Been here before? Skip the intro and head straight for the main piece of work (at header 1.2) then 😁
I’ve been asked about this before and had someone asking for a post about how I did NaNoWriMo.
Firstly, I’m a newbie when it comes to writing. My 2017 NaNoWriMo project was my first one and I had no plan and no clue what I was doing or should be doing. Since then I have done plenty of research, attended classes, practised, read my work out loud, workshops, and more research.
This blog series will be about my journey to creating a story from idea to the first draft via NaNoWriMo and beyond. Hopefully, you will get some ideas too on how to do your project. The series will go every Monday from the 16th September all the way up to the start of NaNo with the last post on the 28th October just in time for the start of NaNoWriMo.
I plan to go through all the major aspects of storytelling: the idea, the world-building and characters, outlining and writing. In all these, I will share how I did it and all my resources. I will move on to how to prepare for NaNoWriMo, how to complete NaNoWriMo and how to get un-stuck. The series will end with me sharing the first 800 words of my NaNoWriMo 2018 projects, slightly edited and spellchecked.
- The Idea – NaNo 2018 experience + resources for 2019 NaNo – 16th September 2019
- The world and character – NaNo 2018 experience + resources for 2019 NaNo – 23rd September 2019
- The outlining and writing – NaNo 2018 experience + resources for 2019 NaNo – 30th September 2019
- NaNoWriMo prep – How I prep for NaNoWriMo 30 days of writing 50k words – 7th October 2019
- Undertaking the challenge – 50k words for NaNoWriMo 2019 – 14th October 2019
- How to get unstuck when writing – 21st October 2019
- First 1200 words of my 2018 NaNoWriMo project – 28th October 2019
Disclaimer; I have no background in writing and I do not know what I’m doing, but I’m enjoying it and that’s what’s matters. I’m also getting positive feedback on my writing which should indicate that I’m doing something right.
1.2 NaNoWriMo 2018 – how did I get there? – the idea
I didn’t know how a story was built up or how to write a story before I started writing properly back in 2017. I could barely analyse a book with more than “I liked it”. I have written since my school days (graduated in 2006) but they have never been more than the beginning of the story or the ending or something. I just didn’t know how to make it into a full story.
Coming into my 2018 NaNoWriMo project, I had absolutely zero experience in writing a story apart from whatever I did in school (which wasn’t much) and NaNoWriMo 2017.
For my 2017 NaNoWriMo experience, I had no plan, no outline, no path, but I had an idea and I dived straight in on the 1st of November. Ignorance is bliss sometimes. I somehow managed 50K words but upon editing realised this was not a story but a list of events and a list of scenery descriptions. Basically, it was shit.
However, during that edit (I only got halfway through my second chapter before giving up) I got a snapshot of an idea for another story. It was only a glimmer of a scene, but it stuck.
1.3 The Idea
Well, firstly I had an idea as I mentioned earlier. It was only a snapshot, just a scene, nothing special but I was very fascinated with it.
My idea was just a scene or an image. The scene was based on a prompt I saw on Instagram. The prompt asked; if you put your two favourite characters from two different books into a room together; would they be friends or enemies?
It was a fascinating thought and in my head, I imagined Aelin from Throne of Glass (especially from Empire of Storms, lounging in Rolfs chair in her leather onesie and dagger in hand) and Nina from Six of Crows. They both have strong personalities and could easily have been frenemies. But I imagen what they would be like if they were the best of friends. I was totally absorbed in the idea of them two being the ultimate BFFs. I got completely hooked on that scene! The more I thought about it the more it morphed into my own story and my own characters.
Two female characters sitting on opposite sides of a desk in a captain’s cabin on a boat. One is dark-haired with darker skin, strong-bodied and lounges in her chair cleaning her nails with a dagger, feet on the desk. The other one was a blond hair, pale skin and slightly plumb looking at the other with a caring but concerned look.
This was the scene that got stuck in my head and the scene I started to build my story on. Why was she looking at her with a concerned but caring look? In the end, the scene didn’t even make it into my story but it’s where it started.
I started searching for writing tips and reached out to learn how to really write but I struggled to find anything about ideas. How do you go from an idea/image/scene to a story?
I still don’t fully know that but there are several ways I can get an idea.
1.4 Where to get ideas
I get ideas from several sources. Sometimes I get my ideas when I’m writing else, which is fun and annoying at the same time. I can get very “into the zone” when I’m writing and then suddenly a very different idea gets dumped into my head obstructing my writing. For me the only way to get it out it to write it down for later use. Noted brain, now let’s get back to the original project…
Another way for me to get ideas is with writing prompts. If you search for writing prompts on Instagram, Pinterest, tumbler, twitter, reddit or any social media you can find an endless amount of stuff that can help you get an idea. They tend to be a one-liner, a very short description or a very short dialogue. An idea can occur during the process of figuring out the prompt. The idea might not be related to the prompt at all but could be something that comes into your head as you are writing out the prompt. Looking at the prompts below, my first questions would be: how does the monster under the bed get chosen? and are they also the guardian angel but pretend not to?
I also get ideas while I’m reading a book. It doesn’t have to be a full fletched plot with twists and red herrings. It could just a question that starts with “What if?”.
“What if Aelin and Nina were best friends?”
“What if” questions are amazing things. Don’t forget that the idea you get might not be the story. You might end up with your original idea turning into the background story of the sidekick character or the underlying plot twist to your story. Or just the red herring. Maybe the story introduced the characters as enemies but they where best friends all along #PlotTwist
All ideas are worth keeping! You might end up stitching three of them together to make one epic adventure. You never know so always keep your ideas.
Another way is again from social media or anything with images is to get ideas from images. It could be art in a museum, fanart from your favourite book, an imaginative piece of art, a photography, anything visual. Something that you can look at and ask: how did that happened? why are they arguing? who are they? who are they to each other?
As in the images below, why is she eating planets? How did the duck break their arm? Do they know there is a dragon behind them or are they working together? Keep asking questions will give you answers which can turn into a story.
Lastly, I get ideas from song lyrics. Lyrics can be a story in itself which can make you ask how did the singer get there?, or what happened after this song? Some examples are shown below and include My Vietnam by P!nk, Lady Cobra by Green Day and Dear Maria, Count Me In by All Time Low.
How would Pink get out of that situation? Would she keep fighting or give up? Would she grow wings and fly away? How did Lady Cobra’s heart become black? Is she evil, maybe she’s the villain? What does hell smell like? Who is Maria? Is she a rockstar or a model? How did they get her picture? What is that story at the bottom of the bottle?
Combining ideas is the best way. Maybe the knight and the dragon image could be combined with Lady Cobra lyric? Maybe Dear Maria lyric and the dragon hunter news add could be combined.
Maybe the girl eating plants is the girl from My Vietnam lyrics and the planets are stories (some sort of escapism), maybe her name is Maria, maybe she gets abducted, and her guardian angel (the knight) and the monster under her bed (the dragon) and her stuffed toy (the duck with a broken arm) needs to find her. Maybe Lady Cobra is the villain who abducted Maria. I see a story coming on…
It can take time to find ideas on social media as distractions happen and all that, but it can also be random and coincidental.
Once you have an interesting idea, one you want to know more about or one that fascinates your imagination you will start building on it. But until then keep writing down your ideas big and small.
Until next time, keep writing 😁