NaNoWriMo Chronicles: Using My NaNoWriMo Tools in Preptober

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Welcome back!

We are over half way through the month of September and that means that Preptober is right around the corner! I couldn’t be more excited!

Last week I gave you a list of my seven most used tools during Preptober and NaNoWriMo. Here is a quick recap:

  1. Physical Notebook - for gathering your thoughts on all things Work In Progress (WIP).

  2. Colored Pens/A Pencil - for quick ease of finding ideas and concepts in your notebook. The pencil gives you the chance to make note of things that might need changing.

  3. Hiveword.com - this nifty online tool allows you to further organize the finer points of your novel. As well as give you access to it anywhere you can get on the internet.

  4. Character Profiles - these handy fill-in the-blank style worksheets allow you to build well-rounded characters. Hiveword has a free simple version of these.

  5. Laptop - I find that for myself, a laptop provides the perfect combination of portability and tactile feel.

  6. Evernote - this handy tool lets you record your thoughts about your story on the go and organize them into folders.

  7. Books - whatever books will assist you in working on your current WIP.

So, now I have my tools. But, how do I use them? Knowing how to use your tools best is the biggest part of anyone’s creative process. It’s easy to tell yourself that if you had all the most expensive, best quality tools, you would be the best you can be at your creating. And while good quality tools help with creating, they are not the end all be all in a creative process. It’s the process part, the getting from start to finish that determines the outcome. With that in mind, I’m going to walk you through a chronological process of how I would use the tools I have introduced you to to create a novel-length story.

Sometimes the best place to start is at the beginning. It’s not the only place, but for this - it’s the best. Usually I’ll read a writing prompt or get the spark of an idea from someone else’s creative work (music, literature, visual art). Remember, nothing is created in a vacuum, most inspiration will come from some outside influence on your creativity. There is nothing new under the Sun and all that. So, my starting point is almost always characters. I’ll usually begin with two, sometimes three. This is where my notebook and pens come in. If I have mulled on the idea or concept for any length of time on my own, or even talked over the idea with the other creatives in my life, I have a notebook for it, guaranteed.

When I choose to focus on one work for an extended period of time, such as Preptober and NaNoWriMo, that notebook will fill up fast. I’ll choose a color for character ideas - color the top right hand corner of a notebook page and begin writing. This colored ‘ear’ on the pages allows me to easily go back and find the ideas I have laid out by color later on. Often times the first few pages will be information dumps about characters. I just let them collect wherever on the page as they come. I can always organize them later.

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Once I feel like my notebook is brimming with ideas that need to be organized, I move on to Hiveword. Hiveword is a wonderful tool for organizing all the information so that it flows and you can begin to see the pieces coming together. Again, I usually start with the characters, which means character profiles. Most of the time I will already have the information in my notebook, it’s just a matter of finding it and confirming the details I feel fit that character. There are times as well when the character profile will prompt me to think about my character in ways I hadn’t - which is exactly what you want. You, as the author, need to understand this character inside and out, in the ways that are pertinent to your novel, and the ways that aren’t. They need to be multifaceted. They need to be real. Use character profiles to help you do that.

After I’m done really getting all my thoughts onto paper for this novel and I’m comfortable moving from paper to digital copy, everything I do is on my laptop. I rarely, rarely, rarely write on the drive of my computer. Usually, I will have a folder on my Google drive, or I will just place each chapter into its spot on Hiveword so that I can access them from anywhere in the world, even without my laptop. My laptop is, however, my go to for writing once I have started. I prefer not to write on other computers, the change in ‘key bite’, as I call it, will throw off my ability to really flow well.

Evernote becomes the digital version of that basket at your front door that catches all the junk mail. It’s on my phone. It’s on my laptop. It’s on my tablet. Basically, it’s within arms reach at all times so I can just pull up a note and get the information I’m needing to remember out of my head so I can move on with my life. Because this tool seems to be of less importance in the novel creation process, I almost left it out of this list when I was planning this and previous posts. However, there are scenes that I would have missed out on that have become pivotal to things I have been writing in the past because I wouldn’t have remembered them without my notes from Evernote. Evernote is present through the whole writing process, from the notebook phase to the completed first draft and beyond.

Finally, the books. Each WIP will require different books to meet the needs of that particular piece. There are two types of books I read while working on a major project. First, I make sure I am reading other works that are similar to what I’m wanting to write before, during, and after the first draft of a work is created. I don’t always read lengthy books, sometimes I’ll even just listen to the audiobook on my drive to and from work. This practice allows me to see how other authors have written in the same genre and can help you learn the rules to follow, and the rules you can break for that genre. Second, I try to find at least one book on technique or form to read that relates to either my abilities as an author or the genre I’m working within. The books I have chosen for my NaNoWriMo book do both of those things, the first book, Writing and Selling Your Mystery Novel helps me to establish the rules and guidelines for a genre I am unfamiliar with, and The Scene Book is my ‘personal improvement’ book for this work.

Remember, tools are only as good as the process. So, try to vary your use of your creative tools sometimes. Try to find a pattern and ease of use that works for you.

Do you have any tools that you like to use in your creative processes you’d like to share? Let me know about them in the comments below! I’m always on the lookout for something new to help me reach my creative best!