ???

I put this (and the next one) in brackets because they work both before and during Nano.

This can be research, browsing the Nano forums, chatting with a friend about characters… It depends on what I need for the story and whether I’m stuck or running out of ideas. Also includes procrastination, word padding and other not-so-great stuff that tend to happen.

And motivation! Or the lack of it. Finding things to motivate me during the month is very important, although I usually just trust that the impending deadline will keep me going. Motivational quotes, hearing from other writers, or participating in word wars are a few ways to boost your motivation when you need it.

7. Profit…?

So, somehow with all of the points mentioned above, I should manage to write 50,000 words in 30 days. I’ve won twice, lost thrice, who knows about this year? Hopefully it’ll be a win. I have followed this list better with the stories that ended up being wins, so at least there’s something in it that works for me.)

And that’s about it. I’ll be updating my word count both on my Nano account and at the end of my blog posts in November, and I’d be happy to hear about your progress as well!


3 thoughts on “Chapter 9 – NaNo Prepping List

  1. When I did NaNo last time, I was able to find several songs that were amazingly helpful. One was “Violet Hill” by Coldplay and the other are all Lindsey Stirling songs. Her violin can be really inspirational, just as a recommendation!

    (P.S. Sorry for digging up your old posts like this, you must be annoyed by the number of comments I’ve written :b)


    • I’m not annoyed at all, every comment is very welcome 🙂 So go ahead, dig away! And thanks for mentioning Stirling. I listened to a few songs on YouTube and you’re right, they’re great for inspiration.

      Liked by 1 person

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