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.
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.
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.