Preparatory Workshop - Jen Moore - 2014-10-18

Presented by ...

  • Jen, librarian at the Warrenville Public Library - likes to amble when she presents.
  • third NaNoWriMo
  • failed horribly the first time (in college); last two years have won NaNo (up in Naperville)

Notes from the final preparatory workshop

  • 27 people in attendance
  • [Jabber]( chat rooms can be very helpful!
  • NaNo is like a college all-nighter that runs for a month; you want to pace yourself
  • 50K sounds like a huge number but...

Slides and Handouts


  • create an account on
  • set Naperville as your home region
  • join the region
  • go into the forums, sign up for the kick-off potluck (Oct 25th)
  • word tracker on (you can update online)
  • helpful forums at


  • It is a challenge
  • It has rules (easier to do a hard thing when there are rules and a deadline)
  • You might want to finish your novel and get it over
  • You might want to be a novel
  • You might want to be a person who rights regularly
  • Figure out your reason why you're doing this
    • If you want to do this in a long term basis, you want to structure it so you don't burn out by the end of November

mise en place

  • A cooking term: setting things out ahead of time before you get going
  • You don't want to be in the middle of something and have to stop because you can't remember something. Prepare ahead of time as much as possible. Avoid personal emergencies

Standback--I'm going to try science

  • Taste test for three groups of college students
  • One group: in by themselves
  • Another group: radishes and cookies (don't touch)
  • Another group: radishes (don't touch) and cookies
  • Impossible problem. Cookies, nothing: 20 minutes; radishes: 8 minutes
  • ego depletion - level of will power
  • You only have so much of it at one time; when you are exhausted from doing something you don't want to do (not eating cookies), it's harder to do other things
  • What you want to do: as much as you can to restore your level of will power by not exhausting it on things you don't have to do.
  • Avoid/lessen:
    • work
    • food: avoid extra cooking thinking (the exhausting part)
  • Distractions != work (not everything gets in the way of working)
    • gives you time to think
    • do low level physical things that don't require you to think
    • get rid of things that put a strain on your frontal cortex
    • repetitive is good
  • Ideas
    • fry up ground turkey; freeze it for meals ahead of time
    • think about Thanksgiving
    • make a checklist of what you need to bring with you (things you need to remember)
    • don't volunteer to host Thanksgiving dinner while trying to write your novel
    • Weekly planner
    • Dictation tools
    • Evernote has speach to text built-in
    • November: 1667 every day (ideal daily goal)
      • block out what works and when write-ins occur; and when you have less energy (avoid)
      • then when you fall behind you have things to look forward to - catch-up days


  • Awesome! See if they work for you.
  • Can be a huge start
  • word wars (you can compete with other people)
  • frequently prizes are available
  • fewer distractions
  • public space -- you want to look like an industrious writer

Know your limits

  • Don't let NaNo completely eat your life!
  • Don't let it burn you out. Take a day to recover.


  • If you don't like to outline, take a nap at this point ;-)
  • What does a 50K word novel look like? Anything above 70K or less than 115K (sweet spot is 90K) is the average adult fiction novel.
  • 50K range: ~200 pages; Hitchhiker's GUide to the Galaxy - more restricted canvas; fewer characters and plot lines - how many storylines you can get in
    • trim down your novel for November; make notes as you go along
  • write a novel, not just 50K words
  • Neil Gaiman: "Whatever it takes to finish things, finish. You will learn more from a glorious failure than you ever will from something you never finished." (don't end up like Stephen King) - plan to write an entire story, even if you have to leave out chunks along the way. Get the whole experience.

Your novel map

  • Know where you want to go.
  • Do as much or as little as you want.
  • Create a story bible as you go along
  • FIRST: hold onto the idea. Note to yourself -- this is what you want to keep. Remind yourself why you are doing this, why you're so excited about the project.
  • Implications to the idea: world, plot, character. You can start with character sketches: flesh out the characters--where they came from. What is the world like, why is it interesting to me? What does that imply about this. E.g., two characters who are detectives but with different attitudes about their jobs--> buddy cop story. You need characters; you shouldn't stop with the idea or environment.
  • Expand from there; every idea implies another idea. E.g., cops in a fantasy world. Why do they have a police force in a swords and sorcery world? They had something like this in ancient Irish culture. Things will branch and keep going. Really good ideas will do a lot of generation on its own. Hard part is writing things down.
  • Map: 4 sheets of paper for a three act structure; most of your action happens in the second act. Use resume paper (nice and heavy; feels special--you want to keep it with you). Have a lot of post-it notes (teeny ones). Tammy More has a blog where she talked abou this method of planning.
    • one for first act, two for second act, one for third
    • post-its are for major plot points in the story + wordcount targets
    • yellow ones: really vague ideas (I want an action scene; a scene with someone's family) -- put things in roughly the right order
    • other two are divided by characters. Scenes where ... write down every one and put them in the right order. This gives you some direction. Shows you where your gaps are. You can leave it empty for now and fill it in as you go later. Get an idea of where you're going.
  • Sometimes you have to ignore things if you want to get to the end (leave just notes assuming you've written things)
  • Jim Macdonald's permission to write badly - no one cares if you write a bad first draft.

