4 Steps to Prep for NaNoWriMo

You Need Your Novel!

From November 1st to 30th every year, authors all over the world embark on a noble quest; to write an entire novel, 50,000 words to be exact, in thirty days.  Yikes.  And this year I’ve decided to join their ranks. Double yikes.
Seriously though, I am excited about it, and also a little scared.  I’ve written novels before (I’ve got two I’ll be publishing in January, yay!), but I sure did take my sweet time writing them.  I dragged my feet with edits, worked on other projects, paid my bills, you know, life stuff.  And I felt like a slacker the entire time.  I would read articles about authors who publish multiple books a year and I’d think to myself “I’ve got lots of ideas, why aren’t I writing more?” and then another part of me would answer “Discipline, darling, discipline.”  Ah yes, discipline, the ultimate foe.  If you want to write more, you have to write more.  Triple yikes.
Enter NaNoWriMo; the ultimate discipline showdown.
In order to slay this particular dragon one must be prepared.  So here’s what I’m doing to get ready for November 1st:

1.    I signed up.
Yes, a simple task, but an important one.  Go to Nanowrimo.org and get yourself a profile.  We can be buddies, I’m PhoenixHive.  There are lots of great resources, groups and forums.  I’m still exploring.

2.    Outline!  Outline!  Outline!
I want to know where my book is going or at least where I’d like it go, so I can just power up and write.  I’m also pushing myself outside my usual genre, fantasy, and trying my hand at a thriller.  So I want to know ahead of time where the holes are in my plot and plug ‘em.  I’m also hoping to avoid the dreaded “Oh, look! I’ve written myself into a corner,” syndrome.

3.    Research
I am spending the remaining days of October watching scary movies (because Halloween) and researching everything that could possibly come up in my story so I know the world inside and out.

4.    Prioritizing
Writing a 50,000 word draft in thirty days is no small undertaking.  Some things will have to be put aside to get it done.  I’m looking ahead in my schedule and planning my writing pockets around the things that just can’t be set aside, and doing stuff now that can’t wait until December.

Come November 1st I’ll be sitting in the cool blue glow of my computer screen and writing my guts out.  Will you be joining me?

Jenny and Samantha 

“Hurry up, stay close.”Jenny was hurrying, but Samantha’s legs were much longer than hers and the lamp Samantha carried was swinging back and forth, messing with Jenny’s equilibrium.

“Can’t you hold that still?”

“If I wanted to burn my hand, yes.”

Jenny grunted as she struggled to keep up with Samantha’s leggy strides.

“We’re almost there.”

Jenny knew better than to ask where ‘there’ was, Samantha wouldn’t tell her. The privilege of being the oldest; you always got to be in charge. But the passageway was narrow and the damp stone that engulfed them made her feel queasy. Jenny couldn’t wait to be out in the fresh air again. The lamp continued to swing and the light warped around her. Jenny swallowed a huge amount of saliva that had suddenly formed in her mouth and tried to focus on her sister’s head as she walked. But Samantha had her hair in a high ponytail that day and the bouncing of her sister’s long red curls in the changing light did nothing the help the churning in Jenny’s stomach.

“Just around this corner.”

Samantha’s voice sounded funny, but Jenny was still gulping back saliva and didn’t think opening her mouth to ask if Samantha was okay was a good idea. Her sister moved around a bend in the passage and the lamp swung hard, blinding Jenny. Stars flashed before her eyes as Jenny struggled forward, certain that any minute now she was going to puke. She moved around the bend and saw Samantha standing a few feet away in large cave, totally still. The lamp had stopped moving and Jenny breathed a sigh of relief as her stomach settled, the fear of impending vomit gone. Samantha seemed to be looking at something on the floor in front of her. Jenny didn’t move from the passage. There was something about how her sister was standing that made Jenny stay right where she was.

“What are you looking at?”

“What I wanted to show you.” Samantha said in that same strange voice. “I made you something.”

“Are you okay?” Jenny asked.

“Maybe.” Samantha replied.

“Maybe? Sam, you’re scaring me.”

“Don’t be scared. Come and look.”

Everything in Jenny screamed at her to leave, to turn around and run back down the passage, out through the forest and back to the main road. But Samantha was the oldest and she was in charge. Jenny stepped into the cave, her sneakers made soft squeaks on the hard stone. As Jenny drew close, Samantha spun on her heel, blocking Jenny’s view of whatever was behind her.

“Are you ready, Jenny?”

Samantha looked sweaty and pale, Jenny could see that even in the dim light of the cave, Samantha’s pupils were tiny black dots.

“Are you okay, Sam?” Samantha ignored the question.

“Are you ready, Jenny?” Samantha’s upper lip began to twitch.

“Sam, you’re really scaring me!” Tears streamed down Jenny’s face.

“Are you ready, Jenny!” Samantha shouted, her voice echoed in the stone room and Jenny slapped her hands over her ears.

“Yes!” Jenny cried.

“Good,” Samantha said, her voice now calm but still strange. “Then look.”

Samantha stepped aside.

