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Hello fellow NaNoWriMo participants, also future participants as well, today we will step into what would be available for this years competition for us all!

I know I promised to edit Accidental Distances this year, I will still get there. Consider I struggled to edit it for so many months. I stepped into creating the new version of NaNoE, and I’m now at roughly 1362 out of 3388 elements.

This grew from the idea I had for my novel in 2018. I started with NaNoE‘s ideas around then. A simple windows forms application for creating novels.

Just consider the fact that I stepped in by using plain text files for the novels data. Yes, that means my 3000+ elements were all individual lines. We moved on with it from the initial concept I had, just needed to go a touch further for my novel.

Get Ready for NaNoWriMo 2020

Now, we are nearing the NaNoWriMo time for this year. Sure, there are other challenges, despite having a novel I’m still getting use to publishing my own novel. That isn’t what we are planning at the moment.

There are a few steps I’ve fallen into for my NaNoWriMo prep which have been reliable for myself. The aren’t in order AT ALL, mind you. Do them in the order you feel comfortable with.

  1. Get comfortable with the software you would like to us
    I chose NaNoE last year and the year before, I choose NaNoE.V2 this year
  2. Consider the main plan for your novel
    I use a simple multi step plan to jot down what I want, then I move it into NaNoE for use
  3. Have a little writing practice
    This could be editing your old book, or writing short stories in random topics, honestly, it’s some sort of writing for yourself

We’ll look into NaNoE.V2 as the software I personally prefer at the end, however first we will take a look at the other two options listed here.

This wont be an attempt to tell you what you must do, no. Much like me starting to become an author (finally) you would most likely just love to hear thoughts, and ideas, that could assist you in becoming the best selling author you totally deserve.

3. Have a Little Writing Practice

I know so many people that also compete in NaNoWriMo every year, I just don’t know how they practice. Since it isn’t quite what I can control for myself, I can only suggest what I stepped into that brought me to build my lengthy first novel.

Just suck it up, you can step in and search on Pinterest for ‘writing prompts’ if you can’t think of any at this point in time.

That can lead to new thoughts and ideas for what you can write as your challenge to warm up for NaNoWriMo. A few of my friends shared they don’t understand this idea, just bear with me.

Take a look at what we can consider with this prompt:

  • Something happened 15 years ago
  • It was regretful, at night, at the lake
  • It wasn’t meant to happen that way

This can already peak your own curiosity, hopefully. Take a moment to consider what the prompt says.

  • Something happened 15 years ago

Consider the fact that it is in the lead characters past, they will feel this more since it was their life. We could potentially add more, however, we will just focus on one thing here. It was in the past, so the character might have flash backs, the character might get too stressed out. We can just add ideas, like these, from that idea of the prompt. That already adds random things we can add to the plot.

  • It was regretful, at night, at the lake

Consider this for a moment. Regret. At night. At a lake. This can sort of have a horror setting, though, I don’t feel like ghosts. Perhaps there’s a dangerous autistic man who escaped from his house nearby? Since it is quite far from the nearest city, which you are lost from, there isn’t a safe place for you to go to.

  • It wasn’t meant to happen that way

Just consider you don’t want violence in your plot, much like me. It sparked the thought you go into the abandoned lake house, scare the autistic man, he runs at you and since he’s tall gets injured as he hits his head on the top door frame. He’s tall. You regret what happened and hate that you felt there was terror here.

See? It won’t be too difficult for you, just let your imagination go wild a little bit. You can put elements in for any writing prompt, or story idea, you ever have.

Just consider that first writing prompt can be summarised by what I made bold:

  • Character lost, might have flash backs from past memory around here
  • Local police warned of an autistic man that escaped from the mental institution here
  • You character is lost and needs a safe place to go to
  • Your character is completely lost and goes around a lake, they see there’s an abandoned house
  • You go in, scare the man there who has autism, he accidentally runs at you and gets injured since he’s too tall for doorways
  • Your character can try and help as much as possible to heal the injury to the man

You already have a complex plot with more than what the prompt suggested. Don’t let things stress you out, you might not think of what to write for certain prompts, just find the next prompt and do what you can think of a story around.

