This week for the NaNoWriMo let’s take a moment to chat about story ideas. You’ll note, I made a Discord for us to use as well. Let me know, when you join, you are a NaNoWriMo contestant and I will give you access to the channels I note below.
This is how I got to how I’d write Accidental Distances, I’ve read a lot of prep documents and posts over the years. Each is a little different, and some may not work for you, so you could look at different ways for you to prepare for your novel.
Step 1: Get an Idea
First of all, many find this troublesome, how would you think of what you want to write?
You can go several directions, consider that I’ve used a few simple lines to describe Accidental Distances for myself. They’re simple, not in much detail, and gave me the thoughts for where I’ll make the plot go.
Take a moment to consider this, it’s just a small idea, doesn’t have much to it. This can help with the act structure you’d need.
Consider my Discord, this is an easy way to self promote I suppose, I created a simple structure for helpers. Yes, a bot we’ll promote that can help you with this step.
You may not have an idea of what you’d like to write, so you can just get a random prompt from my bot if you need:
So, for example, let’s take the first prompt here. After 2 years of fertility treatments, a couple is expecting quadruplets. This can already serve all we need, so with that as the idea we can make a simple plan of steps for our novel.
- Start with the struggle of fertility treatments
- Finally everyone gets excited as the pregnancy is here
- When it can be checked they find it would seem they will have quadruplets
- They start to try work out how they’ll adjust and plan whatever they’d need
This is just a general idea for the story, and will help you build the plot you want.
Step 2: Work Out Your Characters
This is second for me since it can help with the additional thoughts that are needed for the next step, plotting the chapters. It can help you realise more about the characters themselves want and need, which in a similar fashion can lead to what you can put into each chapter.
My strategy is simple. We need:
- What they can do
- Any other interests they have, or information we’d need
It’s a little too simple for some, just try and take a look at it.
The main character:
- Joe Anderson
- 27 years old, born 13 April 1993, light brown hair, usually keeps it short, has a little chubby body despite wanting to get super fit
- He’s a university drop out, works at a car repair shop, has a lot of skills for fixing electronics since he loves electronics
- He loves to ‘adjust his house’, so to speak. He put his own LED lighting in rooms around on the walls to use for at night when walking through the house, he wishes he could program since it would seem he needs to program some electronics to move off switches
With this, whenever we use Joe Anderson we can take a look at the simple summary to know what he’d do about what we place in our story.
Secondly, we will add his wife:
- Jean Anderson
- 25 years old, born 7 January 1995, blond hair, loves to cut it a short above her shoulders, quite a skinny beauty
- She studied Physics for her degree, and became a university lecturer for Physics. She’s always needed to help with any ‘slightly’ more difficult mathematics
Sure, we can add several more characters for ourselves in this story, just for showing this off we’ll keep it a little shorter. If we make notes of these it can be way easier to put them into our plan for a plot.
When we know about the characters a little more we could use it to structure our plot even more, in the next step.
Just consider Jean, let’s put her into the situation that she received the results from the test for pregnancy, hasn’t read it.
- She’ll hold the test and not want to open it after so many failures so far, it feels negative to her at the moment. That would be compounded since she’s a Physic major.
- She’s considering her weight gain came from stress and how she’s been eating bad snacks, like chocolate bars, to deal with not being pregnant yet.
We already have a chapter idea right here, we can take this in a different style for ourselves.
Step 3: Get the General Plot Structure
First take note, I experienced it when I wrote the first version of Accidental Distances, this isn’t a signed, and sealed, direction you will need for your plot that you write. The idea behind this is to just help you think of the main story line you’d like to have.
Sure, this is in NaNoE.V2-beta1 since I’ve moved it here already, just take a look:
Don’t take this as if it’s a rule, or anything like that. Move with your imagination, I find this structure helps me think of new things I can add to the story line as I’m writing.
Alright, so let me put this lightly for you. I don’t recommend you glue yourself to the plot idea’s you have for the chapters. Sure, you can step into them in order like you want for yourself, I just stick to this because it helps me make sense with my personal story for myself.
I always forget things, I always remember incorrect things, I mean, sure I have an excuse in what I let people know about me. Sure, this is a set of suggestions for you to build your own idea of a plot an story, you don’t have to do exactly what you think of, let your mind go wild.
I believe in a simple 3 method structure for what I’d like to plan my chapters with.
- Start item(s)
- Run item(s)
- End items(s)
I’ve found this gives me a simple idea of what I can write for myself. All I do is keep each element full in each chapter, that can lead to a larger story. Let’s consider a simple chapter 1 using this:
A – The Final Test
A – The Final Test
A – The Final Test
This is how I prefer to try to structure my chapters. Considering the plot suggestion given to us that we’d like to write. We want the novel to start with letting the reader know everything about the fact that they’d like to stop tests after this one. It can lead to other additional thoughts we can add in to this first chapter.
- They’ll complain about the 12 attempts they had before
- They feel they’re wasting money
- They’re sad how they haven’t succeeded yet
- It’s very sad since everyone knows they’ve been trying their hardest
We don’t have the result of the test in this chapter, so we can change our Start.
A – The Final Test
B – Test Results Arrive
We don’t need to Run that element for ourselves at all, that gives us a very simple way we can write the end of the first chapter for ourselves.
They jumped up and raced to the front door right after the knock, they still hope this can lead to them becoming parents. As Joe opens the door with haste the post man starts his car to leave, he glances down, there’s a letter on the floor. It’s from Fundamental Medical.
He carefully opens it to see the verdict, they don’t want to continue this method of attempted family growth since they’ve never gone further. He reads the top line, ‘Your results are in, your wife has been impregnated successfully…‘Example First Chapter End to Add B To Structure
You can lead your plot on in interesting ways for yourself, it can also assist you to stick to keeping every idea you have entering your story.
