We are on Week 3 of Planning for NaNoWriMo. If you are not familiar with the series, I’d highly recommend checking out Planning for NaNoRiMo- Part 1: Choosing Your Topic and then following up with Planning for NaNoWriMo- Part 2: Outlining Your Novel.
Now that the friendly public service announcement has been made, let’s get down to business!
Now you have your topic for your novel and you also have a rough draft of your outline. Since you have those two hurdles down, you should have a good idea what you will be writing about and what needs to be done before November comes around the corner.
This is what this week will be about, research.
What needs to be researched varies from novel to novel. If I was going to continue down the path of writing my own autobiography, I would want to spend this time looking through photo albums and yearbooks so that I could revisit memory lane. I would also want to have a notebook to take notes of memorable events and any important details I may have overlooked while I was outlining last week.
I also want to look through my old online accounts. I had a very active online life while growing up and while archives of every single website I have visited won’t be readily available, I could still spend some time trying to scrounge up as much information as I could find.
However since I am going down the path of my Bouquet novel series, I tackled research differently.
Take Lots of Notes
When you first research, write everything down or take screenshots of everything that sparks your attention. You don’t have to be neat. I’d recommend using pens for this so even if you wanted to, you can’t erase any information that may be useful down the line.
If your novel is going to be about a magical journey across a fantastical made-up land, you’ll want to research some places that will have the same feel as the places you’ll want your characters to explore. Go on Google Maps and look up a foreign country. Write down city names, look at how the streets are laid out, zoom out and in to get a feel of the land. Look up a weather channel and see how the weather varies from morning to night. Each place has their own weather patterns and these are interesting things to note so that when you write, you’ll be able to more easily plan out how the journey flows.
If you know from past experience that you struggle with coming up with background characters that don’t just seem like clones of other background characters, spend some time at random generator sites. I personally like using Seventh Sanctum since they have various generators for all your world-building needs.
As for what I did, I knew that I needed to flesh out my outline and match it with the academic school year of a highschool freshman. I personally haven’t been in high school for almost a decade, so this felt like a crucial step. I opened up two high school website, comparing their academic calendars as I jotted down important events and days that students have to go through besides their classes.
I spent roughly 45 minutes taking six pages worth of notes. Though the time you take can vary depending on how much free time you have available for research and how prepared you want to be on your novel before November 1st comes along.
I knew that I wanted my chapters to follow the flow of a typical high school year. Thus I started with September and continued until June. With each month I wrote down when various events took place, prep rallies, exams, and most importantly the days when the four quarters of the school years began and ended.
After I compiled the important dates of the school year, I went back with a pink pen and jotted down days that soccer games took place for one of the schools I researched. I was never an athlete in high school, but I do know that one of the lead characters of my Bouquet series is going to be involved in sports so that information is relevant to my novel.
With my remaining time, I jotted down other topics I would need to spend time researching. Uniform school codes, extracurricular activities and academic classes that are suitable for a ninth grader.
Organize Your Notes
I am an advocate of saving all your information and notes during your pre-production phase of any project. However, I do not like promoting unorganized chaos.
After I completed the first phase of my research process, I went back and rewrote the school year schedule. Unlike before when I used only two different colors while jotting down my information, I took out all my Pentel RSVP colored ball-point pens. Each month was written in pink, each date in orange while the events themselves remained in black.
I made sure to leave a line of space in between each event. This makes my previously cluttered list now look more open while also giving me future opportunities to write more notes about what could happen on those days if I need to.
Since I also narrowed down my novel topic to focusing on my character Iris, I made sure to use green ink to mention important plot points that would happen in his story. However, I kept my soccer game dates scribbled in red ink for his sister Rose so I will be able to keep in mind of his sister’s schedule as I’m writing throughout November.
If you are like me and have a limited amount of time, keep a timer on hand as you work. Then once the timer runs out, give yourself five extra minutes to write what needs to be done next before you call it a day.
Research and Repeat
Once you are done researching one topic and organizing those notes, figure out if there are any other aspects of your story you need to keep in mind of. If you feel like you are done, then pat yourself on the back, but 9 times out of 10, you’ll find something new to look up.
While this process will feel time-consuming, with a timer in hand and your goals in mind, you’ll find that this time will be well spent on your NaNoWriMo journey. Keep these notes safe so when you hit a writer’s block next month, you’ll have lots of information to inspire you once again.
Until next week, continue researching and taking care of any loose ends for your NaNoWriMo novel. I look forward to giving some more tips and tricks for planning for your novel next week!