Making your wordcount

  • When your preparations are finished and it is November, you are focusing on writing 1667 words per day.
  • Figure out how long it takes you to write that much.
  • Most people can type faster than they can write.
  • Sometimes it depends on the day.
  • Everyone has a pace; figure how to pace yourself through November.
  • Write 500 words today - backstory for your novel. Do this every day for a week; this will give you a pretty good idea of how long you need; and you'll need three times that every day for NaNo.
  • Squeeze in your writing planning whenever you can.
  • Sometimes it goes quickly.
  • Tricks (picked up through NaNo forums--communal pool of guilt): Write the same number of words as there are comments in the thread; take a wordcount and leave a wordcount, these are a little easier than staring at the screen.
  • Post-Halloween sales: one candy corn every 100 words.
  • Word wars are very useful. Chat room
  • Official NaNo twitter runs word wars.

December 1st

  • If you want to write more and keep going even after NaNo is over, write 250 words on something new (not your novel). Put your novel away and let it age like a cheese. Go do something else. If you want to write regularly, you'll want to write new things constantly. Stretch your brain in a different direction.
  • Pictures of red ink


  • January (when we start up regularly Journey meetings again)
  • Last year we did really great editing group processes Katherine set up (sharing first paragraph on each chapter each month)


  • see only one letter at a time (so you won't edit); then go back and edit that one portion
  • don't worry about punctuation--but this can be costly.
  • Tim - NewMexicoKid - fantasy -
  • Stephanie - Inspector Stevi - time travel novel
  • Mary - TeenWriter - urban fantasy - suburb with an undercurrent of wizardry
  • Catherine - Cee-Bee - Fantasy or SF? - just have the idea at this point - traveling makes you a better person - pilgrimage as the thing
  • Daniel - DJRM - SF - kitchen sink science fiction - Earth defeated invading aliens, rebuilt, theme: post-war social inequality
  • Elaine Fisher - fishmama - 2nd year - literary, character driven - murder mystery (too much edge for a cozy mystery) - was in France this past June - Burgandy in France - chateau in France - travel agent with photography club - a family is in the wine business (wine festival in Bone (sp?))
  • Avril (sp?) - painting lessons - an art league in a suburban area of Chicago - murder mystery - a lot of characters in it; haven't gotten very far, hoping it will come together. Have started describing the characters.
  • Brian Cable - cableshaft - usually write very humorous stories; this year, just a germ of an idea: focus on visual stuff. a planet of the gods/titans (humans can't see titans but encounter the effects); then one person sees past the veil and decides to save the planet. Was introduced to the game Diplomacy (negotiations and treachery)
  • Kevin Taylor - kevintaylor - tried NaNo in 2010 but only wrote 6K words. Have more free time now and will give it naother shot. A world I've been thinking about for 6 months: post-apocalyptic Earth after a nuclear holocaust. But cities were destroyed by very powerful magic, not nuclear war. About a family trying to rebuild that learns how the world was destroyed.
  • Dan - Phoenix Autumn - first NaNo: first novel writing. Sci-Fi/Fantasy hybrid: 100 years in the future iwth a dystopian oppressive government. Transport the country to a Fantasy realm: futuristic science technology meets the fantasy elves and magic.
  • Xanthir (sp?) SilverMaple - Camp NaNo - awesome world but one character; loved characters but no plot; now have characters I like + a world. Med student (murder mystery) with numbers and tatoos.
  • Brian - cubfanbrian - second NaNo - looking for first victory. Superhero genre. Lifelong friends on the low end of the social spectrum come into super powers. Each takes a different approach--one wants to cure what he sees as the world's ills; the other takes a more humble approach.
  • Greg - never done this before - have a bunch of plots in his head. Relationship: two main characters are YA in a fantasy world who have to rely on each other to survive. One is an apprentice castle builder; there is a magical tree that provides them with food and a way to live. Seeing that relationship build not only between the two characters and in the building of the castle and the health of the tree. The Fantasy part: not revealed right away: but at night they take turns protecting what they've built. One of the things they protect (castle/tree) is from each other--they'll turn into monsters at different times. Was a camp counselor for five years; one story/moral plots we told: there are two wolves inside of you: which one you become depends on which one you feed.
  • Pam - eyewrite - 2010, 2011 - finished; took two years off, am back; ghost story/women's fiction, runaway
  • Dave Kent davekent1 - first novel, learning a lot; have three chapters written; published in historical non-fiction: Images of Aviation: Midwest Airport - ten years of writing. A real researcher; a copywriter by trade. Have four daughters; one is an assistant director in Westmont Public Library. Have three chapters: dystopian atmosphere in the here and now based on current events -- deals with a lot of things developing right now (like working with the mind); a love story at the base. Core of dedicated people, including two sisters who rose up in the financial world in Chicago. These two girls notice the dollar is beginning to crumble; they start realizing there is a supernatural component/spiritual side to the story. Thriller. World begins to slowly change; magic is given to people. Started as a screenplay.
  • Anna - fredandginger 35 - first year doing nano - three kids (girl, brother, best friend) thrown into underground resistance, who have to overcome a mysterious lady who always wears green. Main character can hear the film score of the universe; she can help overcome the lady in green.
  • Nancy - fancieshmancie - fourth year - adult fiction - nationwide talent search for a reality dance show
  • Writing a script for a video series as part of a psychological horror - a guy trapped in his room; finds a portal takes him to other world; very confined space. Has to discover why he is trapped.
  • Cheryl - Luke1133 - Have done this a bunch of times, never won. Mystery with SF twist
  • Todd - writertodd07 - third NaNoWriMo; first two was able to complete and win. This one, struggling with the story. Slowly it is coming together; mostly it is a theme: permanence and impermanence (real estate vs. relationships). From a woman's perspective: asking: does he love me (throughout her whole life).
  • Paige - PBJ63010 - will be out of town 13 days, conference in Vegas/DC for Veteran's day. Novel this year is very loosely based on study abroad experience 14 years ago. Self discovery while away; relationship issues
  • Sandy : tink5050, romance generally but want to write a first person urban fantasy - YA, urban fantasy, no details yet.
  • Katherine (KatherineWriting) - co-ML - if you want to get motivated, join the NaNo Faces chart. Can be very motivated. Can challenge the person just above you on the chart. Yes, if: like to read multi-viewpoint third person characters. You should write things you like to read.
  • Jason - alveron - switching hobbies from MMOs to writing - Fantasy world with modern technologies (laptops with antivirus and anticurse software). Corporate knight has to investigate an acquisition by his company. Wrote a SF story and submitted for WindyCon. Touch on ideas of corporate responsibility and power.
  • Patrick - PJJwalton on the forums - YA fantasy - Goblins have been given a bad rap; to avoid being cliche, flipping the genre on its head. Central characters are goblins--they are the good guys. They weren't always goblins, they were something else. A group of youthful goblins go on a quest; plot twist: they have a chance to reverse the curse. If you could change yourself into something else, would you? Should you?
  • Jen - Jen.E.Moore - SF novel set on a generation ship: colonists frozen. Captain and her two daughters and the conflict as they approach the planet where they won't be in charge anymore. Stewards of Gondor in space.

