This year seems to have gone by so quickly. There are barely two weeks left in October—which means NaNoWriMo is just around the corner! Is anyone else totally pumped and nervous at the same time? (P.S. Add me as a writing buddy if you’re officially participating!)
Whether you’re here to prep for November or you’re just in the midst of working on your latest W.I.P., I have compiled the most useful prewriting tools on the web just for you (yes, you!). These are all resources that have really helped me in my preparation for my latest creative adventure, so I know they’ll be perfect for you, as well!
1. When you still aren’t 100% sure you know what to write about, hash out (or inspire) your ideas with this guide from Writer’s Digest.
This article is a super short, quick read, but it really does share some of the most important aspects of the creative process by telling seven ways to find ideas and jump into writing your novel. The advice actually comes from an awesome book by Rochelle Melander that’s less than $20, so if you can afford it, definitely give it a read, too!
You can also find six more great places to find story inspiration in this Writer’s Digest post!
2. Now that you have your idea, it’s time to turn it into a story. Holly Lisle shows you exactly how to do this in this workshop blog post!
If you’ve never heard of Holly, she’s a novelist and professional writer, and she has tons of books about writing that are super useful to even more experienced writers, if you want to purchase them. This article on her blog, in particular, though is totally free and awesome if you’re just starting to move forward from your little idea.
She breaks down a bunch of questions you can ask yourself to start hashing out the basic frame of your novel or story—particularly on crafting the main characters. Do give it a read and answer the questions in your writing notebook; you’ll feel a lot better about going forward with your story if you do!
3. With some main characters in mind, developing the plot is next on the list. For this, I chose a guest post on Ink And Quills by Katja Kaine that describes her “road-map” to planning and writing your novel!
Katja has a 15-step plan to writing a novel, and, honestly—it’s golden.
Start at the beginning of the post with the “premise” of your novel, go through the “skeleton” and “character introductions,” and she’ll work you all the way to your final draft. It’s super useful, especially if you’ve never written something of this caliber before. Follow her step-by-step road-map and you won’t forget a thing when you’re prewriting (and eventually writing) your novel!
4. Are you ready to start outlining? The queen of writing blogs, Kristen Kieffer, tells you all about how to do it on her blog, She’s Novel!
If you’re a novelist, aspiring or not, and you have yet to visit She’s Novel, you are missing out. Kristen has dozens and dozens of articles for creative writers—she is experienced, knowledgable, and super helpful. (Plus, she’s super nice! I’ve connected with her on social media and she always responds and is super supportive of fellow bloggers.)
This post in particular helps you look at your novel as a whole before you start writing. She cites some industry norms and helps you see the big picture, then takes you step-by-step through the prewriting and outlining process (keeping in mind that you really just want to get out there and write!).
(Plus, make sure you check out how Kristen outlines her novels here!)
5. You finished your outlines and you just realized you have no expertise in the career field your main character is in? Not to worry! Raychel gives you resources and tips for researching on her blog, That Bright Young Thing.
This post is essentially a list of tools and resources to use when doing research for a story, with a little bit of commentary thrown in from Raychel! She tells you all about what she does, and also provides an awesome index of stellar writing blogs, unique search engines, and even links to some maps, in case your novel calls for that sort of thing.
Raychel even includes a free printable for you to start working on your research key words at the bottom of the post!
6. Take your story one scene at a time with this list of Do’s and Don’ts on Darcy Pattinson’s Fiction Notes blog.
My favorite part about this post from Darcy is that it’s so personal, but so relatable (the beauty of blogging). She tells all about what she does (and doesn’t do) when planning ahead for a scene, and even gives a short list of goals she has going into it.
What really got this post on this list, though, was near the end, when Darcy reminds us that there is a point when we need to stop prewriting and get going! It’s good to have many tools in your “writer’s toolkit”—but just because you have the tool doesn’t mean you need it for every project.
7. Try the Snowflake Method! This is popular and discussed throughout the web, but it’s explained here at Advanced Fiction Writing if you’ve never heard of it.
This is a super descriptive post outlining the Snowflake Method, a popular method of prewriting that countless bestselling authors have used. In this article, the premise of technique is explained, and then you are guided through the rest of the writing process. It’s super useful, especially for beginners!
8. If that technique didn’t work for you, here are a couple other methods of prewriting that may be better, from Allison Beckert.
This post, on The Art of Stories blog, touches on several ways to prewrite and plan, including (but not limited to) the Snowflake Method and mind maps. It’s definitely worth a read if you are interested in trying something new this time around, or if you have no experience with novel prewriting and are looking for the best method for you!
9. And if you still need help with something, this comprehensive list compiled by Eva Deverell has every resource a creative writer could ever need.
Seriously, Eva thought of everything. Online courses, apps, browser add-ons, writing communities—you name it, she has a resource for it.
It’s awesome to have everything you need all in one place, but what’s awesome is that a lot of what’s on the list I had never heard of before, and it totally boosted my productivity when I added them to my daily writing routine!
A bonus resource not currently on Eva’s round-up is the Purdue University Online Writing Lab (OWL). It’s used a lot for academic papers, but can be just as valuable to young novelists! Be sure to check it out if you haven’t yet.
*BONUS: The Pre-Write Project, an “epic workbook” by Kristen Kieffer of She’s Novel!
I didn’t want to include this in my list of top 9 resources because while it is less than $10, it’s not free, and I don’t think creating art should have to cost anyone any money.
That said, if you do have a little bit of extra cash on you (literally, opt not to pack your lunch tomorrow and you can afford this), I highly recommend you check out Kristen’s book. It is literally dozens of workbook pages designed specifically to help you craft the perfect novel—and since it’s an ebook, you don’t even have to wait for it to come in: you can get started right now!
There’s nothing better than jumping in with both feet and designing everything from scratch—from the characters to the setting to the actual plot—and Kristen does a stellar job of guiding you through how to do this with her day-by-day worksheets. I promise you won’t be disappointed! (Check it out here!)
That is all for my round-up post today! I hope you get some awesome tools and worksheets out of this that help you craft the perfect novel or story—whether you’re participating in NaNoWriMo next month or not. Let me know in the comments which was your favorite!