NaNo ‘11: The Basics

Every story has a few little details that don’t require endless description.

Working Title

I don’t worry too much about titles before I write. It’s not something I obsess over. Often it’s a line from a song that inspires me, a concept, or just the way I think of a particular story. At first they sound like Friends episodes. ‘The One With the Three Guys’ or ‘The One with Autoerotic Asphyxiation’ or ‘The One with the Gay Priest’. Yep, those are all stories I have in my head. Sigh. Too many stories, not enough time. They might graduate to the title of or a line from a song that has inspired me. I have one story that was, until very recently, called ‘The Ghost of You’. It’s gone on to a real title now. The story I’m most likely doing for NaNo is currently called ‘Vital Depth II’ because it’s in the same ‘verse as the book I wrote two years ago. It will get it’s own title once I more firmly establish some of the themes within it. Eventually they’ll all develop a final title, but that shit doesn’t matter yet. I like to let it happen organically.

Word Count Target

Just a ballpark figure, really. Of course for NaNo it’s 50k, so that’s what I’ve written down for VDII (yes, that is a terribly unfortunate acronym O.O). Some stories, once I start outlining, I realise there is far less story than would constitute a novel, so I generally mark them 25kers. When I have enough of a story in my head I’m usually pretty good at estimating the final word count—I aimed for 25k on Say Something Else and ended up pretty much bang on.

Point of View

First person or third person (or second, if you are terribly brave and perhaps a little foolhardy. Or if you’re writing a choose-your-own-adventure) point of view, and from which characters POV you are writing from. Pretty basic stuff, but it’s often something I agonise over. Which character is the best one to tell the story? In VDII, I have a human and a vampire. They are a couple, and because VDI was third person, those two had almost equal screen time. They are both important to the story. But I’m writing VDII in first person, so I had to choose (I don’t have to remind you that alternating first person POV is a VERY BAD THING, do I?). I ended up going with Lucas, my human, because I want VDII to be able to stand alone and for the reader to be able to discover the vampire world from a human perspective. Also, my vampire, Billy, is a pain in the ass because he can’t go out in the daytime. Lucas is gonna get to see much more and so readers will be better off seeing through his eyes.


Past or present tense. I write more comfortably in present tense these days, so that’s what I’m going with. You might alternate though, so this might be an important bit of information.

Start Date

For NaNo, that’s 1st November. If I wasn’t nanoing, I’d leave this blank until I started.

Finish Date

For NaNo, 30th November. Coupled with your wordcount, it helps you to figure out how much you need to write per day to get done.


This I only ever start noting once I’m well into the outline or even when I’m writing the story. I have two separate stories, one with ‘Love Conquers All’ as a theme, and one with ‘Love Does Not Conquer All’. I think that’s kinda funny :D Stories can and often do have more than one theme.

These all go on the first page of my shiny red book. They are some of them obvious, especially if you always write in a particular tense or POV, but knowing how it’s envisioned as you outline is very useful, especially if, like me, you outline and plot and brainstorm over often a long period of time and can sometimes forget stuff. There might be other basics you need to note down here, too. Different books have different stuff on that first page (yeah, I’ve got 4 red books going now for 4 different stories, and plans to buy 5 more books. I have too many stories! BTW, these books are fucking brilliant. I’ve laid one out for a half finished novel that has been sitting unloved for more than a year, and it’s helping me to sort out what needs to happen in the story.)

You don’t have to fill in all this stuff at the beginning, either. Some of the stuff you won’t even know till you start outlining, and sometimes even writing. I generally let it all happen organically.

Next time, hooks and blurbs <—the scary stuff.


6 responses to “NaNo ‘11: The Basics

  • H.E. ELLIS

    You have your act together so much more than I did when I gave this a shot last year. I think I’m going to follow your method this year.

    • vampireisthenewblack

      Well, this is my third NaNo. The first I pants’d completely and it worked well but the book I wrote needs serious rewriting and I hate rewriting. Still haven’t done it! Last year I snowflaked it but it was too formal and my plot fell over because I’d forced the outline. It didn’t feel right so it kept changing while I was writing. What a mess! What I’m doing this year is somewhere in between. Im starting early so I don’t rush things again. Crossing my fingers that it works ;)

  • Credorosa (@credoroza)

    This is a great post! I find it so helpful when writers offer little tutorials like this. Helps us bloggers to follow these methods. Nothing worse than a poorly written article. Takes away from what the writer wanted to express in the first place.

  • sapphirescribe

    I wish I had your dedication and discipline. And ideas. And sometimes your accent, but that’s neither here nor there… O.o

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