So, I found this inside my mailbox today:
And for the first time since the long and arduous second week of October started, I was reminded that I am going to participate in NaNoWriMo 2017.
Now, of course it wasn’t like I suddenly woke up one day and forgot such an important event. After all, I did make an announcement of my participation in a previous blog post. And it wasn’t like I completely did nothing in preparation. I have a legit list of all the things I need to prepare in Preptober, including purchasing a dedicated writer’s notebook for myself—which I did last week.
But let’s face it: life gets in the way.
Whether it is your day job or an exam coming up in school, life always seems so busy in the months leading up to November.
Or… is it?
I won’t try to make any excuses here. I am a little bit behind in terms of planning for my NaNoWriMo novel. I was supposed to have a clear idea on what I would like to write by the end of week 2, so I can start the outlining process in week 3. What I have now, however, are only some scattered facts about my upcoming project—some ideas for the characters, some ideas for the plot, but nothing even remotely nearing a structured story plan.
For the past week, life had been rather hard for me. My demanding day job took so much out from me, that I could barely make some time for my writings. Of course, I still bring my trusty Midori Style Traveler’s / Writer’s Notebook with me. But I attended so many meetings and appointments, I even didn’t have time to write in my Hobonichi Techo 2017 daily journal.
Of course, I still try to squeeze a little time to at least think about my upcoming project. But is it enough…?
Not to mention, I had been rather busy packing + shipping the orders I received for a story booklet I recently released, “Maybe Everything”. While I am overjoyed to see it being so well-received by the public (as of today, the second batch is almost sold out), I do get a bit overwhelmed.
So how do I get back on track?
There is no easy way to answer this. In fact, I wouldn’t dare say I know what is the best way to catch up on your planning and Preptober. But I want to share what I do with my planning weeks. And while what I do might not work for you, I hope that you can get some inspiration—or motivation—to press on with Preptober despite the overwhelming odds.
Let’s start from the basics: I grabbed my writer’s notebook and a good quality pen, and then started getting everything I have in mind for the upcoming project written:
I made a new section on the notebook called “BRAIN DUMP“, and then started writing bits and pieces I already know about the project. This includes the genre of the book, the overall feel that I’d like to convey, and some ideas about how the characters would behave and look like.
I have always had trouble trying to portray my characters’ physical appearances in the past, so I took a mental note this year and pre-determined how they would look like using a very handy character generator I found on the internet. While this method works for me, you can also just pick a Hollywood star and pretend like he/she would be the main characters of your new project,
although I find casting real people as my characters tend to distort my view of their personalities.
Now I’m pretty sure you would have some trouble reading my tiny handwriting above. But if you managed to read it, then you might be wondering on my choice of genre this year.
Yes, I am planning to write a mystery novel this year. And while I have never ever attempted to write one in my life before, I thought that it would be a nice experiment to have during the upcoming month of literary abandon.
I know this is a bold decision, since neither my debut novel, 3(Tiga), or my recently released story booklet had anything similar to mystery in its genre. I have had written romance novels, fantasy novels, even horror short stories on occasion, but never mystery.
Why, you might ask?
It’s because while I enjoy the genre in other medium (TV series, movies, Japanese manga), I have yet to find a novel in mystery genre that really compels me.
Also, I am currently reading Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami, which is a fantastic book by itself.
I know I should probably read a mystery book or two before NaNoWriMo begins, but I’m the type of reader who has to finish one book first before moving to the next. And if you haven’t taken the hint from the intro—I have been so busy this week that I had, of course, also neglected my readings.
I still don’t have an outline yet, because I’m currently brainstorming the story premise. Plus, writing a mystery novel is a whole new thing for me, so I am also doing some research on top of the normal brainstorm + outlining process. And for every single findings I get, I would write them down on my writer’s notebook.
This is just between you and me, but writing things down on paper does make you memorize them easier. It is scientifically proven.
And although this means my writer’s notebook would be full of scribbles and messy note-taking here and there, that’s all good because at the end of the day, I’d get all the things I need written on a single place. Plus, it’s a bonus that the “single place” happens to fit into my bag!
Okay so you’ve started planning, but you’re still behind, right?
Yes, of course! Planning is only step one. I won’t get anywhere unless I ensure the same thing won’t happen to me again in the following week. Especially since it would be the 3rd week of October soon, which means NaNoWriMo is just around the corner.
For starters, I took some time to recollect my thought and try to define every single thing that hindered my writing process this week:
- Twelve external meetings in a week, which means I have to get out of the office to visit a client’s office / a cafe in the vicinity.
- Less time to find a place for lunch. Due to the meetings above, I’d have to quickly pick a restaurant to grab a quick lunch—or even a takeaway—in order to be on time for the next meeting.
