Tag Archives: planning for nano

NaNoWriMo 2012

My fourth National Novel Writing Month is coming up fast. Until a couple weeks ago, I was pretty much resigned to the fact that it wasn’t going to happen this year–and that was a huge thing. Writing is a catharsis for me, I began my first NaNo only a month and a half after my mother died, and so in my mind, the post-mum era is also hugely tied up with my writing.

But for 6 months or so, I didn’t write a thing. Then I got dragged into signing up for Kink Bingo and at least attempted to write something.

That resulted in the infamous Harry/Draco butter!kink failure O.O You don’t even want to know, but it at least got me started. I won’t go into the other stuff I’ve begun and then abandoned, but finally I actually started, finished, edited and posted Painted Green, and while it was only 700 odd words and fairly meaningless, I finally fucking finished something! Epic reason for celebration after a 6 month complete block.

So I figured I could handle NaNo this year. God only knows if I’ll come out with something readable (I’ve done exactly nothing with my last two efforts), but I’ll be writing.

Still don’t know what I’m going to be writing for NaNo this year, because I know from previous experience that whatever I decide to do and tell the world I’m going to do, invariably changes at the last minute (several times, if I know me). I’ve already told venis-envy that I’m doing The Lucky Ones (an SSE AU that I started planning 2 years ago), but it’s looking like that isn’t going to happen yet again. Right now I’m writing what could be an epic Harry/Draco mpreg (gasp!) so I might just decide to continue that for NaNo (counting only the words I write during November of course).

There’s always the option to hit a random plot generator at 11.59pm on October the 31st :D

One thing I’m not doing is planning out the wazoo like I have done before. There is no big red book this year. I’m thinking about rereading all my previous NaNo posts though, see if I feel like doing any of that in the week and a bit I have left.

Find me on the NaNoWriMo site here.


NaNo 11: Get Your Shit Together

Me, I’m a pantser at heart, but some preparation is key. Obviously. If you’ve been playing along at home, we’ve made a few million story bibles, we’ve got characters and badnesses and ideas and shit.

Do you know how you’re gonna write yet? Where?

Maybe this is a gimmee. You always write on the computer. First thing in the morning. Late at night. On your lunch break. On your smartphone at your kids soccer game. Sitting on the back doorstep, fag in hand, with a pen and paper.

That last one might be mine. For the Americans, a fag is a cigarette, and for those of you with class, I have none. Bite me :)

Whatever. But if you’re like me, NaNo is less about the finished product than encouraging good writing habits. Generally by the time November rolls around I’m woefully out of the habit of writing every day. NaNo serves as a bloody great kick up the bum for me. When the only writing that gets done is on the back porch on a smoke break, when I care more about my blogs than my fiction, when that dream of being a real published author fades yet again into impossibility, NaNo puts my ass back in the chair and makes me write.

To help in that goal, I need the right tools. This year I’m handwriting, so I bought a special ring binder with ‘chapter’ dividers. I have ruled, punched paper and a clipboard to press on. I’m going to buy some more cool pens with an ink colour to suit every mood.

But I also need to know when and where I’m going to be writing.

When I’m writing on the computer its generally only late at night. Last year I’d sit down at 10pm and write solid till midnight, and that netted me about 2000 words. Definitely enough to make my target. Anything I did during the day was gravy.

This year I’m aiming for a more holistic and yet casual approach. I’ll always have my clipboard with me, and as long as I fill 5 pages a day, I’ll stay on track. This will allow me to write in short bursts rather than long hauls, which really is a more natural way for me to work.

As for where… well the reason I write on the back doorstep and late at night is because I live in a very small house with two kids, an enormous puppy, and a very opinionated husband with no respect for my need for concentration :) Its a very very noisy and distracting environment! When my daughter is at school and hubby is at work I can sometimes tune out at the kitchen table because it is just Mr3, me, and the dog.

But only sometimes. Hubby works shifts, so he’s home more days than not, and my little girl is the quietest in the house next to me.

So when I am not the main child carer I plug my ears in and drown out the noise with my playlist of choice. Problem is, if I’m sitting on the couch or at the kitchen table I’m fair game for Mr3. ‘I want get up, Mummy.’

Not so good for writing ;)

So this year, to avoid smoking too much, I’m planning to spend some time in hubby’s man-shed when he can watch the kids. It’s set up with couches and a stereo, and if I rearrange some stuff I might even be able to carve out a little office space out there.

My real office, and where i wrote most of my NaNo words last year, is in the corner of our bedroom. I’ll give that a tidy up, too, for when i need to be a little more available.

What are you doing to get your shit together for NaNo?

ETA: Just to be a little different this time, I wrote this blog post on my smartphone, sitting on the back step with fag in hand. Still no class ;) Also, between writing and posting this, I went out to hubby’s man-shed and carved me out some office space. The hum of the freezer is surprisingly good for concentration O.o

NaNo 11: Writing By Hand

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Yes, this year I’m writing by hand.

