NaNoWriMo – Topics Spring Board & Best Practices

I’m writing this post four days late, and perhaps you yourself are late in the race or are stuck in a ditch with your writing. Never fear, we are in good company, and November is far from being over.

NaNoWriMo is an incredible call to action for all writers out there, especially for those of us who are distracted from writing, stuck in a writer’s block, or simply lapsed from the practice. If you haven’t touched your pen & pad or keyboard in some time, join the fight and dedicate at least an hour every day to just writing!

Easier said than done, right?

Hopefully what this post offers is some means for you to get your muse and writing vigor off the ground as well as provides a spring board of ideas. I’ll do my best to keep this brief because I don’t want to take up too much of your writing time with reading!

Good strength and happy writing!

Best Practices-making the most of this month

  1. Take a shower or a walk: Staring in front of a computer screen or blank piece of paper is often paralyzing. Even worse if you have a half-finished sentence, paragraph, or chapter without knowing where to go with it. Brute force will only take you so far. There’s something liberating about the white noise of a shower or lawn mower I have found that can kick up a whole slew of ideas. When I’m stuck on a plot point or paragraph, I’ll often just hop in the shower for a bit and just kick around ideas. I also find that monotonous tasks like lawn mowing also helps giving me time and headspace to think up new ideas or chew out old ones.
  2. Get rid of your distractions: If you haven’t tried a social media fast, I highly recommend it. When we hit an obstacle in our writing often we turn to the scrolling through of our news feed, open up another tab, and go down an unnecessary rabbit hole. While sometimes youtube can provide some necessary research and ideas, be sure that all your time that is meant for writing isn’t spent on only watching/listening.
  3. Low-Stimulus Mood Music: That being said, youtube can be a helpful tool in providing some necessary background to your noisy environment. Also, if you have a live channel playing ambient music there’s less temptation to go down a rabbit hole of other videos with music playing. Personally, I enjoy lo-fi music without lyrics. This is my typical go to for ambient music.
  4. Set Goals: Daily quotas and schedules I find to be personally motivating in my writing trade. Devoting to X amount of words/pages per day is sometimes more profitable than just setting aside time for writing. Start off with a number you know is reasonable, based on something you’ve written in the past. If you can’t find a number yourself, dedicate today to writing 500 words. That’s it. But then increase that number each day, or up it by a couple hundred at the end of each week.
  5. Set Aside Time (Mornings): I used to enjoy writing at night because I’d find I had a lot less stimuli, fewer interruptions, and I could force myself in my youth to stay up late. But what I have found is that the real magic of writing happens in the morning. Think about it, your mind is totally refreshed, especially after having sorted your entire day out in dream format, and you probably have some great ideas from last night’s dream or nightmare! Painful as it may be if you aren’t a morning person, try waking up one hour early, and just try it once with a cup of coffee.

Topics Springboard-What should I write about

Maybe you feel you need to take a break from your novel and rejuvenate. Maybe you just want to start writing but aren’t sure where to begin.

Short stories may not be your thing for your ambitious novel-writing mind, but I promise you, they are fantastic spring boards for new ideas/books and are valuable exercises in honing your writing skill.

I promise you, you have a plethora of grand ideas that haven’t been penned out yet, locked somewhere in your head. My goal is that this unexhaustive list will pry some of those ideas out from your mind.

Because some do better with elaborate prompts and others do better with short springboards, I’ll offer first a list of larger prompts, and after that short bulleted ideas to spring off of…

