During my first three years of NaNoWriMo, I did very little preparation. I had a few scraps of paper with ‘vital’ points scribbled down – “Wedding! Love Declaration and Explanation!” (errr, yes, that really helps… *facepalm* :P), but other than that, I didn’t even write my plot/character ideas down. In fact, one of the years, I am certain that I only started *thinking* about my novel in the first week of November. In other words… it was a mess.
Now, don’t get me wrong – I’ve heard of success stories where people decide on October 31st to participate, and off they bounce to successfully cross the 50k finish line. Sounds pretty epic, huh! Sometimes I wish it were that easy for me. But, looking back on my past attempts, I’ve come to a conclusion that certainly applies to me, and I don’t think I’m alone here.
1. My past failed attempts were disorganised, I lacked motivation and direction, and didn’t have the set-up to survive the full 30 days.
2. My successful attempt, last year, I had what I’d like to call a NaNoWriMo Toolkit. I was organised, visualising the month ahead, planning my novel and getting a direction for the plot/characters, and the most important thing – all this preparation was making me excited and motivated to win.
So, I’d like to share what makes up my NaNoWriMo Toolkit this year, and hopefully some of you will find it helpful for your own preparation for this November! 🙂
Notebook + Pen
THE staple, most important thing that I have for NaNoWriMo. This is where I write down everything – absolutely everything – regarding my novel. On the first page, I’ve got a wee slice of inspiration – “Rocking NaNoWriMo 2011!” and after that, I’ve got space to jot down my initial novel ideas. I must admit, I haven’t actually gotten further than that yet this year, but my plan is to have…
- Character Profiles – I’ve always believed that if I know my characters really truly well, inside out, so that I can conjure them up into my mind whenever I like – even dream about them! – then from this, a story will arise. My characters will let me know. After all, everyone has a story. So, I write up profiles including categories like the basics, like age, occupation, and then ones like family, friends, love interests, living space, hobbies, backstory (how they came to be in the position they are currently) and values. It varies from character to character, depending on what’s relevant, and what’s not.
- Character Pics – So I can visualise them properly. Doesn’t have to be exact, but I either try to find an actor or someone who looks similar (not someone famous, or all I’ll be thinking of is the actual actor!) or if I’m feeling brave, try to draw a (rough) sketch of them.
- Plot Outline – Once I know my characters, hopefully I’ll also have thought up a clear plot line. I try to keep it as chronological as I can, because that’s the way I work best – I leave lots of empty space in case I want to add more though 🙂
- Research – At the back of my notebook, I keep any notes that I’ve had to research for my novel. For example, my last year’s NaNo was about a guy with Dissociative Identity Disorder, so I jotted down relevant points that I’d come across while researching.
Plus, the feeling of having a notebook is just plain awesome. These days, I do around 90% of my writing on my laptop, the only exception being taking written notes in university lectures 😀 So, it’s quite fun to be able to write in a notebook again, so old school and ‘writerly’ 😉
Ahh, and the pen. I am just a wee bit of a pen nerd (*cough* collectomaniac!) and so it is really important for me to have the right one. Last year, I indulged myself and purchased a proper NaNoWriMo Pen, squeeee! But… as awesome as it is, some part of me doesn’t actually want to use it, in case I break it or something, hehee. So, I have another pen that I store in the spiral binding, just a plain black pen that is comfortable to hold and writes really well. Honestly, my advice would be to try every freaking pen in the shop. Who cares if the shop assistant gives you bung looks… it will be worth it 😉
What a fantastic excuse to do even more stationery shopping! I actually don’t go through an excessive amount of Post-its myself, but they are still pretty useful. I currently have three Post-its stuck to my laptop, one of which was written by my Mum last year, for NaNoWriMo, saying “It’s all sooo worth it!” 🙂 Awww, thanks Mum! So yes, while I use Post-Its for motivation, you can also totally use them for your actual novel. Plot points, random things you want to include in your story, sudden inspiration… anything you like! Go crazy. There’s no such thing as too many Post-Its!
NaNoWriMo Star Chart!
