For those of you that don’t know what NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) is, it’s an annual, Internet-based creative writing project that takes place during the month of November. Participants attempt to write a 50,000 word manuscript between November 1 and November 30. There is a whole website dedicated to it at nanowrimo.org where you can keep track of your word count and join groups and chat with other people or just cheer them on.
For the last two years I’ve been participating, and this year I’m going to do something a little different. I’m going to re-write my novel from last year. I hit my word count goal and eventually half-ass finished it earlier this year. Now that I have a finished first draft and a notebook full of plot points and timelines from that first draft, I’m going to try again. I’ve (not surprisingly) changed a lot of the plot and characters. The main theme is still the same but there is now a lot to re-plan. I am in no way a pro, I only “won” last year and never even finished my novel from the first year. But I’ve found a few things that personally help me with visualizing my novel and getting in the mood to write. I’m hoping some of these things will help you as well.
Keep a Notebook– serious, this is the most vital thing you can do when plotting something. If you’re doing a “Pantser” NaNoWriMo, it still helps because you are building as you go. Therefore keeping track of names, plot points, etc are important. From/in here I do a few other things to really get the idea of who my characters are. I do a little Role Play character sheet and other nonsense to build the foundation of my characters. This included:
- Name– This is where I play around. Sometimes I know their names before I even know the plot. Other times I don’t give them a name until I know more about their personality.
- Date of Birth/Age– Time of year of birth is sometimes critical depending on what type of story you are writing. Fantasy? Baby born in winter? Expect health struggles and such.
- Hair and Eye Color– Helps you from doing a “His eyes were blue” on page three then “He looked at me with his hazel eyes” thing on page eighty.
- Style– Helps if you plan to describe clothing, cars, etc for the person.
- Personality Traits– Are they quick to judge? Do they get angry often? Are they empathetic to others?
- Other things to consider– Race (are they a half elf? A werewolf? A fairy? As well as nationality/human race if you wish. I sort of like the ambiguity of my characters as people then can picture whatever they want), Childhood background, Best friends, crushed, sexuality, etc.
Make a Playlist- I generally have one big giant one for when I’m writing anything (no lyrics, classical music or something soft so not to distract myself) but I also enjoy making a playlist for a book in general. My Drag Me Down playlist is full of intense music and also haunting melodies from spooky soundtracks. I wrote to this quite a few times last year and it really helped. Or I find myself just listening to it and picturing scenes to go along with it.
Mood Boards– This is kind of a hit or miss. If you create a mood board for a character and use a model or something as a look-a-like you can get married to the idea of what they should look like and just assume everyone else will see them the same way. My good friend Jeanette Beta Read my first draft of DMD and she pictured quite a few characters as a completely different nationality and so on. The best part? I enjoyed what she imagined more than my “character model.” I’ve found that making atheistic mood boards for characters to be better.
Those three things are what I do consistently every time I start a new book idea. I hope they work for you!