Twelve Days and Twelve Ways to Brainstorm that Novel

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NaNoWriMo starts in twelve short days.  Here are twelve ways to get ready to write that novel.

Keep in mind that even with elaborate planning, your novel will likely morph into a completely different beast than what you initially set out to write.  That’s ok.  Roll with it.

Day 1: Most novels are character driven.  Spend some time getting to know your main character (MC) better.  Take the Myers Briggs Test as your character.  This one is only four questions, so it is not the most thorough, but it is quick.  There are sixteen personality types based on those four questions. Find out what your character’s personality type is like.  This gives you a baseline perception of your MC.

Day 2: Create your character’s photo album. Include selfies, friends, home, school, places that are special.

Day 3: Write your main character’s diary.  Complete a few entries.  Try to find your character’s personality, likes, dislikes, what her friends are like, what she thinks and feels about things.  You could also complete a character questionnaire ( a lot available online, including the NaNoWriMo site), but the diary gets you writing, starts the flow, gets you thinking as your character.

Day 4: Setting: If you are writing in contemporary times in a place like where you live, than you have it easiest.  The further you deviate from the here and now, the more research you’re going to have to do.  Spend an hour researching your setting.  It won’t be much time.  Generate two lists: important info and questions I need to answer.  I keep my questions on index cards, hole punch them, and use a binder ring to keep them together.  But that’s just what I do.

Day 5: Setting: Pop culture – learn the music, books, and movies of the time.  Check out some of the books and movies from the library.  Make a playlist of the music your MC would listen to.  Surround yourself with things of the setting.

Day 6: The Antagonist: I wish I could remember where I once heard that the antagonist in your story, is the hero in his.  Head back to Myers Briggs and get to know your antagonist really well too.

Day 7: Write the scene where the MC and antagonist met.  This does not have to be used in your story, it could have happened before your story started.  If they do meet in your story, this will give you something to play with once November rolls around.

Day 8: Let the MC and antag write to each other – text, email, letters.  What are they going to say to each other? It will be interesting to see what comes out of the conversation.

Day 9: Conflict: The worst thing that can happen has to happen, and then the stakes have to be raised.  Try to come up with at least three ripple effects, what-if situations that is 5 layers deep.  Start with a small problem, how might your character handle it? What would happen next that raises the stakes? Repeat until there are at least five steps, making it harder and more uncomfortable for your MC.  You’ll learn more about your MC by putting her through conflict than from any character development chart.

Day 10: Research: It’s gotta be done.  You started a list of questions on day 4.  Find the answers to your key questions that must be answered before writing can commence.

Day 11: Cram day.  Hang out on the NaNoWriMo website.  Under the Inspiration tab, you’ll find NaNo prep.  A lot of good resources here.  Keep your brainstorming journal nearby.  Who knows what will pop in your mind.

Day 12: The most important day.  It is the day before life gets turned upside down.  And it is likely the day those movies you checked out from the library on day 5 are due.  Grab a loved one and watch one or two.  Then apologize to your loved one for what may occur over the next month.  Promise you will practice good hygiene and that you will try to visit this world as much as possible. Over the next month you will be living in the time and place you are creating and, though your ramblings may not always be coherent, they are writer’s code for “I love you!! Thank you for hanging in there with me through the worst draft.”

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