Other Advice

  • NaNo word sprints (lifesaver last year)
  • You will slow down week 2 or week 3; don't get depressed--it is very possible to come back. Challenge someone. Brian came back three times himself.
  • If you celebrate Thansgiving, tell yourself that the end is November 25th. Thanksgiving is very late this year.
  • Skip over the scenes you like (the gold coins in your path, the scenes you look forward to writing); do the hard stuff in November.
  • If you are finding you've hit a brick wall, end the chapter and keep writing.
  • Type out stream of consciousness.
  • Stuck in a complicated fight scene? Do things to picture a physical scene--step it out.
  • Start writing stuff with anger, then go on; don't conclude things.
  • End in the middle of a sentence; then you know hwere you will start.
  • Physically retype the last few paragraphs before starting--you don't think about how it has to be worded--get your brain in the right mindset.
  • turn the radio off when driving and keep notes.
  • Start with what you know at the beginning of the month (like with the epilogue)
  • Just get going in the month
  • Friday night #writeclub every half hour
  • There is a forum that comes up with motivational tricks; e.g., you can stay in bed until you stop writing 1000 words in an hour.


  • Microsoft Office 2010
  • Scrivener - easy to compile things for Kindle
  • google docs
  • vim + markdown
  • handwriting
  • when you type it, it helps with editing
  • can't handwrite faster than I can think
  • estimate the wordcount (usually 250 words per page)

Word wars

  • in person or online
  • 13 or 17 minutes
  • no talking, just writing as fast as you can
  • competing with everyone else in the room
  • You teach yourself you can write a lot in a short period of time
  • you tap a part of your creativity that wasn't there
  • you don't have to be on time

5 hours for 10K words challenge

  • Katherine's daughter Sabrina did this with Katherine


  • Q: Start with a theme or motivational message?
  • maybe not at the start
  • as you write it, one emerges
  • Journey has a writing voice workshop
  • Good to start with a goal for your scene: your character should want something