10 Steps to Plan for NaNoWriMo

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October will soon come to a close and November will be upon us. That means it’s time to prepare for NaNoWriMo—National Novel Writing Month.

This will be my first year taking the challenge. Instead of officially registering for the event on the NaNoWriMo website, I and my writing group are doing the challenge to get our in-progress novels completed by the end of November. (I’m about one-third of the way in on mine…)

Having intention is one thing, but we need to do more if we want to see success with a challenge of this magnitude. Planning is essential, and it paves the way for successful implementation.

So first, let’s look at the goal itself.

The NaNoWriMo challenge assumes approximately 50K words total. That equates to 1667 words per day (5 double-spaced pages / Times New Roman 12 pt font) or 69 words per hour.

Having these numbers in mind will help you begin to break down the task into manageable pieces.

Now, here are some tips to help you do that.

  • Plan—Take care of any business or obligations in your life that can be completed before November.
    • If you celebrate Thanksgiving and it’s traditionally your job to shop and cook, make your shopping list before November 1. When the day comes, enlist people to help you. (Do it!) And if you absolutely must miss writing on this day, decide where you’ll double up on another day—in advance—to stay on track.
    • If you have other special days to celebrate—an anniversary, a birthday—again, get your shopping done before November 1. If you need to mail packages, get them wrapped and ready before November 1. Mark the trip to your package delivery service on your calendar.
    • Create a Plan B. No matter how much we plan, people and situations beyond our control can interfere. If you have a solid Plan B in place for the days that go awry, they won’t throw a giant wrench in the works and will only derail you for a short time.
  • Schedule—Block out the times you’ll write on your calendar. (I’m a geek for calendars, so this is one of my favorite parts of preparing for projects.)
    • Determine which calendar works best for you: digital or analog. (I use a combination of both.)
    • Reserve blocks of writing time in your calendar. If you use digital, color code those blocks time with a color ONLY used for writing. If you use analog, use a highlighter to accentuate the blocks of time you’ve designated for writing.
  • Shift Your Mindset—Rather than think of the challenge as daunting, make it fun. Starting with a defeatist mindset from the get-go (or at all) will be a giant deterrent to successful completion.
    • Write down mantras. (“Writing is fun.” “This draft is only for me.” “Perfection is not necessary.” “My writing comes first.”) Or make up your own. Repeat them to yourself every time your mind drifts into defeatist territory.
    • Write a letter to the voices in your head. Let them know they are not welcome, at least, and especially, not for the month of November.
  • Commit—Treat your commitment to NaNoWriMo as you would a commitment to someone you care about very much. Make it a priority. Privilege it (at least in your thinking) above all else. Just for a month…
    • Clean and prepare your workspace. This will send a message to your brain that this is important, that you mean business, that it matters to you.
    • Enlist the help of family and friends. Tell the people in your life what you’ll be doing. Tell them how much it means to you. Ask for their help in the form of respecting the times you’ve set aside to write.

For more detailed and hands-on help, check out the first four COMPLIMENTARY modules of my Conjuring Clarity course, created to help you accomplish these first four steps.

Now, for the writing itself.

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  • Know your people—Make a list of your protagonist(s), antagonist(s), and supporting characters.
    • What traits and characteristics define who they are as people? Think big. Think small.
  • Know your people’s backstories—Knowing your characters’ histories will inform why they want what they want and why, as well as what obstacles they will face, both internal and external.
    • Where are they from? Where are they now?
    • What has happened to them in the past (especially their deepest wounds).
  • Know your milieu—Make detailed notes about your story world. Do research beforehand, as needed.
    • Where does your story take place? What are the characteristics of this place?
    • When does your story take place?
    • Do any special rules apply to your story world (as in fantasy, sci fi, or magical realism)?
  • Determine your opening scene and inciting incident—Having a clear starting place will go far to start you off with a smooth beginning.
    • What is your opening scene? How will you set the stage and engage the reader? What does the status quo life of your protagonist look like when the story begins?
    • What (inciting) incident or event will turn your protagonist’s world on its axis and set them on their journey?
  • Create an outline—While it’s true that we gain insight about characters and what they want and why as we write, having some kind of framework to focus on will help you keep moving forward with a tight deadline like this.
    • What is your protagonist’s deepest desire and why? (Hint: This is oftentimes connected with their wound from the past.)
    • Given your protagonist’s personality, how will they attempt to realize their desire?
    • Given what your antagonist wants, how will he/she/it interfere with your protagonist’s progress?
    • What’s your ending? This can be hard to know sometimes, but make a guess for now, then set up a series of events and/or key scenes that you know will be relevant to the storyline.
  • Relax, trust, and let go—Surrendering to the process, letting go of any preconceived ideas about the finished product will give you the creative space to see you through to November 30.
    • Think of this draft as an abstract painting. Put down what comes to you without feeling the need to edit as you write. (You can do that in December.) Use big, broad brushstrokes. Use tiny, finite brushstrokes.
    • Be willing to both stick to your outline and shift your course when new, surprising ideas show up. This is the give and take of the creative process.

