Prepping for NaNoWriMo: Step One – The Idea

It’s NaNoWriMo Time Again!

One of the greatest months of the year writers can be November.  We get excited – giddy even – and start loudly proclaiming that it’s NaNoWriMo time, like it’s Christmas all month long.  Why?  Because we can set everything aside and fully concentrate on writing, hammering out that first draft at the speed of lightning.  Others give us looks like we are crazy, mouthing “NaNoWriMo” with a question on their lips, but then think better of it before backing away.  But we don’t care; after all, we’ve only left our desk for much needed snacks, anyway.

Of course, if you want to be successful and conquer NaNoWriMo, it takes a fair amount of prep work. If you don’t prepare, your chances to succeed and have a coherent manuscript at the end of the journey are much less. I thought it’d be fun to show you the steps it takes to get ready for an easily conquered NaNoWriMo.  In this post, we’ll talk about Step One: The Idea.

One of the easiest things for me as a writer is to come up with ideas.  They honestly come to me fully formed and wrapped in a delicious blanket of realism.  My Evernote list of Book Ideas contains well over 300 concepts and titles and stories that are waiting for me to introduce them to other people through their written story.

Though this part is easy for me, I understand that it isn’t easy for a lot of people.  This is why I offer custom written plot summaries: those of us who overflow with ideas like the great Niagara Falls should be willing to share with those whose talents and confidence lie in other areas.

In fact, the last client who asked me to write a couple of plots for her told me, “I want to write.  I really want to do NaNoWriMo.  I’m just having such a hard time coming up with a story.  That doesn’t come easy to me.”  So, after talking about what she wanted to convey in her writing, I went to work creating the world in which her message could be shared.  Copacetic!

How do you come up with ideas when they just won’t come?

Try any of these exercises:

    • Find a newspaper.  (That’s a thing that used to be popular for learning the news and may still be found in a library.)  Open randomly and read an article.  Who is it about? What event does it subscribe?  Now, write down the main points and spend the next fifteen minutes coming up with people and conflicts and great fight scenes – anything that pops into your mind.  Next, use a couple of those ideas to write a summary. Not just any ordinary summary.  Write the copy you’d find on the back of the book.  Sell it!  Write the copy in a way that makes you want to read this book.  Once it’s done, you’ll find that you have the bones of a plot to expand from.  This is how I came up with the idea for my upcoming mystery Heat Exhaustion.
    • Write down memories of your childhood. People, places, events that had a significant (or semi-significant) impact on your life.  Once they’re written, read through and see how they string together.  How could you transfer these to fiction?  What overarching story could you tell what you’ve written down?  How would you write yourself as a child (but more interesting; come on, you all know you weren’t the most interesting in your school!)?
    • What’s your favorite time period?  Do you reenact, do living history, or cosplay?  Do you like to read about certain time periods?  Find a book on an obscure topic from history and imagine living through it. (For example, the other week I was in the library and found a book on something called The Great Molasses Flood. If that doesn’t scream WRITE ME INTO A STORY, I don’t know what does!)
    • Have lunch at a restaurant, cafe, coffee house, or park.  Watch and listen to the people around you.  What strikes you as interesting?  Create back stories for people. Imagine scenarios for their presence today. Are they on their way to the hospital?  Who’s breaking up?  Proposing?  Who is secretly dying?  Was someone kidnapped as a child and have no idea?  There are endless possibilities to this game.  Play it!  You’ll be amazed at how many ideas start coming.

These are just a few ways to teach yourself how to come up with an idea.  If you give these ideas a try and come up with something fantastic, post it below and share with the class!

Does having an idea make you ready for NaNoWriMo?

Not if you want to be successful. Do you have to come up with the idea yourself? Of course not. If you find that you simply cannot come up with that winning idea, check out my Perfect Story Plots page.  We are here to help get you where you want to be as a writer.  And wherever the idea comes from, a great idea can equal a great story when you take creative control.

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