It’s Preptober, and that means the gears of your NaNoWriMo story are turning so hard your brain feels the heat of the friction! (At least that’s the way it is in my case. Come November? Those gears slow waaaay down 🙂 ) And while you can’t start writing until next month — no cheating! — there’s plenty to keep you busy until then. One way to stay productive is to set up your NaNoWriMo Writer’s Notebook. (If you don’t use a writer’s notebook, check out my post, here.)
I love using a writer’s notebook for NaNoWriMo, planner-loving, paper-hoarding soul that I am. But if you’re a true pantser, and the idea of any sort of novel planning makes you break out in a rash, here are some ways to set up your writer’s notebook as painlessly as possible:
Should you start a new notebook?
It’s not necessary. Maybe you’ve heard me wax enthusiastic about the virtues of Bullet Journals, but this is definitely a major advantage of using that method. With bullet journaling, you can seamlessly integrate whatever projects life throws at you–including NaNoWriMo! Just flip to a new page, record the page number in your table of contents, and start jotting whatever ideas and notes come to mind.
If this sounds a little too reckless or haphazard to you, then you might want to start an entire new notebook. This is what I do, because I love the feelings I get when I fill up a dollar store notebook. I know my story is coming to life as I progress through the pages. And the best part is, when I’m totally finished with a book, I get to tuck that notebook away in my file cabinet. So much is lost when we write on keyboards and screens, and I find that one act of closure to be a touching ritual.
In other words, it’s your preference. Do you want to tuck a finished notebook away, or will you be tossing it in the recycle bin as you speed toward your next story? It’s up to you.
For novel outlines, I’m partial to the cheap-o spiral notebooks. Maybe one day, I’ll upgrade to something that will last a little longer. You know, because my fans will be climbing over one another to make the highest bid for one of my notebooks one of these days. (You never know, right?)
Which notebook template should you use?
I plead with you to use a template. You don’t have to use a super-restrictive, creativity-killing, boring-like-a-mandatory-meeting template. You can create your own, or use templates you find online for free. (May I recommend a few of my own, available in the Writer’s Resource Library?)
Some writers prefer to make their own, and others like to use a workbook.
I love K.M. Weiland’s Outline Your Novel Workbook. I have it in ebook format, so instead of writing in the actual workbook, I keep a companion notebook to collect my answers.
How should you organize the notebook?
You need to have some structure in your notebook, otherwise you’ll never be able to find the information you want when it’s time to start writing. You definitely don’t want to hit the quicksand of Week Two and then try to flip through countless outline pages every time you need to remember your character’s blood type. (I jest…sort of.)
You can make a quick and easy template by leaving the first four or five pages blank. Then write broad headers on the next pages. You can use whatever categories you like. You can write, “Setting,” and leave five pages blank, “Main Character,” skip five pages, “Opposition Character,” skip five pages, etc. Make a category for every major element of your book. Then number the pages, and go back to the first pages in your notebook and make a rough Table of Contents. (Remember to leave space between the categories so you can fill in other details later!)
Whatever you decide, remember the point of Preptober is to create an outline you’ll actually use, one that will guide you during the difficult days that lie ahead. You want your notebook to be usable so that your productivity will skyrocket. You know, it’s even possible you’ll get far enough ahead that you’ll be able to relax and enjoy your Thanksgiving dinner, instead of wishing you could hide in an empty bedroom with your laptop to bang out another chapter while great-uncle Bill snores in front of the football game. (That’s never happened to me … )
So keep it simple, don’t get distracted by details that won’t matter in the long run, and relish your Preptober.
NOW YOU: How do you set up your writer’s notebook for NaNoWriMo? Is there another way you prepare during Preptober?
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