I actually write most of my stuff by hand anyway, then transcribe onto the computer. For a short or a one shot, I’ll generally write the entire thing and treat the transcription process as the first rewrite, making the first digital copy of a story the equivalent of a second draft. For longer stuff I generally let it pile up until I get blocked and then rewrite till the muse hits again.

For NaNo, I generally transcribe in a mad dash at the end of the day in order to get my word count updated before midnight – but this results in more typos and fuckups than I would get on a normal computer written piece.

So this year I’m going to save myself a half hour of work a day during November and not bother with the transcription part of the process.

Yeah, you can legally do this for NaNo. They ask you to get ‘someone you trust’ to validate your word count. I trust me better than anyone else to count my words. I know for a fact that I write something between 360-400 words per foolscap lined page, so when I’m looking at a word count I go by 350 per page and count it that way. Fill 5 pages per day and that’s my safe minimum word count for the day.

Once I hit my NaNo target of 50k I’ll generate some text of the correct word count and validate that, and then I’m done and dusted with the complicated stuff.

Writing by hand requires a completely different tool set. Normally I grab a pen, my clipboard, and some paper, and just go for it. But I’m going to end up with about 90 sheets of paper at the end of the month, so I needed some way of organising it. I feel like I’ve gone back to school, but I bought a ring binder and some subject dividers (10, I should really have bought another packet of them) and I have a 100 leaf refill (hole punched, lined, foolscap sized leaves) pad ready to go.

All I have to do now is toddle along to jetpens.com and get me a whole bunch of fountain pen refills in different ink colours so I can have a whole new ink colour every time I run out ;)

I wonder how many refills I’ll go through O.o

I think it’s quite interesting how I’ve done pretty much all my outlining by hand, as well this year. I wonder what that says about me? That I prefer the tangible over the digital? That would be weird, considering how much of a geek I am.

NaNo 11: Scenes

One thing I don’t do when I’m planning, is detail each and every scene. And I do definitely look funny at people who do. You don’t know every single scene up front before you write your book. If you do, what’s the point in writing it?

Okay, enough snark. Yeah, I’m a pantser at heart, despite the planning. I do have a section of my story bible (the big red green book) labelled ‘scenes and ideas’ though. I divide the pages up by halves or thirds and use that space to just jot down scene ideas that pop into my head, or general story arc ideas. It’s for everything that doesn’t go elsewhere in the book. If it relates to a specific character or the relationship between two characters, it doesn’t go there. But scenes, sometimes the seed of a world-buildy idea if it needs more time to percolate but I might forget the seed, yeah, that stuff goes in the back.

100_6319 I’m allowed to make mistakes here. This part is for those times when I’m doing the laundry or the dishes and suddenly a fully formed scene or part of a scene pops into my head. Rather than forgetting it, adding it to the notes app on my phone, or writing it down on a stupid piece of paper that I’m only going to lose anyway, I grab the appropriate book and write it down.

Then I can safely forget it until I’m writing. I’m thinking that before I start writing this will be a section of the book that will need a thorough read through—likely while I’m writing it will need an occasional peruse, too, so I can either confirm that I’m on track with my idea or to completely cross a scene or idea off if it is going to clash with the way the book is going.

This section will also get a lot of use while I’m writing because I’m always looking ahead when I’m part way through a story, getting ideas, seeing how this action is going to effect the outcome, etc.

Are you still with me? OMFG, we now have a big red book story bible! Yeah, it might look a bit sparse now, but there’s still three weeks? till NaNo. That’s heaps of time to fill it up as the ideas and story come. Remember, don’t force it. It won’t kill you to wing it a bit, after all, that’s what NaNoWriMo is about, and I can almost guarantee that if you keep your story bible with you throughout the month it’ll fill up in the process of writing your novel.

This isn’t all you’re going to hear from me on NaNo ‘11. I’ll just keep talking till it starts and then I’ll likely disappear off the face of the earth ;) If you’re signed up at nanowrimo yet, feel free to add me to your writing buddies—I’m vampireisthenewblack over there—and leave your NaNo username in a comment so I can add you :)

NaNo 11: What I’m Writing in November

So I had a huge list of possibilities for NaNo this year and big red books with characters and plots to prove it. I had a blog post planned where I was gonna ask for input on which story to write in November (and one of those choices was ‘hit a random plot generator at 11.59pm Oct 31st’).

And then it hit me.

I’d just bought another book in which to unload yet another of my brain-dwelling plot bunnies. And I started filling it in. And I started thinking about the story. And I started coming up with more detail to the story. And I started brainstorming with hubby (yes, I’m allowed to do that as long as I keep any slashiness out of the conversation).

I’m doing that story.

So. No ‘what should I write’ poll :( Instead I’m madly scrambling researching cloud computing and mobile technology. My story is set in 2050, in an alternate earth timeline where everything digital went poof on 1/1/00. Yes, it’s m/m, but the romance seems to be a very small part of the story so far.

