31 October 2016 - 6:00 pm

NaNoWriMo 2016: Digital Goodie Bag

This year, as part of my usual ‘let’s do something new for this year’s NaNoWriMo’ campaign, I decided to create a Digital Goodie Bag.

I came across the idea on another region’s forum on the NaNoWriMo site when I happened to be in the middle of creating the sheets for the Pre-NaNoWriMo Planning Day. It resonated with me because I’m often thinking about how to help those who can’t make it to our in-person events, and how the resources can be shared for maximum awesome (this is why the Writers’ Asylum challenges always go up on this blog).

It’s a great idea and way to share resources, and so simple: create a folder in a shared location like Google Drive, fill it with goodies, and share the link to that folder with everyone. People can then download whichever documents they want, or grab the zip file to get the whole lot at once.

Once I’d latched onto that idea, I began thinking about all the handy things that could go in such a ‘goodie bag’.

Note: all of the following were created by me, unless otherwise noted.

Planning Resources

This all started because I wanted a way to provide the planning resources to those who couldn’t make it to the in-person meetup. So, naturally, I included all of the sheets I put together.

There are sheets for:

  • Characters. For building major characters, as it’s very detailed. This is based on old RP sheets I used to use, adapted and developed over many years and different applications to fiction writing.
  • Plotting. For the overall plot of your novel.
  • Scenes. For outlining specific scenes.
  • Scene settings. For designing specific locations where scenes might be set.
  • World setting. For building your story’s world.
  • The Snowflake Method. I paraphrased the original method (mostly to boil it down so it would fit on just one page).

To make them easy to access, I prefixed all of the filenames with ‘Planning’, and provided both RTF and Word versions of the files intended to be filled in.

Initially, I only put up the RTF versions, but apparently they are not as universal as I had hoped. So, I added the Word versions in the hopes that everyone could get a version they can use.

The sheets are pretty detailed, with guidance about what each section is intended for. The guidance is designed to ask questions and prompt consideration, potentially of elements that the writer might not have considered. Even if some questions may be irrelevant due to the setting or story, hopefully they help by making it a conscious choice to exclude them. They are not intended to be prescriptive, and they are not checklists. It’s all about thinking through different elements and angles of whatever it is you’re planning.

For myself, I seldom use formal versions of these sheets. I don’t do this type of detailed, written-down planning any more. These sheets do reflect the thought processes I go through when I consider something like plot, setting, or character, however; the principles hold true whether you’re a pantser or not.

I hope they inspire good and useful things!

NaNoWriMo-focussed Resources

Some things are very specific to NaNoWriMo use, and only really applicable in that context, while some are of most use within November but can be helpful at other times as well. I hope they’re helpful nonetheless.

To start us off, we’ve got:

  • Calendar of events. Because it might be handy to have something to print out.
  • Tips for increasing your wordcount.* It’s not that we encourage cheating; we facilitate winners.
  • Tips for how to get unstuck.* This is useful anytime, really, though it’s focussed on those working to a very tight timeframe like NaNoWriMo. Great if you hit a wall or any other kind of writer’s block-like barrier.
  • Plot bunny storage. Plot bunnies are those ideas that pop up while you’re working on a project, but don’t fit with what you’re currently doing. You can’t use it, but you don’t want it to escape, so put it into storage (write it down) for future use. Can also be handy outside of NaNo.

Other Handy Stuff

Things that don’t fit into either of those categories include:

  • A quiz for your characters.* This is handy when considering minor characters or simply those you don’t know so well.
  • A scene list This can be used to plan the story, if you’re that kind of planner, or to analyse it afterwards when you’re looking at structure, flow, and pace. (Many writers use this sort of tool when they have a complete novel draft, to help them decide what needs to be done in the next draft to improve the story; that’s why it’s not in the planning section.) Includes some automated aspects to tag scenes for things like POV and importance, because I was having fun in Excel and had to stop myself before I got all carried away. It’s entirely possible that I didn’t stop myself soon enough.

* (Gleaned from other tips sheets that my co-MLs and I have put together over the years.)

That’s what we’ve got in there so far. I’ve had comments that people have found it useful, and I hope you do too, even if you’re not part of NaNoWriMo. Always happy to share.

So click on through to the Goodie Bag and take a look! Any feedback happily received, along with suggestions about other handy things that might be useful. Want to see something in there? Let me know.

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One comment

  1. NaNoWriMo 2016: Decascriptum : : Adventures in Text says:

    […] tried a couple of new things already this year: a Pre-NaNo Planning Day, and a Digital Goodie Bag. Both of them went so amazingly well that I can’t wait to build on them next year. (More on […]

    October 31st, 2016 at 6:29 pm