Sunday, November 2, 2014

Preparing for NaNoWriMo in Two Days (A Lesson for All Future Story Prep)

The confession behind this blog: Read here. 

So remember how I had waxed on about working on other stories during NaNoWriMo? That I wouldn't be a slave to "50,000 Words in 30 Days!" arbitrariness?

Well color me arbitrary. I started a new story for NaNo. And I planned it in two days. And it's pretty darn-near well-planned, too.

But first I enjoyed the last days of what I like to call Fall with a Little Bit of Summer in It:

Lapsit in Maine, where we dressed up as bees, lambs and Olaf
Ghost windsocks made with soup cans festooned our burning bushes
Olaf and Anna going in for candy. And notice the half door! Just like the door in my newest story.
Celebrating my friend and critique partner's latest book at Barnes & Noble
It is now what I call Fall with a Lot of Winter in It. The heat is on, the thicker scarves are around my neck, and I'm wearing mittens to bed. Yes, I'm a wuss. (But I'm a warm wuss!)

Now back to NaNo and planning for it in two days and why I'll be doing the same Fast Prep for future books.*

*One caveat: I had been working on a Pinterest board for this story for the last few months. But when I went to look at it, I had three pictures on it. So it wasn't like I had stewed at length on the idea. I souped it. In other words, I dumped a can of soup in a Pyrex bowl and put it in the microwave for two minutes. There was no crockpot. No seasoning. No tasting. That's pretty much the story about what happened next, too.

Souping & Not Stewing

1) I began with a starting scene. I usually do. I know my character is taking too long at Bullseye (my fictional Target) with her latte and her window shopping as she mentally escapes her life. I've realized that my opening scenes come to me for a reason, and I don't change them anymore. My subconscious is smarter than my consciousness.

2) Who is this woman? I did a character sketch using the lovely Shelley Coriell's persona poem.

3) I then went on to create a basic plot, using this short-story structure:

1. A character,
2. in a situation,
3. with a problem,
4. who tries repeatedly to solve the problem,
5. but fails, usually making the problem worse.
6. At the climax of the story the hero makes a final attempt which may succeed or fail.
7. The result of the hero's final attempt is validated in a way that makes it clear what we saw was the final result.

(Adapted by Karen Woodward from Philip Brewer.)

4) My critique partner (the lovely Shelley Coriell above) made me then dig deeper with the outline to unearth motivations and deeper stakes using Michael Hauge's Screenplay Structure.

5) My lovely Shelley and I then decided we had a lot to discuss between our two NaNo stories. I set up a private Facebook group that only she and I have access to and we discuss our outlines/characters, poking, poking, poking at each other's potential issues. 

6) I read a book in the genre I wanted to set this story in. I have a lot on my plate, so I only allot 40 pages per day, which is about 45 minutes of my time to soak in the story. I've been reading Elin Hildenbrand's Beautiful Day, and while I don't aspire to have the same writing style, I'm blown away by the truths and hurts and bits of detail that Elin uses. I want this in this story, too: the truths, the hurts, the bits of detail that make you learn more about a profession or a setting that feel like you're telling a secret about that profession or setting.

7) And while reading this book, I was inspired to improve my own storytelling: I want three women's POVs. I need what's about to happen in this book be experienced by three different kinds of personalities. I wouldn't have had this inspiration if I wasn't reading. DON'T FORGET TO READ, MY FELLOW WRITERS!

8) And there you have it. The timeline in a nutshell:
Oct 30: I decided to write a 50,000-word NaNo story in November.
Oct 30-Nov 1: I prepped the story with outlines, character sketches, and scene notes.
Nov 1-Nov 2: I wrote the requisite 1667 words per day.

The name and cover have changed, but this is still my NaNo character/outline/scene book
Photo Shoot! Inspiration for The NaNo Book that I found for $1.50 at Hannaford
A little somethin' somethin' I made for the start of NaNo

What pushed me to write this story? Two things:

1) The story I'm revising started to feel like torture. Not because it's awful--it's actually a storyline I adore with characters I would love to have in my life. But I wanted to reclaim the love of writing again--and guess what? I'm back to revising the story as I "productively procrastinate" during the NaNo story.

2) I looked at the timeline for next year's stories and I had no time to write this one. Well, I made some time, didn't I? ;o)

Leave a comment where it says "Comments" below. Sometimes Blogger hides where to click. Silly Blogger.

Until next time...

Don't forget to subscribe to the Oh Goody GOODIES Newsletter. I share information about my books and about writing and about what it's like to Mom AND Write and try not to do both too horribly. And I like to give out geeky Etsy gifts once a month to a random subscriber. Geeky Etsy gifts are always a good thing. Click here to subscribe.


  1. There you go again, Sydney! Churning out books like they were cookies! :^D As a fellow mom-writer, I admire your consistent dedication to the craft.

  2. You're awesome with a side of sauce, Sara! A four-year hiatus from writing books does this to a girl: makes her determined and a bit nutty. ;o)


I'd love to hear from you! Comment here and yes, I'll get back to you. ;o)