Every short story you think of, and prompt you attempt, can warm you up for your NaNoWriMo month. It’s only 50,000 words you need, you don’t need to look at the word count, rather consider the plot idea you get.

2. Consider the Main Plan for Your Novel

My novel grew from a very simple plan. Minimal steps, try to focus on your ideas, so to speak.

  1. Story Premise
  2. Three Act Template
  3. Milestones
  4. Chapter Outlines
  5. Character Descriptions

I love to stick to this method for very simple reasons. You should understand that in step 1, the Story Premise, we can just write a few lines for what we want to happen in our story, as a whole, in general terms.

We’ve finished our journey and now need to consider what to do next. When we’ve considered it all we choose we’d rather go home, this means we’d need to fix the certain …

… That caused problems because it started the fights. These were due to the dangers it may cause to the biology. We’d need to try and bargain with them to become peaceful again, and also to obviously save the human race.

Example premise

In general, this can be the short, and simple, outline of your main story line. This can help you realise more about what you like to add into your plot and story. It can also allow you to think of fabulous additions.

Since this is a premise, that would mean it is mostly an outline. Don’t glue yourself to it too much, don’t let it worry or trouble you. It just helps to outline the general story you’d like to write.

Take the idea you have into consideration for a little, we should, in step 2, create an act structure for ourselves. Take note, I didn’t say Three Act Template this time. In general it’s easier to recommend a 3 act structure for the novel you write. It keeps it simpler, and it helps you understand where you are.

You divide your novel into 3 areas:

  • Setup
  • Confrontation
  • Resolution

In the structure you would set up the start of the story, have the complex interaction that creates the story and makes it fold out, and the final resolution when it if finally completed. Successfully or unsuccessfully. This can lead to a simpler story structure that you can follow for your novel.

I chose to go a different route for my novels. It would, technically, be classed as similar to the 3 act structure, I just needed my own imaginary language, my own imaginary reality, and more. I just used my simple adjustments.

When I map my chapters I try keep the 3 step structure in them. Not to say in the exact same structure, it just helps to pay attention. Consider this:

  • Act 1, Conflict 1 starts
  • Act 2, Conflict 2 starts, Conflict 1 still here
  • Act 3, Conflict 2 resolved, Conflict 1 still here
  • Act 4, Conflict 1 resolved
  • Act 5, The end of our story

I try to use the 3 step structure for myself, just within certain categories. Time, and difficulty, can overlap for any element in our novels. You don’t need to complete something immediately, ever, just try to make whatever you write stick to the 3 step structure till the end of your novel.

This way I’ve found it can help me to structure my complete novel plot it just to generally use that structure.

That leads me into step 3, Milestones. Since I know what I’d like to have inside the plot I can write a shorter, smaller, list of milestones for what I want to achieve. My characters can fit what they want to complete in time into the idea I’ve written for myself for the plot.

Once I have these I move into a slightly strange thought. I consider how long it should be in a chapter. This chapter would focus on Character A making the most tasty curry for herself for dinner, she accidentally put in too many hot ingredients. Then that would lead me into step 4, write the chapter outlines.

I just consider the random real life things that would happen and just make notes about it in point form, that’s how I structure what I write about what I want in my chapters.

  • Character A starts to make the chicken curry
  • She accidentally wipes her finger over her eye with chili-sauce on her finger
  • In the screams Character B rushes in, trips over the chair
  • They help each other finish off dinner
  • The sarcastic story over dinner brings giggles over the slight troubles they had

Take note, there isn’t much there. The important thing to consider is how it can lead to more things. I can add several troubles, that would warrant them chatting about it since a little chili in the eye isn’t enough. Perhaps when I’m writing they decide they wont make curry, rather just a salad. I leave it open to interpretation, rather just to share the main ideas I had.

