The NaNoWriMo Success Series: Find Your Story in 3 Easy Steps

NaNoWriMo may be over, but if you're looking to write a story these tips still apply!

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If you’re reading this, then you’ve made the decision that this year’s NaNoWriMo is going to be the best one yet. If you haven’t made this epic decision, here’s why you’ll change your mind  and join over 3 billion authors  to create like you’ve never created before.

The key to a productive NaNoWriMo is preparation. When you’re churning out thousands of words a day you need a plan if you want those words to make any sense. The more you know about your story before November 1st, the easier it'll be to kick your writing into overdrive and finish a novel in a month.

Today we’ll tackle one of the most fun parts of NaNoWriMo: Choosing Your Story. This part is great because it’s where you let your imaginations run wild. You’ll push the boundaries, question all the possibilities, and be absolute space cadets as every moment in your head becomes consumed with the magic of your story. Let’s get started!

1) Choose Your Form

Now I know it’s called “NaNoWriMo,” but there is no reason you have to write a novel. What if you’ve been toying with the idea of a memoir? What if you’re more interested in writing short stories, or even short-shorts?

NaNoWriMo is your time to create whatever you want. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a novel or a screenplay — If it has words, you can write it.

NaNoWriMo’s 30-day deadline is a blessing and a curse because everyday you’re pushed to write like you’ve never written before. Because you have such an intimidating deadline, you’re forced past all the mental blocks that keep you from trying something new.

Even if what you're creating isn't “right”, it doesn’t matter! You’ve got 50,000 words to get through – “Right” can wait till December.

So think about what you want to have done on December 1st.  If it’s a novel, great! If it’s a collection of poetry, great! Choose the story form that is most important to you and get ready to create it.

2) Choose Your Story

Alright, here comes the really fun part.

Several of you will come to NaNoWriMo with an idea already in your head. If you're sold on that idea, great! When I started NaNoWriMo, I didn't just have an idea, I had 25,000 words of my debut novel.

How I Finished My Novel

So if you have a concrete idea or a few thousands words on a page, move on to Step 3. But if you are starting with a blank slate, this is where the adventure begins.

A story can come from anywhere. As writers, you know it only takes 1 sentence before the “what if” in your head turns into a book with a movie adaptation and an interview on Jimmy Kimmel.

If you know how you find stories, go for it. But if you want to try something new, check out writing prompts for an endless supply of story inspiration. For those of you that don’t know, writing prompts are descriptions, dialogue, or story snippets that inspire you to write a story. Below are three resources full of great prompts.

-      Writing Prompt Wednesdays

-      “Writing Prompts” Board

-      “Cure the Block” Board

So check them out! You never know what one sentence could spark your 50,000 word story.

3) Create Your Story Board

The final (and in my opinion, the most fun!) step in choosing your story is creating a storyboard.

Back in the “old days,” storyboarding would consist of pulling Google images into random folders and printing out these pictures to make your own collage.

Lucky for us, the genius behind Pinterest made this process a lot more fun and useful for any writer who has ever wanted to visualize their story. Now that you know your genre and you’ve settled on your story, your job is to spend the next week collecting inspiration for NaNoWriMo by creating a storyboard.

Using Pinterest to create a storyboard allows you to collect anything that inspires you and visualize new elements of your story in a unique and collaborative way.

If you look at my storyboard you’ll get a flash of the vivid characters, striking settings, and magical elements that are found in my novel, The Keepers.  Every storyboard is different, so if you want more examples take a look at any of these 20 Pinterest Storyboards to see how powerful storyboarding can be.

The best part about this process is that right now, your story has no barriers. If you choose a picture of a mysterious looking woman from the 1800s and then pin a picture of steampunk robot, no one can tell you that you’re wrong. I’m not saying everything you put on this board will end up in your story, but during this step be open to everything that interests you, grabs your attention, and sparks your imagination.

Let yourself push the boundaries and explore everything your story can be. When you do that, you’ll be able to take the best of your ideas and create a unique story that you’ll love writing.

So there you have it! Thanks for reading and I hope you have a great time falling in love with your story.

Stay tuned next week for my post about outlining your NaNoWriMo plot!

Tomi Adeyemi

Tomi Adeyemi is the #1 NYT and International Best-Selling author of book and upcoming movie CHILDREN OF BLOOD AND BONE.