Weekend Workout: PrepWork, NaNoWriMo, and an Invite to Join the Insanity

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I’m starting a new novel and have been doing prepwork/writing exercises for the past month. The start of this project just HAPPENS to coincide with NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), an annual experiment to write an entire novel (well, at least a 50,000 word one) during the month of Nov.

I have participated in many time-constrained writing projects, but never this one. I love the idea because it supports my philosophy of writing from start to finish in the shortest amount of time possible. But I DO think you’ll have a much more successful go at it if you do preparation exercises in advance. If you know what your story is about, and you know where you’re going, you’ll have more fun getting there.

From NaNoWriMo’s Facebook Page:

Make no mistake: You will be writing a lot of crap. And that’s a good thing. By forcing yourself to write so intensely, you are giving yourself permission to make mistakes. To forgo the endless tweaking and editing and just create. To build without tearing down.

Yes, creation is messy. And allowing yourself to have (and leave!) the mess and get to the end is important.


With all this in mind, if you, too, are at the beginning of a new novel, I am inviting you to take a risk and join NaNoWriMo. The worst that could happen is you don’t finish. The best that could happen is you do. In either case, you’ll be farther along than you were on Nov 1.

If you are working on a novel and are not interested in NaNoWriMo, I invite you to participate here on my blog as I (we) go from start to finish.

For the next several Weekend Workouts, I will focus on the task of writing a novel (my third). I’ll guide you through some of my personal writing exercises, how to write a beat sheet, and offer other goodies and support. I will demonstrate my process – not that my process must be your process – simply to show that step-by-step, it can be done. You can do it.

To kick it off, I will share with you how I prepared.

Starting with: The Notebook.

I think it is vital to do writing exercises by hand. I am as picky about my notebooks as I am about my pens. Find what works for you. I like ink pens, for instance, and not fine-point ones. I like the thick coloured uni-ball pens. I won’t write with ball-point unless I have no ink pen option in sight.

Love your writing implements! If it feels right and good, you’re more likely to enjoy the process.

My favourite notebook so far is this red deal I got at Staples:

Why do I like it? Because it’s red, and not too heavy, and inside it has these stickers and tabs you can add to the pages:


My tabs say: Exercises, Beat Sheet, Novel, Songs (songs because my two main characters are pop stars)

I generally start with my characters. The first writing exercise I did was to write the answer to “Who is idoLL?” (the protag). I began to write about her nemesis, too (Jettison Prix), so I drew pictures of them both. Trust me, you don’t have to be a talented artist to draw pictures in your exercise notebook.

The next writing exercise I did was “This is a story about . . .” (for the whole process and some alternate start line CLICK HERE). I always set a timer and simply write without editing or judgement. My notebook is messy.

The next exercises I did were the ones I listed on my Starting Something New post.

After I’m done with my writing exercises, I READ THEM, marking/circling passages, checking or starring areas I want to come back to, and TYPING up significant information that I know will go into the story. I try to put the typed notes chronologically as they will appear in the story, so as I’m writing or editing I can review them as I go along.

It doesn’t matter if you’re going for the NaNoWriMo or eking out your manuscript on the weekends, pre-writing exercises will not only uncover the story for you, they will ultimately inspire the work.

Your workout:

Find that notebook and the pen that feels right (but don’t use a lack of the “perfect” implements as an excuse not to write). Punk it out with a title label and OWN IT. Start with a few timed writing exercises about your story and protag. If you need some start lines, cruise through my old weekend writing workouts. The exercises I used for writing screenplays apply just as well. Some of the poetry writing ones will also. The point is to WRITE.


Filed under NaNoWriMo, novel adventures, weekend workout, writing exercises

10 responses to “Weekend Workout: PrepWork, NaNoWriMo, and an Invite to Join the Insanity

  1. I’m doing and NANO and will be following along with you and your blog. Thanks so much for sharing your knowledge—and note book pics–haven’t seen that one at staples, so am going to check for it.Good luck to you and everyone.

    Tomorrow will be a big prep day. Like you I work by hand with exercises and plot and character development. Find I think differently when hand writing…it flows bigger and better. Will for sure do some cruising through you weekend excercises!

  2. Yay, Deb! Some may say it’s anal to worry about the particular notebook and pen, but I think it’s comforting.

    I definitely write differently by hand. There’s something magical about it. And it’s easier to have the mess and to explore in a way I don’t on a computer.

    What’s your genre/demographic? Mine’s a YA Sci Fi. (not hard sci fi, mind you, more like Douglas Adams)

  3. Jill

    I’m signed up for nanowrimo too. Will enjoy following your blog. I, too, find it useful to start with notes by hand. I just use a yellow legal pad, but have not yet found the perfect pen! (I suspect it will be like my never ending search for the perfect mascara.)

    Good luck with nano! It’s my first time too. I think I may be bald with bags under my eyes by the end of November, but it’ll be worth it to crank out a first draft in a month!

  4. @Jill – fantastic! always better with friends. It will be completely worth it. First drafts will always be first drafts and there will be many drafts to follow. doing one so quickly will immerse you in the story. My favourite amount of time to write a first draft of a screenplay, for instance, is 10 days.

  5. I have signed up for NaNoWriMo and will be following along! Like you, I seem to brainstorm better with an inkpen in my hand.

    I am hoping NaNo will teach me how to write without going back, second guessing myself, and editing too soon.

  6. @charlene. Welcome aboard! Glad you could join us.

    I’ll be posting a lot more this month than I usually do so we can stay motivated.

  7. This is my third Nano and I’m excited and terrified. I am not usually all that prepared for it, with just some vague ideas. This one feels a bit different… I may be on the hunt for the perfect notebook today!! I’m a pen junkie too, I love a nice pen…

  8. Hi Coreena – 3rd NaNo – good for you! I love that even tho it’s your 3rd one that you’re “terrified.” Each new project is scary, every time. At the SCBWI conference this year, Judy Blume said the same thing! She said each project is different, scary, and she never knows how it’s going to go. And this is Judy Blume talking!

    (I have been known to go on rampages around my house if I can’t find my magic writing pen)

  9. Pingback: Holiday Writing Workout (a.k.a. get yr motor running for the new year) | The Accidental Novelist (Writes Again)

  10. Pingback: Weekend Workout: More NaNo / Novel Prep | The Accidental Novelist (Writes Again)

From my brain to yours

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s