This is meant to help with creating the novels plot and story line. There would be a meal in that chapter, just note that you can change it to whatever you want when you get there in your plot. I do this since it’s helpful for me to have an idea for where I want to take my story for the NaNoWriMo.

Accidental Distances just went on several complete U-turns. I love it that I knew what would happen at the end, it just lead to chapters where I literally though Oh dear, I have to have that, the elephant like creature attacks us. You shouldn’t worry, this is just so when you wake up tomorrow you can even just say alright I’ll write the next chapter about Joe’s soap, it’s more words for my novel.

As a reminder, this isn’t the true go to method, so to speak. It’s what I use to help me think about my novels more. Different methods would help different people, I’m just sharing mind since they may help others.

Finally, in the odd way, I then would say we can write more about the characters. Each character can be described a little, their skills, what might happen, strange ideas they have, you get the gist.

Some people might find this confusing, but for us authors it can help. Consider this:

  • John Doe, age 29, Computer Science degree, Unemployed
  • Loves to play cricket
  • Doesn’t like conflict between people
  • Would love to solve the Bertrand paradox in a different way
  • Brown short hair, balding, not too tall, sort of shy

We know how the character looks and feels in situations from that. Some elements of the character may not come out in the plot, it’s just to help you think whatever they’d do. This might be slightly confusing to some, so lets take a look at an example.

John gets offered a job at the biggest tech giant in space since we started to colonise Mars.

Well, he has the skills they want since he studies computer science, but there are already wars in space travel. People didn’t want a single company to gain complete control of everything in outer space and that makes John nervous in the situation.

We can already create a chapter or two, at random, just from what might happen since it’s his personality.

This isn’t to be brutal in anyway, about anything at all, rather just to point out we can be in control, so to speak. Just describing our characters for ourselves we can know what might happen in the odd circumstances we think up for our novel.

1. Get Used to the Novel Writing Software

Take the moment to get used to the software you would actually love to use, if you aren’t already. Use it to write a few short stories as part of step 3 above. You’ll see what you like and dislike about them all. Find the one that fits.

I’ll promote NaNoE.V2 here since it’s what I’ll use, and stick to. Just remember, writing is what you’ll do. Make sure you pick something that makes it easier for you to do for yourself. It can help you to choose software, or methods, that you yourself feel the most comfort with.

NaNoE.V2-beta4 UI

The main boring functions will come through the menus.

The menu

Take note here, I made it simple to start a new novel, open another novel you’ve created with NaNoE.V2, and similarly an easy way to open your previous novel work immediately after. Note, this updates for any novel created or opened.

There’s a way to configure the view, it can be dark or light themed, if you prefer. Similarly you can adjust the edits and suggestions you want.

Edit Settings

There are simpler ways for you to manage the edit suggestions NaNoE.V2 will give you. Take note, you may want a suggestion for words that in in ‘-ly’ like I do, however ignore ‘family’, this interface should be easy to understand for what you can add in normal suggestions.

Phrase Shortening Settings

Similarly, you can manage the phrases you’d prefer to shorten, or even remove. For instance you may not want ‘to be honest‘ in your novel at all, you would add that as a phrase and the suggestion may be ‘replace to be honest with something‘. This is just for suggestions for removing redundant phrases.

You’ll note, this pays attention in lower case. This was the simplest way to implement it. It will see ‘I have‘ with a capital ‘I‘ and still show ‘i’ve‘. This is meant as just a suggestion for you, it just checks in lower case since then it’s guaranteed to find it no matter how you capitalise it.

Opened my last novel

This is the end of Accidental Distances, the last paragraph. My editing hasn’t reached here, I’ll show that in a little bit. Lets just look at what’s shown here.

The top would be the previous element, that is the fact we can continue writing after the last paragraph now. This could be adding a chapter, adding a note which isn’t counted for words, or a bookmark. You’ll see bookmarks in a bit.

Moving down we have the writing section. On the left is the word count, then the position in the map of elements. There are 3388 elements in my novel at the moment. You can just write in the text input box in the middle, to end your paragraph you’d only need to hit enter.