Want to go even deeper with Steps 5-8? Check out the second four modules of the Conjuring Clarity course.

Want to go even deeper with Steps 5-8? Check out the second four modules of the Conjuring Clarity course.

Want to go even deeper with knowing your people by experiencing the magic of the Writing Through the Body™ method?

Check out the COMPLIMENTARY Intro to Writing Through the Body™ video.

Check out the entire Writing Through the Body™ course.

I hope these tips help. Please let me know, in the comments, if you’re doing NaNoWriMo. Then, come back after November 30 and let me know how it went.

And remember… ANY progress is good progress. We can do this!

Sending you mad writing mojo…

Happy writing!

Johnnie
XO

How Understanding the Crown Chakra Can Improve Your Writing

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When we have defined the shaping of our characters’ identities (Root Chakra); understood their sense of self-awareness in relationship to others (Sacral Chakra), their displays of agency in the world (Solar Plexus Chakra), and their supporting characters and antagonists (Heart Chakra); listened to them speak (Throat Chakra); and tuned into their intuition (Third Eye Chakra), we stand a better chance of reflecting their transformations.

 

The Crown Chakra is about having a deeper knowing about one’s life, perspective based on wisdom and experience, and an understanding of one’s Self as part of a much bigger picture. When a person reaches this level of development, she has been able to make meaning of her experiences, actions, and reactions.

 

If we’re writing fiction or memoir (because we are writing about a period of time in a life), we want to envision an ending, if possible. Sometimes this take a fair amount of writing to know the ending. Sometimes the ending comes to us early in the process.

 

This has something to do with perspective, and more precisely, point of view. Not only do we want to understand our protagonist’s perspective about life before, during, and after her transformation, we also need to decide who can best tell the story.

 

In the case of fiction, the story may be told in first person from the protagonist’s point of view, or it may be told in third person by an omniscient narrator or a combination of both by another character.

 

In the case of the non-fiction, self-help/how-to category, you will likely use a combination of first person and second person point of view. You will also want to be clear about who your Ideal Reader will be after she has followed your plan based on your method, process, or program.

 

Write a significant scene in your story (fiction or memoir) from first and third person points of view, considering the options for third person: totally omniscient (an all-knowing voice that has insight to all characters’ thoughts and feelings), partially omniscient (an all-knowing voice that has insight to only the protagonist’s thoughts and feelings), or a more subjective point of view from one of the other characters.

For a non-fiction book, try writing passages both with and without second person “you.” The tone you want your book to have will determine which is the right choice.


Please leave a comment below. I’d love to know what you discover.

 

 

How Understanding the Third Eye Chakra Can Improve Your Writing

 

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We’ve all heard how important it is to listen to and trust our intuition. But what about our characters? How do we know what they intuit? When we spend time truly getting to know our characters, our people, no matter our genre of choice, we can start to hear their intuitive thoughts. This is the Third Eye Chakra. These intuitive thoughts may be thoughts that pass through the minds before they speak, and use the power of the Throat Chakra. Or they may be thoughts that remain locked inside the confines of their minds.

 

For fiction, consider the thought that crosses your protagonist’s mind that he disregards right before making the choice we know will create more strife for him.

 

For memoir, consider your own life trajectory and make note of all the times you disregarded your intuition – those times you said, after the fact, “I knew I should have…” Think of your overarching desire, in the context of the time in your life you want to explore, and all the ways you were detoured from that desire.

