NaNoWriMo Prep Step 3: Gathering Inspiration and Story Ideas for NaNoWriMo

Next step in our preparations: gathering inspiration and story ideas for NaNoWriMo.

You've already spent some time deliberating about whether or not you should do NaNoWriMo this year… And you went out and found some friends so you could start training for NaNoWriMo to get those writing muscles loose and working.

Are you excited about NaNoWriMo yet? If you've completed those two steps, that means you're ready to finally figure out what you want to write about during NaNoWriMo.

This is sometimes my favorite part of any NaNoWriMo — whether I am participating in NaNoWriMo proper in November, or either one of the Camp NaNoWriMo sessions in the Spring and Summer.

NaNoWriMo Prep Step 3: Gathering Inspiration and Story Ideas for NaNoWriMo blog title overlay

Where do story ideas for NaNoWriMo come from?

Most of the time when I am talking to friends about an upcoming month of NaNoWriMo, they have too many ideas regarding what they want to write about.

Like me, they hoard ideas in notebooks, scrap paper, and files in their computer so they always have a muse to visit when they need one.
Some people wait to see what hits them the day before NaNoWriMo starts. Others just go with whichever muse happens to be screaming the loudest at the time. And yet others just freestyle everything straight through the entire month until an idea strikes them. (if you happen to be a freestyle writer who prefers going through NaNoWriMo with no plan, stick around. I'll have some good information you can use later on).

I usually start by reading through some of my works in progress and seeing if any of them are able to reignite a spark bright enough to carry me through the month. If that doesn't work, then I get start looking through my old idea notebooks and files.

Worst case scenario, I hit Pinterest and start searching for writing prompts. If that doesn't work, then I'm out of ideas because that has always worked for me.

Inspiration for some stories just hits from different places. You can't always predict when they are going to hit. Heir of Elendri got started because I was trying to imagine what my life would have been like if I had been a wizard. Xiuhcoatl was born because I was trying to imagine what type of wizard my mother would have been (she and I didn't exactly have a stellar relationship). Ripper got started because I wondered what would happen if Jack the Ripper was actually a good guy that history twisted into a serial killer.

The idea I am following through with for this session, Kiss of Dust (a working title for now), came about because I was watching a documentary on the Dust Bowl by Ken Burns and I thought what an amazing base for a story.

Of course, I know I'm not the first person to think this. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck was an amazing book that followed the Joads from Oklahoma out to California. The Wizard of Oz saw a tornado sweep Dorothy out of the dull, lifeless Dust Bowl and bring her to a magical world filled with color and adventure. And who can forget about Whose Names are Unknown by Sanora Babb, which followed the Dunne's family struggles as they fought to survive the Dust Bowl. Even the HBO series, Carnivale, was based in the Dust Bowl.

Nope, I am definitely not the first. But I don't have to be the first. I just need an idea.

And for now, this is it.

Gathering Inspiration and Research.

I like to have my story idea for NaNoWriMo decided on ahead of time so I have plenty of time to research.

And my favorite place to gather research and story inspiration is Pinterest.

Have I told you about my love affair with Pinterest? By far, one of my favorite sites ever. For research, for searching, for inspiration, for marketing…it's just that awesome at everything.

So, earlier today, I hopped over to Pinterest and built my inspiration board for the Dust Bowl. And for the next several days, I will be able to search for and save any information or inspirational goodies I find about the Dust Bowl:

  • Diary entries,
  • newspaper articles,
  • photographs,
  • interviews

You name it. If it has something to do with the Dust Bowl, its new home is right there on that secret board on Pinterest so I can go back and refer to things when I need them.

Head over to Pinterest and build your own inspiration board for whatever story idea you think you might like to go with for this session.

Are you a Freestyle Writer? Build a Freestyle Board Instead.

This step is not completely lost on all my freestyling friends. And I know there are plenty of you out there.

If you are a freestyle writer, then your inspiration and story ideas for NaNoWriMo always seem to come to you when you're already writing. So putting together an inspiration board might seem like a waste of time, since you won't have anything to post to it until after you start writing. For you, putting together a freestyle writing board will be the best idea.

You can research and save ideas on how to think of what to write next on the fly, how to keep your momentum going even when you have done little or no plotting, and you can even save writing prompts to help spur you along between sprints.

What if you're not on Pinterest?

No worries!!

There are plenty of other tools out there that will allow you to put together your inspiration and story ideas for NaNoWriMo:

  • Evernote
  • Scrivener
  • Google Drive
  • Dropbox
  • Go old school and print everything out.

The point here isn't just to get you onto Pinterest (although, if you are going to be on Pinterest, maybe you could just go ahead and follow me while you're there). The point is to put together a system of gathering ideas and inspiration for your NaNoWriMo project in one place – so that when you're ready to use them, they are all right there.

Keep following along as we prepare for NaNoWriMo together!

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