If you want to add the other options, such as a chapter, note, or bookmark, you would need to click the button corresponding to it. There are slight limitations for them, this is just so you don’t, for instance, make a 200 character bookmark. Bookmarks, as you can tell, should be shorter and easier for you to know about.

Below seems blank at the moment, however, it would be where the element below is shown to you. The bar on the right before the edit suggestions is the navigation bar. You can choose to go to a custom position through bookmarks which offers more, or up/down one, or jump to the start or the end of your novel.

The edit mode will stay in the current position and open up the element above the current writing position. So it would open the paragraph directly above for editing.

The edit suggestions to the right will not go through all the edit settings shown above in writing mode. It will only do a spell check for you. This way you don’t need to wait for it to go through any long list of checks. It updates when the word-count changes within the paragraph you write.

Spell check shared spelling when I pressed space-bar for the next word

When you’re in the edit mode, which you will soon see, there will be more here.

Helpers, you can map your chapters, characters, and items

Under helpers you can make notes in categories with names for yourself. It is a simple user interface to use. When you select a note set you can add to its inner notes. You can add and remove them for yourself, I decided to simplify this compared to NaNoE’s original idea.

Bookmarks view

I felt I should allow a touch more control here. Perhaps we want to go to the chapter in a specific position in the order, we can go there for ourselves. Reminder, you can also even add a chapter if need be.

The element would be the position in the map of your novel, so in order from the start of your novel to the end. This is just to be pedantic about what we want to go to.

On the right you see the list of bookmarks I’ve made. This is while I edit Accidental Distances. We’d just select the latest bookmark, then jump to it.

We jump to the end bookmark

As you can tell, we are at position 1362 out of 3388 in the map, so I’m not even near halfway yet. I’ll finish my first edit eventually. The important first note, we can add whatever we want here. We can jump anywhere we’d like to check in the novel. Let’s take a look at edit mode now.

Edit Mode engaged

I still have the edit suggestions hidden in this image since I turned them off to look a little prettier in some screen snips we have here. You’ll note, it shows the element before the bookmark, then the content of said bookmark, then it has the edit area, followed finally by the next element in the map.

You could delete an element if you don’t want to keep it, just remember you can’t get it back. It’s literally deleted. You can refresh the suggestions on the right as you’re editing. Note that if you don’t save edit none of the changes will be kept. You could use find next to find the next edit suggestion in elements. Be sure to keep your data safe by saving, it will warn you if you have unsaved changes.

Then there’s flag ignore, this is meant to make find next ignore this element. Take note, it’s ignored since it is a bookmark, it’s the same for chapters and notes. Find next goes through every paragraph and searches for what we adjusted for ourselves in the edit options. This can take time, it will show when it’s running.

Move using Find Next

There was a suggestion on the next paragraph, just to show you it keeps the elements data until I save the edit. I just brought another suggestion to help you see how this works. I can save it, or navigate away to cancel the changes. I can similarly find the next set of edit suggestions for myself.

If I right click on ‘1] totally…‘, which I cant show here, it will put the cursor at the start position of the first word. This is meant for simplicity, and the likes. Take note, double-clicking these suggestions will show more, like the message we wrote in the edit settings.

A short while after in Accidental Distances

It should be easy enough to see, it gives the word we have our own suggestions for, where the word is, and remember double-click shows the longer message.

The message I use for ‘up’

Now note, I show the dark theme here, there is a light theme, and I’d love feedback on the views. I’m adjusting it a little at this time to line things up better and make it look even better for us.

The focus here was make it simple to write a novel.

The idea is to keep it simple for anyone to write their novel. You can use the software you find which helps make it easier for you. I love having my notes right by me, and I’m just a developer at heart. You can pick up beta 4 for yourself and see updates in the future.

You’ve Got This!

Our NaNoWriMo is almost here, so you can prepare, and warm up. I hope that I can hear from anyone else that would ever use NaNoE.V2 in the next month odd so I can add the awesome ideas of others as well.