Everyone's a winner - well, a lot of people - all those that write a 50,000-word novel in November - National Novel Writing Month:

10 steps to prepare for writing a NaNoWriMo novel

Here are my 10 steps to prepare for writing a novel (my first) through the: NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) madness. While good any time, I am doing these in the last fortnight of October 2005:
  1. Wonder if this is for real.
  2. Ask friends to help, e.g. by writing chapters. Receive rebuffs and guilt trips. Clarify that I was 'just kidding' and that I do have to write 50K words myself. One friend, the poet Bev Momoi offers to send me 1 word to use per day in November, as long as I write 50,030 words in total.
  3. Buy Baty's No Plot? No Problem!.
  4. Panic.
  5. Eat chocolate. Need advice on what? Check the Two Chloés: plain chocolate bars taste test.
  6. Enlist friends to go through this shXX - er, I mean adventure - with me. Hooray, Marianna took me up on it (and she will be writing a NONFICTION project) and has very sensibly taken the option to blow off the 50K word count. Gayle took me up (she is writing fiction) and has reserved the right to blow of the 50K.
  7. Decide not to blow off 50K word count yet but leave it as an option.
  8. Read Baty's No Plot? No Problem!.
  9. Think about characters.
  10. Decide not to overtrain by writing anything before the starting parrot falls out of the cannon.

On Oct 31, 2005, Marianna is preparing like this:

First, to say, it's not a novel - but hopefully it's novel. I'll be writing a draft of a book called Fearless Flax, maybe subtitled A Year of Adventures. It's about my experiences and experiments in the raw food world of making flax crackers ... and flax cookies ... and flax breads ... and flax chips.

I'm on Pacific Standard time, so I don't have to do any writing until tomorrow. But, in honor of Halloween, I plan to do a little mind-mapping using 24 colored pens and a big sheet of paper.

Gayle adds some preparation ideas, including some tips on names and saving keystrokes:

I think I'd add 'clean up my writing work area & house now (because they're not going to get cleaned in November), do laundry, and stock up on food which doesn't take a lot of time to cook. I'm heading to the store now to pick up some new flavors of tea and candles which don't have scent. (I always like candles to set up the writing ambiance but I get a headache from the scented kind.)

I'd also add brainstorming while going for long walks carrying a notebook. Thinking about the story while moving seems to help.

At this point I'm not being sensible regarding word count. If I'm going to attempt this, I'm going to go all out, so let's hear it for 50K words! My first drafts tend to be wordy. What I'm not sure of is if I can wrap up the story in 50K. Looking at my previous novel attempt, I hit 50K in about the middle of the fourth chapter and the story had barely gotten rolling. Maybe that's why I haven't finished it. At least I'm not agonizing over this new story (yet).

So far I've been scribbling notes about characters and possible plot points. I've got some scenes in mind and I think I've got a resolution, but we'll see when I get there.

BTW, baby name books are great help when choosing character names; so is flipping through the phone book. I've also created place names by combining bits of names from my CD selection and bookshelf. For inspiration, the bulletin board behind my computer is covered with pictures of actors and actresses I'd cast as my characters, and also places which might show up in the story.

And if you're looking to save some wear and tear on your fingers (and typing time), you can use the AutoCorrect feature in Word to type your character names. For example, add "mq" = "Marie, the Queen of Romania" to AutoCorrect, and Word will automatically change the abbreviation to the correctly spelled name.

So, what's your plan? Well, here is my Plan A.

  1. One of Baty's tips is to write in 30-minute chunks with 10-minute stretch-and-moan breaks. This sounds sensible. The stretching bits might even help as much as the moaning bits.
  2. Aim to write for 4 of Baty's chunks per day (2 hours) minimum, but try to do 6 chunks (3 hours writing time).
  3. Eat chocolate. Need advice on what? Check the Two Chloés: plain chocolate bars taste test.
  4. Aha - I was born in Britain so I can start at G.M.T. [Ok, this is not an official rule. OK, I just made it up.] I will start as soon as I can after 4 p.m. P.S.T. on Nov 1, which is midnight G.M.T. I will finish at 4 p.m. P.S.T. on Nov 30th or die in the attempt.
  5. Drink chocolate. Need advice on what? Check the Two Chloés: plain chocolate bars taste test.
  6. Get a weekly massage, or every 12K works, which ever takes longer.