 

For a non-fiction, self-help/how-to book, think about what your Ideal Reader must know deep down about herself to want to learn about your method, process, or program and change her life.

 

One of the best ways to understand a character’s intuition is to listen to her thoughts. Write an interior monologue piece of the thoughts that pass through your protagonist’s or Ideal Reader’s mind, the thoughts she doesn’t want anyone else to know about. Write it as a stream-of-consciousness piece. Then write it as a more controlled expression of your protagonist’s thoughts.

 


Please leave a comment below. I’d love to know what you discover.

How Understanding the Throat Chakra Can Improve Your Writing

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All writing is hard, and dialogue may be one of the hardest aspects of writing. Oftentimes, we start by putting two people in a space with a conflict to create a scene. We start writing, and we get them talking to see where the conversation takes them and the story. Simply letting them talk can work and eventually lead us to the core of the scene. It can also eat up valuable time.

Eavesdropping on strangers’ conversations can help us with crafting characters and giving them a voice. However, much of the day-to-day dialogue we hear in real life doesn’t belong on the page. Dialogue should be more layered. It should accomplish more than just making a scene. It should advance the story, further character development, and more.

The Throat Chakra represents the culmination of expression, after shaping the identity in the Root Chakra, understanding relationships with others in the Sacral Chakra, developing a sense of agency in the Solar Plexus Chakra, and the ability to view others with compassion in the Heart Chakra, which is a bridge between the lower and upper chakras.

Before you attempt to get your characters talking, give some thought to all the information you’ve amassed about them by studying them through the lens of the lower four chakras. Think about their desires and motivations. Think about their self-image and self-confidence or lack thereof. Think about their fears and vulnerabilities.

If you’re writing fiction, let your characters be their own free agents. Let them show their not-so-desirable sides – even your protagonist (and even if the protagonist is you, in the case of memoir). If you’re writing in the non-fiction, self-help/how-to category, write an imaginary conversation you might have with your Ideal Reader or client, or schedule a few discovery calls with people who you think might be your Ideal Readers, and see what unfolds in the conversation. No matter your genre, show your people in all their frail humanity. They will thank you for it, and your readers will thank you for it.

Has one of your characters been giving you trouble? Have you been stuck, not knowing how to move forward with him or represent him objectively? Write a dialogue between you and the character. Let him tell you what you’re not letting him say. Let him be in control.


Please leave a comment below. I’d love to know what you discover.

How Understanding the Heart Chakra Can Improve Your Writing

After we gain an understanding our characters’ backstories in the Root Chakra, their sense of self-awareness in one-on-one relationships in the Sacral Chakra, and how they take action (or don’t) in the Solar Plexus Chakra, we can move to the Heart Chakra, which is about how our characters love – themselves and others – specifically, their supporting characters and antagonists.

As I wrote about in my Sacral Chakra blog post, in the case of fiction and memoir, these are the people or situations that support or impede the protagonist’s forward movement on her trajectory toward their deepest desire. In the case of non-fiction, self-help/how-to books, supporting characters and antagonists can take the form of friends, family, colleagues, of your Ideal Reader, as well as the Ideal Reader herself through various forms of self-sabotage.

It isn’t easy to write about antagonists without being inclined to cast them as one-dimensional. But hard as it may be to write antagonists with compassion – especially when we’re writing memoir-based stories – it’s essential if we want to connect with readers. (It’s not about writing to excuse bad behavior. It’s about exploring the complexities of the human condition.)

As the wonderful Ann Lamott says, “You are going to love some of your characters, because they are you or some facet of you, and you are going to hate some of your characters for the same reason. But no matter what, you are probably going to have to let bad things happen to some of the characters you love or you won’t have much of a story. Bad things happen to good characters, because our actions have consequences, and we do not all behave perfectly all the time.”

Because like it or not, even our real-life antagonists are, if not facets of us, at least mirrors of us. Throughout life, we come up against people who serve to reflect ourselves to us. Think of it as spiritual checks and balances. This is the level of understanding and objective insight we want to impart on the page.

Do you have an antagonist you want to paint as evil and are having a hard time finding her/his humanity? Explore this character’s backstory, as we discussed in the Root Chakra blog post, and see what you can find in their history that might help explain (not excuse) their harmful behavior.


Please leave a comment below. I’d love to know what you discover.