NaNo 2019 Prep: Choosing a Project

“Write what you know” is advice as old as time, and for NaNo 2019 – National Novel Writing Month 2019, that is – I’m going to follow it. My NaNo 2019 prep starts with choosing a project.

  • For this article, I’m going to tell you about the project I’ve chosen, and from time to time I’ll drop in some prep tips and lessons learned! They’ll be marked with the blue check.

I need a change of pace from The Amundsen Effect, the sprawling 120 000 word eco-thriller I’ve worked on for the past couple of years. I can’t think of anything that’s quite as much a change of pace from the heady, tense, horror-tinged and extensively researched novel as the project I have chosen from this year.

  • NaNo 2019 Prep Tip: Writing 50k words in a month is tough. If you want to maximize your chances of success, pick a project you’re excited about, not one you’re begrudgingly writing.

This year, I’m diving into middle-grade fantasy with the first two volumes in a series we’re calling The Fairy Forest.

NaNo 2019 - The Fairy Forest
Part of my brainstorming process is doing art. This – including the fairy script, which I’m told is called Faeora – helped me workshop the tone of the series and get my head around the idea that I’m writing fantasy.
  • NaNo 2019 Prep Tip: Whatever your process is for brainstorming, follow it. Don’t fight your instincts just to take advice from listicles or “best practices.” There’s no right way to come up with ideas.

I say “we” because this is very much a family affair this time around. The Fairy Forest is ultimately a story that we’ve been telling for years, in small snippets. When the tooth fairy started visiting Sprints, our eldest, she would leave little notes, letting them know that she was keeping an eye on them and was proud of how they were growing up.

Eventually, when Whistler also started losing teeth, we learned that “Tooth Fairy” was a job title, not just one person. Whistler’s tooth fairy is named Annette. When she started coming to collect lost teeth at our house, she was just a cadet, and a bit of a goofball. Sprints’ tooth fairy, it turns out, is named Susan. She’s a seasoned Tooth Fairy trainer and is invested in Sprints’ life in an almost motherly way. Annette is more like a bubbly pen pal who likes to tell Whistler stories about her friends’ latest shenanigans.

  • NaNo 2019 Prep Tip: Start from a couple of core characters and build out from there. Get their stories figures out and add characters as needed. The story will tell you who you need to include to tell it.

Over the years, we learned about the world of the Fairy Forest. We learned that tooth fairies collect the raw material for much of the Forest’s magic, that there are fairies who look after gardens, others who find lost things, others still who fix things that are broken. There are fairies who shepherd the seasons through their changes and those who defend the Forest and nature everywhere. There are deep archives going back millennia and magic portals and a long, dark history. And there’s an existential threat to the fairies that everyone thought was banished forever. It’s fun and light but also dramatic and high-stakes.

  • NaNo2019 Prep Tip: You can probably tell that we’ve talked about this a bunch. Consider selecting an idea that you’ve workshopped in the past that you’re familiar enough with to dive into on day 1. Having a clear starting point and a clear central vision of the project is often more useful than a meticulous outline with a less well-formed concept.

So yes. This year, I’m writing what I know, and I’m excited about it. The best thing is, if ever I encounter a thing I don’t know, I can easily learn just by kicking ideas around with the family. It’s incredible how much more we’ve come up with just by playing with ideas in the car or while cooking.

  • NaNo 2019 Prep Tip: Engage the brain trust! Find someone to bounce ideas off of. Ideas are easier to build on if you practice different ways to articulate them. You’re more likely to be able to write 50 000 words on a topic if you can actually explain it out loud.

You can follow my progress this NaNo by adding me on the NaNoWriMo site or by checking out my own tracking page here!

NaNo 2019 Prep Tips In Summary: Choosing a Project

  • Writing 50k words in a month is tough. If you want to maximize your chances of success, pick a project you’re excited about, not one you’re begrudgingly writing.
  • Whatever your process is for brainstorming, follow it. Don’t fight your instincts just to take advice from listicles or “best practices.” There’s no right way to come up with ideas.
  • Start from a couple of core characters and build out from there. Get their stories figures out and add characters as needed. The story will tell you who you need to include to tell it.
  • Consider an idea that you’ve workshopped in the past that you’re familiar enough with to dive into on day 1. Having a clear starting point and a clear central vision of the project is often more useful than a meticulous outline with a less well-formed concept.
  • Engage the brain trust! Find someone to bounce ideas off of. Ideas are easier to build on if you practice different ways to articulate them. You’re more likely to be able to write 50 000 words on a topic if you can actually explain it out loud.

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