Please note: This article was published Oct. 17, 2017. Links may no longer be active and resources listed may no longer be available. Click here to read my more recent posts.
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.
Whether you’re here to prep for November or you’re just in the midst of working on your latest W.I.P., I’ve compiled some of the most useful prewriting tools on the web just for you.
Here are nine resources that have helped me as I gear up for my latest creative adventure:
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 quick read, but that doesn’t mean it’s not full of valuable info: the piece breaks down the creative process by exploring seven ways to find ideas and jump into writing your novel. The advice actually comes from a 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 even more experienced writers can benefit from, if you want to purchase them. This article on her blog, in particular, however, is totally free—and it’s perfect if you’re just starting to move forward with your little idea.
Holly 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. 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 always happy to help. (Plus, she’s super nice! I’ve connected with her on social media and she always takes it upon herself to support 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. 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! Never heard of it? The strategy is explained here at Advanced Fiction Writing.
This super descriptive post outlines the Snowflake Method, a popular strategy for 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 perfect 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 great to have everything you need all in one place, but what’s particularly awesome is that a lot of what’s on the list I had never heard of before, and they 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.
That’s 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!
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