7 Longer Prompts:

  • Your greatest fear: personify it, put a character that is you or someone totally different in that circumstance, slowly leading up to the exposure of that phobia of yours. Nightmares are great pieces of inspiration too, often revealing some insecurity or important theme in our own life. Mine that nightmare, and draw out its significance to create an insecure character in need of growth.
  • Personify a feeling: Are you suffering from grief or heartache? Do you often feel a sense of longing for someone or someplace? What is an indescribable emotion that you feel but have a hard time communicating. Personify it. Make it into an antagonist, a person, or even a beast or spectre for some mundane character. Emotions are hard to describe, so give it some flesh!
  • The Familiar Stranger’s Backstory: Take a look at that person on the bus you never talk to, that barista you don’t know a whole lot about, that neighbor that might say hello once in a while but that’s about it, or even a crush you have a hard time writing about. The truth is that stranger you know nothing about has a real story, a good one at that! Make one up for them. Why do they always seem downcast or always smiling? What are the tattoos on their skin about? Do they have a dark secret behind their mundane appearance? Are they secretly a monster or a superhero? Come up with something. Who knows maybe that’ll prompt you to actually interact with them!
  • Borrow from other fiction: I realize we are on the cusp of speaking about plagiarism, but many great pieces have come from a borrowing of old plot arches and themes. Take the recent Joker movie for example and how it drew inspiration from films like Taxi Driver and The King of Comedy, and how the success of the film did not cheaply borrow but springboarded off such productions. Take a mythology, a book, a film, a game, and tweak some details. Change the time setting of the piece or the universe itself. Perhaps look into the villain and hero, swapping their roles.
  • Narrate a dystopia: Pick an ordinary character with an ordinary job. Who are the people he/she interacts with? What are the places he/she passes by on their way to and from work? Do a bit of universe building, but make sure to get into the details, of what shops exist, what people wear, what people are doing, and what’s on the media.
  • Build a Fantasy World: Do some vignettes of different characters in your own fantasy world. Don’t get too caught up on the fine details of the races or magic in this world of yours, but make a unique fantasy environment. Introduce the elements of this new world of yours through the limited lens of your different characters: peasant, royalty, squire, magician. Again, don’t get too caught up on making a fully spelled out magic system or an overly elaborate history of your kingdoms or races, but flesh out the details as your character comes to interact with those elements of the universe.
  • Give someone one power: Typical superhero stories have often deviated from the mundane world to tell of epic battles between superheroes and supervillains. Media like Hancock or The Boys have attempted to keep things a bit more real, underscoring ethical considerations of being gifted with power. Or consider the original idea behind Lord of the Rings, the Greek story of the ring of invisibility, and the moral questions that arise from this unique corruptive power. What if someone just came upon the ability of invisibility, or water manipulation, or flight (your choice)? Pick a simple power, and pick one character–even better, someone you know that isn’t you–and tell of the corruptive nature of this power and allow the tragedy of human hubris to unfold.

23 Short Prompts:

  1. A cherished memory of yours spoiled by unsuspected luck
  2. What the first day/week would really look like for a space explorer meeting alien life
  3. A historic figure suddenly time-traveled to a new place and point in history
  4. If your pet or an animal could suddenly talk for a day
  5. The journal entries of your/someone else’s personal guardian angel
  6. A full day baby-sitting your younger self
  7. The worst possible way December 31st 2020 could go
  8. The final moments shared of the crew/passengers on a sinking ship
  9. The first person on your news feed, the last person who texted you, and the first person you find on a random page on wikipedia are stuck on a desert island together
  10. Literally use the Wikipedia random article function three times and incorporate all elements into a short story between 1000-2000 words
  11. The ghost of a historical figure possesses your old childhood toy/doll
  12. You bump into an ancient deity disguised as someone ordinary, living the life of a mortal
  13. The first day/week of you and your coworkers/classmates surviving the end of the world
  14. The perspective of an inmate in a fantasy/sci-fi prison (even a prison break?)
  15. An overheard conversation/argument of two historical figures at a bar, cafe, or grocery store
  16. How your unborn child might grow up as a teenager and rebel against you
  17. A favorite character/historical figure of yours breaks the 4th wall or comes to knowledge of their own tragic fate
  18. Your favorite hero actually turns evil
  19. An iconic villain forced to work and adapt to a mundane job you worked
  20. Make up a dark past of your parents, grandparents, or great grandparents
  21. The untold story of a minor character or NPC
  22. Thanksgiving dinner with six different characters one actor/actress had to play
  23. Go out in public and write down three lines of dialog you hear out of context and build out form it or lead up to it or literally take one sentence/quote from a random novel on your bookshelf and start your short story using it out of context

Best wishes and write down in the comment section your favorite writing prompt!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s