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Friday, October 23, 2015

NaNoWriMo 2015 prep details

Since there are really a lot of outstanding suggestions on how to prep for NaNoWriMo—including their own outstanding prep page—I thought I'd just share a quick note about my own personal prep work for this year (then, next year, I'll post a similar one in earlier October, and do a "lessons learned" followup).

First, is the software side: since I have my MacBook Air, I don't do a lot of writing on my iPad anymore—that will likely change when Scrivener for iPad is finally released—so I just set up Scrivener for all local editing (i.e., no Simplenote or External Folder Sync setup). I did create the Project file in a subfolder in my Dropbox folder. That way, all changes are synced up to Dropbox auto-magically, and if my MBA were to take a dump or get stolen I could still recover my files.

In addition, since it's not often a good idea to keep all of your eggs in one CloudAge™ Basket (that is, what happens if Dropbox gets cracked? Or if their internal controls are a little lax and their CTO got fired and unleashed a WormOfDoom™ on their server farms? Or Aliens invade from Pentax V? What about the Aliens, man?! ... it will help if you hear Jeff Bridges' voice as Flynn from the original Tron, here), I also whipped up a short Automator application that will copy my NaNoWriMo project from my Dropbox to a backup folder in my Box account. What I did here was open Automator (in the Applications folder, usually), dragged the Files & Folders->Get Specified Finder Items action and clicked "Add" to put my NaNoWriMo file as the input, then dragged the Copy Finder Items action and selected the backup folder location (as noted, on my Box drive). You could substitute a local external drive, a burn folder, or a different service of course; in addition, it would be fairly straightforward to chain another action together, to make multiple backups every time. Since I have a pretty robust backup strategy already in place, I don't necessarily bother with the most paranoid parts of my mind. If you're not comfortable with just one backup, however, modifying this to back up to multiple locations should be pretty easy.

Now, the Scrivener project itself. First, I opted for a "Fiction->Novel (with Parts)" template. When I am writing a fiction piece, I usually choose this as the base because of how I organize—many of you won't do it this way, and that's okay, just know that my brain is weird and this is how I roll. This format makes it easy for me to organize initially.

To start with, I generally begin with a "LOCK" analysis (straight from Write Great Fiction: Plot & Structure by James Scott Bell), and I put each of the major elements Lead, Objective (1), Confrontation (1), Obj(2), Confront(2) etc. in as a "Part" (a.k.a, Folder) at the main level underneath "Manuscript" on the corkboard. I then rename those folders to something more descriptive, and use the heck out of the corkboard's note feature to give a brief description of what should happen inside this folder. Inside them, I put "Chapters", which I also give descriptive names and notes (these example Chapters don't have descriptive names, this is just a sample image). From there I add scenes to get started, and write the scenes as I go. Sometimes, I find I need additional items—maybe there are multiple Confrontations—and I can just drop them right in, add chapters & scenes ad hoc, and keep on keeping on. As I go along, I modify the structure based on how the story develops, adding or deleting things as needed.

Second, the mental side: I found a free online Nov 2015 month I could fit on a page, and made a Word Count calendar and printed it out. It hangs up on the wall next to my work space in my office, and I have printed on it how many total words should be written by each day of the month. Every day, before I shut down my computer and get ready to sleep, I will write down the number of words written that day, as well as the overall word count, and can see at a glance every second I'm in the office how I'm doing. My closest friends and family are aware not to bother me while I'm writing, and in particular that I need to crank during November, so that will help as well. There are still a few days left, so I will probably tweak the structure of the novel and work on character and setting background, but I think at this point I'm doing alright for prep!

So, for NaNoWriMo 2015, I have pre-organized the basic plot outline for my novel with Parts, Chapters, and Scenes. Now, all I have to do is wake up sometime on 01 NOV 2015 and start writing the heck out of the Next Great American Thriller Novel™.

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