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  • Karina Sokulski

NaNoWriMo Prep: Planning

So we've picked the project and now its time to commit the rest of this month to a little planning. Planning doesn't just involve what your novel's going to be about and what portion of the project the 50,000 words are going to cover. I'm going to cover the Snowflake Method, which is a great tool for generating content on the fly.

I'll also touch base with methods to help get through 50,000 words of your story, like apps to download, websites to help you focus and suggestions I have to share since I won the NaNoWriMo challenge last year.

Let's begin with the most immediate concern which is the novel itself:

There are two methods I've seen people use to get through their NaNoWriMo projects. You obviously select which one you're going to use here in October. Then for either, you jot down an outline or any other form of "written plan" and have it ready for day one of November. Let's go into more detail.

The first is the Three Act Method. It's exactly what it sounds like: write your story in three acts. Sometimes people strive to write act one by the end of the second week. Act two, the third, and act three is finished off by the 30th. Outline each act, then put them on a time line. Then try to stick to that outline as best you can.

The other method is the snow flake method. To credit the creator, Randy Ingermanson, here's his website: Randy Ingermanson. Give it a click and sate your curiosity!

Anyway, here's my translation of the snowflake method in steps:

1) Summarize your sentence in just one sentence.

(taken from my deck of Storymatic cards) "A farmer's particularly uneventful life takes a turn when he sees a blind woman staring back at him in the mirror.

2) Now use this first sentence in a summary paragraph. Basically, describe the story's background, what major things are going to occur and the ending.

This will help you determine what events will ultimately make up Acts 1-3.

3) Basic character summaries will come next on this method's list. Here's a checklist for that:

Name: Jon Doe

Storyline: Jon Doe is the protagonist. They're a farmer.

Goals: Wants to live a comfortable life. The blind woman in the mirror is standing in the way of that by tormenting him. He wants her gone and his normal life back.

Motivation: Blind woman in the mirror is clearly supernatural. The only way to get rid of her is to utilize tools that ward off the supernatural. He'll enter that world of eccentrics and oddities to get his normal life back.

Conflict; He's under equipped to deal with a ghost and lacks the knowledge to fairly combat his ghostly intruder. Blind ghost woman isn't keen on leaving, or leaving John Doe alone.

Epiphany: Blind woman in the mirror torments John Doe but has not once made an attempt on his life. Turns out Blind she-ghost wants John Doe's attention to reveal some form of crime committed against her. John Doe turns out to be a medium of some kind.

I scrapped something together, but you get the idea.

4) Take a sentence from each of these paragraphs and expand them to their own paragraphs. You should be getting a one to two page synopsis of the novel when this is all said and done.

5) Use character summary above for minor characters. These won' t need to be as detailed. Scribble down their P.O.V. of the overall story. This will cement you further in the content.

6) Make decisions plot, character and setting-wise here. Here's where you're deciding the logic in your story. Start figuring out how the characters mingle, how the conflict affects everyone, ect. Invest about a page or two on this. You're literally summarizing all the pieces together.

7) Back to all your characters, main and side. Significant traits: physical description, hobbies, quirks, education, anything that matters. Anything that later doesn't matter will be scrapped in editing. When you're actually writing in November, your characters' interactions will help you decide what to keep and what to scrap.

8) Now, take all the information you've just planned out and start a list (chicken scratch or not) of scenes. Some people use a spreadsheet, or Randy's software from his website. I use Scrivener, so pick your poison.

Yes. The Snowflake Method is very detailed and demands a lot of attention, but that's why people who use this method tend to spend October doing it. If you're planning to be spontaneous in November, you'll definitely need this method. Let's move on though.

I'f you've been following my blogs, you'll be familiar with my mentioning these apps. I swear by them so that's why they keep coming up in my posts. Some of these are Mac exclusives, since I obviously use one, but google alternatives to these. They definitely exist.

1) Focus Mask

Here's the first app I swear by. Focus Mask is this click-and-drag app that literally blackens your screen around whatever you select. I love doing this to my computer, so that the only thing I can actually see on the screen is my word processor. It blocks out every notification on the screen so you'll go uninterrupted. I heavily depended on this app last year in November.

2) Ambient Mixer

Yes, I'm going to talk about this one to the grave. This is a website, but last I checked they've recently made an app on the Mac app store. I'd be shocked if its not available on Google play and all those other app stores out there. Ambient Mixer offers you a plethora of sounds for environments you can create for absolutely free. I've built a bunch of environments specifically to help me focus. Its easy to do when white noise is a sound option.

3) Notebook

It doesn't have to be this app specifically, but have an electronic notebook on your desktop for your convenience. You'll need it if you decide you need to do a name change really quick, or just need to have a side-note at a glance when writing.

I'm listing this app specifically though because I love the function it has that involves having a "notebooks menu." Each of those notebooks are like "file binders" that allow you to sort notes that correspond to different projects. I also depended heavily on this last year when I won this challenge.

4) No specific app to list here, just have your word processor ready. Have one that's reliable and won't glitch or crash on you. Some people are going to use Microsoft, some people Scrivener. Whatever you have, generate a document, save it, back it up. You get the idea.

5) Again, no specific app to list here, just general commentary. Get your itunes, google play, Amazon Music, ect. playlists ready to go. You're gonna need it!

The list of apps that can help you during NaNoWriMo goes on, but you get the idea. Get whatever helps you finish this challenge ready.

Here's the last piece of advice on planning for NaNoWriMo I can offer: you need to decide a daily word count goal. The one I went by last year, I think, made all the difference and ensured that I won. I'm going to do the same thing again this year, and hopefully life's distractions won't prevent me from winning again this year.

1,667 words per day.

No more, no less. I was very strict about typing this many words. Yes, some days I exceeded that goal, some days I didn't quite make it. Sometimes I was 200 words under on days when life (or my brain) was just not letting me write. 200 words under that goal minimum was my strictest rule, and I won NaNoWriMo last year. So I highly recommend this lucky (and non-overwhelming) daily word count for your NaNoWriMo challenge.

Happy planning and good luck!

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