Next we use that structure on chapter 2 for ourselves.
C – Family gets the news
D – Need to work out new requirements at home
B – Test Results Arrive
C – Family gets the news
B – Test Results Arrive
This gives an idea for what we can build for our plot for ourselves. That way we can plan what all would happen in the chapter. We can then add these helpers to the chapter ideas we have inside NaNoE.V2 in the next step, we can then go into more detail.
Map out your idea of the story in very small steps for yourself. This can help you to create a story that follows each twist, and turn, to build up to the plot you’d love to write.
Step 4: Flesh The Plot Structure Out
Consider the plot you thought of for your story as a whole in Step 3, take the time to play out what you want to write in your head. This will lead to you getting the ideas for what all you would put into each supposed chapter of the story. This wont necessarily translate into the actual chapters, as mentioned above, it’s sole purpose is to get the structure you want.
Essentially what you can do is mark the plots idea for a chapter in the story for yourself. This can be used for you to remember what all you’d do. Don’t write the novel here, rather consider this as notes. Over time you might want to add elements into the idea you write here, it may also cause you to move the ideas around for yourself.
That image uses the Helpers section of NaNoE.V2, it’s a place to note down what you’d like to write. I’ve found this is the easiest way for me to consider the entire story while I’m writing my novels.
Considering the thoughts for the prompt for Chapter 1, above, you can add whatever you’d like to for this idea to get fleshed out. For example:
- We enter into learning about the world that our characters are in
- They share how they’ve had several attempts to become pregnant already
- People bug them to hear if they’ve succeeded yet since it’s taken so long others have heard about it and are intrigued
- They possibly consider just adoption, though this is despite the fact they want to have their own blood if possible
- Towards the end they decide this will be their last attempt
- They dread the same result
You can adjust these notes you’ve added as you need. Technically, you could start writing this story already. The idea of NaNoWriMo is write the 50k words during the challenge. You could write 12k words before because you’re hooked on a story, then start your count when it begins.
Some may have trouble grasping this, I started Accidental Distances in 2018, got to roughly 32k and couldn’t get it done for myself. I slowly continued till October 2019, I just hadn’t even tried to finish the plot, work and personal issues delayed it. I took what I had left to do in the original plot and moved it to a ‘brand new novel’. I counted that from word count 0, despite having over 40k words in Accidental Distances at that point.
I succeeded in 2019 NaNoWriMo with my left over plot I’d planned, I got it to 50,182 words. I’ve put it all together, added and adjusted more, and my first novel sits at its 107k odd words. Sure, my first novel edit is a touch slow, I’m just loving how it’s helping me improve my spelling and grammar again.
You can always finish your novel, I’m sure I’ll be quicker in the future.
Map out the ideas you got in this manner and it can assist you to stick to your plot. This isn’t to say you sign a binding contract to use that exact plot, it’s just why for NaNoE.V2 they’re called Helpers. Their aim is to help you to stick to your idea of the plot, this way you wont ‘run dry‘, so to speak, and forget what you could write.
Step 5: Start Writing!
I’ve shared it could be short tasks as practice to get you comfortable with writing, I also shared here you could even start the novel. Stick to what NaNoWriMo is meant to be, a creative outlet, you can totally write 50,000 words in one month by counting from 0. I believe in you!
You’ll note I run a discord, fellow writers can join it, I figured it’s time to start proper prep for my novel for this November. I’m a touch slow at preparing anything, I take my sweet time, so sooner is better than later. I created my own bot with simple useful features for fellow authors:
- !sprint – mark a time for the bot to run a 15 minute writing sprint
- !spell – try find the correct spelling of a word
- !dict – find the definition of a word
- !thes – find synonyms and antonyms for a word
- !prompt – get a random prompt to write (can be in different genres)
There’s also a Jozi Wrimos discord, fellow South Africans, I’m sure your area would have somewhere that you can chat about your writing as well, so get in touch with your local municipal liaison if you can.
Get comfortable and you could join us if you want, that way you can get assistance for your goal: write 50,000 words.
Since the first post sharing NaNoE.V2 development I’ve been working with Accidental Distances editing it for myself. This lead to several ideas for features that could help. It’s an open source, free, novel writing software I’ve created for myself. The original NaNoE I felt I’d spend a little time to make it, so I wanted to eventually improve upon it as a whole. I tried to make it allow you to keep your novels if you used the original.
You can get your copy of pre1 here: NaNoE.V2-1.0.0-pre1.rar
As a reminder, the code can be found here: github edg3/NaNoE.V2
I’m adjusting the structure behind certain uses in NaNoE.V2 at this current moment, but they’ll stay right where they belong. Adjustments, so whatever you do in it now will work perfectly in any update I make. I don’t trust myself so I make regular backups of Accidental Distances, however I haven’t had any problems. Make sure you back your data up anyway for safety, this is meant as my contribution to try help others write like I’ve found I can.
I have 2 simple thoughts for this years NaNoWriMo for myself.
- Write Accidental Distances book 2
- Publish Accidental Distances
I’m sure if I can gather the courage I can, this is just to help others with my method for how I got my novel out. Using these methods, and my personal idea of novel writing software, I got my first NaNoWriMo win last year after years of trying. I succeeded when I found what I actually wanted to write using my methods above. Let’s get another year in for ourselves, shall we.
I’m still in my Step 3, shown above, for the second book. I just want to point out I jump to Step 2 whenever I add a new character into the mix. This comes from me continuing my novels story, you can see on the NaNoE.V2 page for details of all the features that are available for you to use.