A Drop of Blood

God, this was getting too easy, Jared said to himself.  He slipped the wallet into his pocket and walked quickly, but not too quickly, out of the subway station.  When he got home he pulled out his haul for the day and began to riffle through; cash in one pile, credit cards another, IDs and finally trash for all the photos and keepsakes these idiots seemed to insist on cramming in their wallets.  He got to the wallet he’d pilfered at the subway station.  It was high quality leather, black and scaly.  Hmm, Jared mused, maybe this is worth something.  He opened the wallet, pulled out the contents and spread it on the table.  Cash, check, a lot of cash, nice.  Credit cards, check, Amex Platinum, excellent.  Hey, maybe he could take the rest of the week off.  He put the Amex in his pocket.  There was very little in the way of keepsakes in this wallet, other than the cash and the credit card, there was a single piece of brown paper folded into a tiny square.  Jared was going to throw it in the trash, but something stopped him.  It could be the pin number for the card, he thought to himself, sometimes the old guys had to write them down.  He unfolded the paper, it was covered in elaborate symbols and swirly writing.  In the center was a series of interlocking triangles.  Jared’s left eye started to water.  He traced his finger over the triangles.  His nose started to bleed.  A drop of blood fell onto the paper.  Pain shot through Jared’s left eye as the front door of his apartment burst open.


The snow was fresh and crisp under Malcolm’s feet and he reveled in the crunching sound it made as his boots descended.  It was deep, almost to his knees, and the journey would take many hours, but he had been entrusted with a very important task and would not be deterred.  Mother was counting on him.  He continued forward, using one mitten covered hand to shield his eyes from the bright sun.  The field was empty and silent except for his clomping and although it was high noon, Malcolm felt uneasy.  He stopped to take a drink of cocoa from the flask his mother had given him.  It was warm and sweet, and if he hadn’t glanced back it would have comforted him.  But he did look back.  There in the snow, a few paces behind his own ragged boot prints, were the unmistakable imprints of small bare feet.  The flask slipped from Malcolm’s hand and as he struggled to breathe, the foot prints moved towards him.

These two legged creatures…

The noise of the machines grew louder.  He had to hurry.  He strained with effort as he pulled his roots back through the earth they had fought so hard to penetrate.  If he wasn’t clear of the valley by the time they arrived he would have no choice but to freeze in place.  Then he would most certainly be cut down.  Damn these two legged creatures, he said to himself, who are they to cast me out?  In the near distance a machine screamed.  He thought of his cousins to the west who had not had time to run.  He redoubled his efforts.  He would not be cut down in his prime.

Boar Bristles and Melancholy Songs

The old woman loved to brush her charge’s hair, loved to run her hands through the thick strands after the boar bristle brush had done its job.  And the girl had the most beautiful voice, high and light like a bird.  She loved the little melancholy songs the girl would sing as she brushed.  In her mind’s eye the hair was golden blonde and streaked with sunlight.  The old woman sighed, perhaps one day the Queen would restore her sight and set her little bird free.

Bone Magic

The bone was exposed.  She had irrigated the wound and now Cali could clearly see the fine crack that threatened to split the femur.  She closed her eyes and began to chant quietly under her breath.  The words ran into each other forming an indiscernible braid of magic and sound.  With her eyes still closed, Cali moved her hand towards the wound.  The tips of her fingers brushed the wet flesh that had been pealed back to reveal the break.  Using the roll of flesh as a guide, she slid her fingers deeper into the wound until they touched bone.  Cali continued to chant, her words now thrumming above the din of the whimpering man who lay before her.  Driven by her sound, the power in her heart moved down her arm and through her fingers searching for the fissure.  As the cries of healer and patient reached a fevered pitch, Cali’s power crested and the crack was healed.  Silence filled the room.  Cali pulled back her hand and looked at the reformed bone.   Now came the sewing.

Your Own Volition

“Can’t you just do it?”

“No, you must do it of your own volition.”

“Will it hurt?”


“A lot?”

“Yes.  If you have changed your mind…”

“No! No, I want to do it.  I do.  I just need a moment.”

“You have had your moment.  There are others who will take your spot, make your choice.  Now.”

“Okay, I’ll do it.”

The Mirror

As she pulled the sheet away, light glinted off the mirror, striking Jane in the eye; her little hand shot up and rubbed at it.  “That will not help.”  Jane dropped her hand and looked right and left in the dim attic light.  There was no one around; Ben had not snuck up on her.  She stepped up to the glass; blue eyes looked back, her eyes.  The mirror was old, the paint was peeling from its wooden frame and the glass held a yellow cast.  It was almost dark in the attic and more silent than church.  Jane didn’t know where the light had come from, or the voice.  With a shiver, she picked up the sheet and covered the mirror.

Inspiring Women

Looking for some inspiration? Some words of wisdom?  Here are 21 such quotes!  I like reading articles like this.  Not only do they inspire me personally, they give me insight into the minds of other women, which helps me write characters that are more fully formed, more real.

21 Quotes On Womanhood

How do you research your characters?