You know what’s weird? The big red book for this story isn’t even red. It’s green. It was cheaper :D

Oh, and I’m writing by hand, too. Yes, this can be done legally for NaNoWriMo. Yes, it can be validated. Yes, I can win. :D I bought myself a spanking new ring binder the other day for it, with dividers. I figure I can use the dividers between chapters, keep it all nice and tidy. And I’m writing on pre-punched lined paper (we call it refill here). I figured out I will need at least 90 leaves to make my word count for the month. Yes, I’m a little OCD :p

I want new pens. With different coloured inks. I need to print out some of my character pics (yes, I ‘cast’ my characters) and paste them into my story bible (the big red green book). I need to do more research, follow more cloud and mobile geeks on G+ (if you are one, poke me so I can circle you or otherwise pick your brain).

And I’m bouncy-excited!

NaNo 11: Character Profiles

100_6318 Character profiles are one of the most important parts of my outlines. No, not because I need to know everything about a character before I start writing.

It’s because I have a memory like a sieve. Once again this comes down to my long term outlining. Many of the stories I’m outlining at the moment have been in my head for over a year. Some longer. It won’t surprise me if some of the story bibles I’ve been compiling remain on my shelf until next NaNo, still waiting to be written. Thing is, I think that’s okay. My characters (as well as the story) slowly develop over time. Organically. Naturally. They become real.

But, buggered if I can remember how old some of my characters are. Their histories. Their occupations.

The profile is more for noting important details than getting to know my character. I can’t force the characters (at least the major ones) into being. They live and grow in my imagination often over a very long period of time.

Then there are the characters that I’ve written before. One of my NaNo possibilities this year is the sequel to the first NaNovel I wrote. As I read the book to refresh my memory, I noted down all those little canon details on my characters that I will need for consistency. Another possibility is in the same universe as another of my previous stories, so I have canon details to stick to there, as well. Those were the easiest character profiles I ever filled out. Brand new characters are a little more difficult, but I recommend not forcing it. If you immediately ‘know’ what his favourite colour is, then by all means, toss it in there, but if you don’t, sit back and wait and see. It might not come to you for weeks, it might not come till you’re actually writing the story, or it might never come to you at all. I don’t believe that you need to know how he drinks his coffee or where he went to school. If it matters, it will come.


I set aside a page for each character, even the minor ones (because who knows what might come to light while I’m writing). If a major character has quite a long history (which happens sometimes when I write my vampires) I’ll give them two pages so I can let the bio spill onto the second page if necessary.

The fields I use vary, depending on the genre of the book. There’s the usual name, age, appearance type headings. I’m not sure how much you can see in this photo, but for Vital Depth II which is my vampire story, I have different groups of fields for my humans and my vampires. The vampires have: Name, Other Names, Age, Origin, Position (in the vampire hierarchy), Apparent Age, a bunch of appearance fields, Mate, Maker, Progeny, etc. My humans have: Full Name, Short Name, Age, Residence, Education, Occupation, the appearance stuff, Partner (which means spouse, other half etc), Birthdate, Orientation (because I write gay romance this is applicable), etc. Everyone gets at least half a page for a general biography. But all my books are different, each of my big red books have fields which suit that particular story.

Okay, I think I’m about done here for today :) VampSlash Halloween Fest authors, you can start sending me your stuff from now. You’ve got until the 30th of October to get them in. MAKE SURE YOU READ THE SUBMISSION GUIDELINES.

NaNo 11: Chapters

So, who went out and bought a notebook for their NaNo outline? I know there’s at least one… Any more?

Anyway, if you did, and if you’re playing along at home, grab that book and head up a page for every chapter you plan to write.

Don’t know how many chapters will be in the final book? Doesn’t matter. You’ve got options when you are planning:

  • set aside twice the pages you were going to set aside so if you need more chapters, they can be added
  • what’s your target word count? Divide that by the average number of words you tend to write per chapter
  • I set aside 12 chapters for a novella (25k ish) and 24 for a novel (50k ish) with an extra page for an optional epilogue

When you’re planning, and when you’re writing, chapters are really just a convenient way of breaking up your plot. Once the story is finished, I inevitably start shifting stuff around, breaking in different places, more logical places etc. But when I’m planning, and when I’m writing, it might be ‘such and such series of events happens in this chapter’ or ‘I’m gonna write one chapter today’ (remember I am queen of the 2k chapter).

Just because you plan 2k per chapter, or 4k per chapter, or 10k per chapter, doesn’t mean it has to stay that way later on. Same as if you plan 4, or 6, or 20 scenes per chapter. Or one day per chapter, or one week per chapter.

I base mine on word count (2-3k) and events in the time line of the story.

And I’ve totally gone off on a tangent ;)

So, you have your chapter pages. Look at your Beginning, Middle, End page. Figure out roughly how the chapters will spread over these three parts. I usually end up with 4 chapters per section because I write short stuff. Write in your badnesses in the corresponding chapters. Perhaps use pencil at first ;) Fill in some of the other events that surround your badnesses.

At this point I’m lucky if I have one sentence on each of my chapter pages. That’s fine. You might never expand the chapter outline more than that. I often don’t. But I leave the space regardless.

Oh, yes. Lots of extra space is good.

Friday: Character profiles, yay!