This is something I did last year, and mannn – you can’t go wrong with stickers! Squeee! I actually was talking about this with a couple of my tweeps, as they were curious about the idea, so I decided to take a photo for you guys. It’s pretty simple to make, and fun too – I like to use a lot of colour. Then, you just write in the total word count you need to be at for each day – when you achieve it, you get a sticker!! 😀 Great for motivation.
…and, a Desktop Background Calendar!
As well as my Star Chart, I’m going to use a calendar as my Computer Background too! Doubles my motivation, and all that 😉 There’s an official thread to find these on the NaNo forums here, if you want to flick through and find one that you like. The one I’m going to use is here – it’s absolutely fantastic, with the word counts AND the words of inspiration! Brilliant 🙂
NaNoWriMo Report Card 2011
One final kind of calendar/motivation thingy, which I swear by, is this beautiful NaNoWriMo Report Card. I used the same one last year, and this kind person has updated it to fit this year. I am nuts about statistics like this, and thankfully I found this one because my Excel skills aren’t exactly up to par… 😉 You record how many words you write per day, how many writing sessions you have, even your morale levels throughout November… and you get awesome statistics to look at! And a graph! Squeeee! 🙂
So SO thankful I stumbled across this piece of genius! *grins* Q10 is a minimalist writing program – it looks exactly like the above screenshot. It means I don’t get tempted by clicking idly on the internet, or whatever, because it blocks out everything else. You can change the text and colour and all of that, but I love the default text as it looks like a typewriter – AND, Q10 comes with typewriting sound effects! It may sound silly, but it makes me feel EPIC to hear the quick noise of the typewriter when I’m writing my novel 😀 Plus, it has a brilliant alarm setting that lets you set it for a certain time – just like a NaNo Word Sprint. I found that writing furiously for 15min blocks helped immensely, as I was racing against the time, and trying to better my previous amount of words written in 15mins – leading to a massive boost for my overall word count! Very, very fun, and it’s free to download, so why not give it a go?
NaNoWriMo Hoodies + T-shirts!
*grins* I won’t deny it, I’m a tad obsessive here… but yes, I own 2x NaNoWriMo hoodies, and 2x NaNoWriMo T-shirts! 😀 The first one I bought was the Black Hoodie, as a reward for last year’s win. I actually would live in hoodies if I could, they’re just so darn comfortable! Which is why I bought… ahem… the Gray Hoodie too! 😀 (Confession: I’m wearing it as I write this blog.) I just figured, it’s a great way to support OLL, and they’re actually great conversation starters – I’ve had a couple of people recognise it, which always gives me warm fuzzies! *smiles*
But, I didn’t stop there… to celebrate my first NaNo win ever, I purchased the NaNoWriMo 2010 Winner T-Shirt 🙂 I couldn’t NOT, really! Bring on summer, when I can actually wear it…! Plus, I also have the Camp NaNoWriMo T-Shirt – too epic, really! Actually, I did kind of attempt Camp NaNo this year, in August, but I wasn’t really trying to get the 50k. I ended up with 30k which I was perfectly happy with 🙂 So yes, bought the shirt, because I am most definitely planning on winning a future Camp NaNoWriMo 😉
NaNoWriMo Song Playlist
This is always a heap of fun to make. My staple songs in any year’s NaNo playlists can be found in my previous blog post, to add a bit of motivation. Other than that, I go with what fits my novel’s genre, and my plot/characters. So far, I have the Star Trek 2009 OST, a smattering of Doctor Who Soundtrack songs (mostly from Season 5!), “Luka” by Suzanne Vega (one of my character’s names is Luka), and “Think You Can Wait” and “Sorrow” by The National (some sweeeet Indie!). Only just started compiling it, so there should be much more come November. You may be able to guess what genre I’m writing now… but just to keep being mysterious, I won’t say anymore than that just yet! *grins*
So, there you have it! My own personal NaNoWriMo Toolkit. What do you guys have in yours? Do you think I’m missing anything? Did I inspire you to add more to your own? Did I inspire you to have a Toolkit in the first place? 😀 Let me know!
16 days to go!