I’ve written an entire novel before, a few of them in fact, but I’ve never completed 50,000 words during National Novel Writing Month in November. According to my stats on the NaNoWriMo website, I came close in 2013 with over 36,000 words. In 2016, I gave up after only 8,000 words.
I’m not happy with this record, so this year I’m giving NaNoWriMo another go, and I’m spending the last few days in October preparing. I only recently learned about Prep_tober and how NaNoWriMo writers spend October planning and preparing and getting excited for November. I’m rushing through the basics with the goal of having an outline ready for when I start typing the first words of my novel at 12:00:01 A.M. on November 1st. I’ve not used an outline before, but I’m hoping it will help me get through those rough patches when ideas stop flowing.
Here’s what I’ve accomplished so far.
I purchased my first ever Moleskine notebook from Target last Friday. Did it have to be Moleskine? No, but I’ve heard the brand name enough that I decided to splurge and purchase one to help my preparations feel special this year.
Then I transformed the notebook into a Bullet Journal. I only recently stumbled upon this concept of “The Analog Method for the Digital Age.” On YouTube, several writers have provided a tour of their journals full of beautiful and elaborate illustrations, images, collages, color, and other artistic and graphic design elements. I don’t have time to be that creative, so I’m keeping my Bullet Journal simple and in pencil: an index, a monthly calendar to keep track of other activities I need to remember during November, weekly calendars with space for goals and activities planned for each day, a tabular word count tracker, a productivity log (I plan to track how I feel emotionally each day about my writing), and sections for brainstorming about loglines, plot ideas, scenes, characters, themes, etc. I’ll probably add other sections as November progresses.
Software and Hardware
I’ll be using Scrivener 3.0 on my MacBook Pro to write my novel. I love Scrivener and how it lets you manage scenes and chapters in an index on the left side of the interface, and with digital index cards that can be viewed in outline or cork board formats. All of these separate documents can be rearranged on the fly. Need to move a scene to earlier in your novel? Easy: just drag and drop it where you want it among the other scenes in the index and the novel is instantly reordered. There are also separate sections in the index for notes, research, and character and setting profiles.
In the center of the interface is your word processor. You can customize this space with whatever font, font size, and color you prefer to type in, and you can even split the space in half to place two separate sections in your novel next to each other. No matter what font style you type in, compiling your novel together at the end into standard manuscript format is a straightforward process.
Scrivener is a remarkable tool for writers and offers so much more, including tags and labels, metadata, and word trackers. It’s so much more flexible than managing one long document, or even several separate documents, in Microsoft Word, for example.
My initial idea for a horror novel dropped into my head a few seconds after I decided to participate in NaNoWriMo 2018. The working title arrived seconds later:
In a House Where Three Women Live
I ended up not liking my initial idea all that much. Over the past two weeks, I’ve allowed myself and my subconscious to dwell on this, until the idea transformed into something I could get really excited about. I felt ready to start jotting down details in my notebook a few days ago. The story has begun to take shape with specific scenes, character names and descriptions, and setting details. I will carry my notebook with me everywhere in November to capture any new ideas I have when I’m not writing.
I also felt it was important to work out my novel’s one sentence logline. Like a movie, I want a good logline that introduces the protagonists, their superobjective/goal, and what will happen if they don’t achieve their goal. It will help remind me of my novel’s primary plot to keep me on track. After several false starts and iterations, what I have so far is:
Three women must save their new roommate’s soul from a malevolent force he awakens in the house they rent, before it kills them all.
Yesterday, all this preliminary work finally culminated in a rough outline and a sense of the themes I’ll be exploring in my novel.
First, I wrote a quick summary outline that attempts to capture the general three-act structure of haunted house books and movies, with help from resources online, such as a plot analysis of The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson. I’ve also been thinking about Burnt Offerings, The Shining, Poltergeist, and House of Leaves. The first act in these stories is generally exposition about the character and setting. The second act is generally the haunting, ending with the possession or death of a major character. The third act is generally about the protagonist(s) trying to save that person and/or trying to get out of the haunted house before they too are possessed or killed.
Next, with these three acts and a few broad plot points, I started filling in details from my own novel ideas. It was amazing how quickly the first draft of my outline came together! I immediately saw how my ideas fit into the general plot of a haunted house story, how they’re the same and where they’re different, and where they are developed or need to be fleshed out further. I discovered that the first act of my novel (maybe the first 10,000 words?) is pretty well developed, the second act (30,000 words?) less so, and the third act (10,000 words?) needs a lot of work.
Now I can spend the last day of October developing my outline even further, though I feel like I could really get started now, with just this first outline.
Networking and Socializing
One of the draws and advantages of NaNoWriMo for many writers is the opportunity to chat online and meet face-to-face with other writers attempting 50,000 words in November. I’m socially anxious, but I decided to try to reach out a little bit this month and find opportunities here in Tucson, Arizona to meet fellow writers.
Halloween night, I’m attending “Write Wednesday“, one of Tucson’s options for writers to get together and get work done. I know the organizer and some of the attendees, so I’m not that nervous about attending for the first time. That’s where I will work on improving my outline.
The Tucson NaNoWriMo organizers turned out to be an approachable and friendly group; I’ve chatted a little with some of them in our regional forum on the NaNoWriMo website, our Facebook group, and also in our online chat room. I plan to attend a virtual kick-off and write-in for local writers tonight at midnight in our chat room. Then I plan to attend at least a few of the local face-to-face write-ins scheduled to take place at a used bookstore’s locations around town. While I prefer to write alone from the comfort of my own home, I’d like to find out if I can also produce words in noisier spaces in the company of fellow writers. Even if I find I’m not that productive at these write-ins, I think attending a few at the beginning of November will help kick off my NaNoWriMo in a positive way.
If you’re interested in following along with my progress, please check out my NaNoWriMo profile. I’m happy to be your writing buddy, too, if you are also participating in November. You can follow me on Twitter and Facebook, and I’ll likely write a few more blog posts about my NaNoWriMo 2018 experience right here on my website. Good luck and happy novel writing!