It doesn’t help that I’m very indecisive when it comes to choosing a place to eat.
- Two seminars, scheduled outside office hours.
- Packing and shipping my story booklet to lovely readers.
I know I probably couldn’t do anything about number 1. I’ve taken a glance into my schedule next week, and I shudder when I think about all the upcoming meetings and appointments with clients. But hey, it’s part of my day job, so no use whining about it on my blog, right?
Of course I can whine all I want on my blog. Screw those meetings, I need my writing time back! 🙂
I could, however, do something about number 2 – 5.
Efficiently deciding where to have lunch is the key to a happy tummy. Less time thinking = more time eating = spare time writing!
Or at least that’s the theory.
I have always been very indecisive when it comes to picking a restaurant to eat at. I could mull over the options for at least half an hour before finally deciding to go wherever people haven’t swarmed in yet. This of course takes away precious time I could have used to eat. And if I could finish eating faster, perhaps I wouldn’t need to rush to the next appointment with client—I could use the spare time jotting down some planning on my writer’s notebook.
Lucky that I have the best thing possible in the world to solve this problem: the Meal Decider Dice I received from Hobonichi Store after purchasing my 2018 planner the other day.
So there goes my meal deciding problem. Next time I won’t be running late for the next meeting because I took so much time to eat lunch—I could use the spare time writing in my client office’s waiting lounge.
Taking it easy on offline seminars.
Seminars are good—especially if they’re about writing. I have been attending seminars related to my field of work, also some offline classes on creative writings and building an author platform. I also recently took a class on building a digital online presence, which all sound very important to know about in this modern age.
And they kinda are.
But do I really have to take the classes, offline?
I don’t think so.
So I was really delighted when I stumbled upon Skillshare. If you don’t know already, they’re basically a website that hosts hundreds and thousands of online classes videos recorded by professionals. I already browsed their extensive selections of classes, and I found most of the classes I need in a digital format.
What does this mean to my writing process? This means, that instead of attending a 2 hours class offline, I could just plug my earphone every day during my commute back home—which takes roughly 2 hours anyway—to “attend” these online classes.
Granted, there are several advantages in attending the classes online, such as networking, and getting a more robust Q&A session. But the pros of taking online classes outweighs taking offline classes for me this month. Especially since this means I would not be wasting any more time than I need to.
Offline classes are fun, too. But they can wait until after NaNoWriMo.
Your family is your best reinforcement & support
As I mentioned, I am very happy to see all the purchases of “Maybe Everything”. But while the increase in sales made me happy beyond compare, it also means I have to pack and ship them away every day. Which is not bad by itself, but considering I also have a very inhumanely productive meetings schedule, doing everything by myself is just not feasible anymore.
Which is why I turned to my family, who happily agreed to lend a hand.
Managing payment is hard, which is why I used Tokopedia as my main selling platform for the time being. But I also noticed several of you who are not comfortable using Tokopedia as a transaction platform. Some reached out to me and asked if they could just transfer to my bank account directly—and in normal circumstances, of course they can.
But frankly speaking, confirming payments is beyond me right now. Which is why I turned to my mother, who happily lent her bank account and helped me verifying each transaction. She is now also the person in charge of packing and sending the packages through mail service after I sign and write a message on each copy to readers.
It is not perfect, but it sounds like a plan—at least until the end of Week 3
I know things won’t go as smoothly as I had planned. Things that could go wrong will go wrong—according to Murphy’s Law. I am certainly not looking forward to the wrongs, but I think I have done everything I could to anticipate the bad things.
Meetings will still happen. Handy tool to decide lunch. No more offline classes. Help with packing and shipment. Now I just need my plot to write itself and my life would be perfect.
I will focus on plotting this week, and perhaps do some research on mystery as a genre itself. NaNoWriMo has always been about experiments, so I am definitely looking forward to what I could produce this year, after several years of not being productive. The draft of my mystery novel would most likely be rubbish, but so will the draft of any book written within 30 days.
Fingers crossed, and let’s see if I could finish the outline by the start of October Week 4. Around that time, I would probably start assembling my NaNoWriMo Survival Kit—of which I would be posting on this blog soon; probably next Saturday. If you’re interested in seeing my writing gears and essentials, please feel free to follow my blog or any of my social media (Twitter, Instagram) to keep updated.
I know I rambled too much about my writing process (or the lack thereof—), but I hope what I shared in this post could inspire you to keep pressing on. I know it’s hard, but Preptober is not over yet. If you’re planning on participating in NaNoWriMo this year, know that we are all in this together. Do let me know about your writing process in the comment section below—if you’re having trouble like me, or even if you breezed through planning like a pro. I’d love to hear about them!
Cheers, and good luck!