Preptober Checklist: Ask Yourself These 7 Questions before Writing Your Book
Preptober is the October preparation month that gears you up for NaNoWriMo (National November Writing Month) every year. Every November, millions of writers across the globe decide to write a book (i.e. 50,000 words of a book) as they cheer and encourage each other in the path towards accomplishment.
If you’ve always wondered whether you can write a book or whether this business of writing books is something up your alley, read on. Writing a book is a daunting task that can be as challenging as being chased around by fire-breathing dragons or as scary as being stalked by a serial killer.
Writing a book can be as uncomfortable as walking upon an iceberg, naked, in the middle of a winter night as a camera is doing a live telecast of your every move to the world.
If you haven’t yet run away or closed this tab, kudos. You are brave and unabashed. You might be a person who has what it takes to wrestle this task of writing a book. Now, all you need is a Preptober Checklist to plan for your November.
If you would rather watch the video on this topic, click below:
7 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Writing a Book
1) Why do you want to write a book?
If you are scratching your head and wondering why you want to write a book, do not worry. Despite being a writer for the last fifteen years, even I do not know why I want to be one. However, there is one thing I know: I get terribly depressed and anxious when I do not write.
Very soon in life, I realized that reading and writing are synonymous to breathing for me. This doesn’t mean that I always take to the pen happily. There are days when I kick and scream to do anything but write.
Usually, most newbie writers are surprised when they hear this statement by a writer who has multiple books under her belt. They thought it was only they who are struggling to write a book. Believe me, you are not alone.
All of us, even professional full-time writers, have our good days and our bad days. There are days when the words simply fly out of my finger tips that I wonder if I am just a medium for some divine presence who loves to pour out stories through me. Then, there are days filled with such a dry spell that I wonder if it was all just temporary; maybe that divine being found someone better than me to bring out his stories into the world.
So, why do you want to write? Think about it even if you do not have a clear answer. What would you feel if you found your published book in book stores? Would it affect you if you do not write? Have you written shorter forms of fiction like short stories and flash fiction? Did you enjoy the process? Why a book?
2) What do you want to write?
NaNoWriMo focusses on writing a novel but there are innumerable rebels amidst us. Some writers use this month to churn out short stories, others might use it to write a non-fiction book or memoir. Some might use this month to write a screenplay. While there is no one right way to do this, the only condition is that you complete 50,000 words of your chosen project(s).
If you are someone who faces writer’s block often, here is an article on what to do if you face writer’s block during NaNoWriMo.
3) What is your methodology for writing a book?
Whether you are a pantser (one who knows the story as they write the book) or a plotter (one who plots and structures the book before writing it) or a hybrid of both, give some thought to your book before embarking on NaNoWriMo. If you want to know more about outlining your novel for NaNoWriMo, you can read my article on the same or watch my video on Preptober Checklist for Outlining below:
4) How do you want to write a book?
Let us get down to the simple nuts and bolts of writing. How are you going to write a book? Pen and paper? Laptop? A huge 32-inch screen desktop computer?
You might wonder whether it makes any difference to include such things in a Preptober Checklist. It does! I know of a writer friend who decided on the first of November that she would write her NaNoWriMo book on Scrivener. Then, she spent three days just learning how the software works. By the time, she turned back to writing a book, she was about 5000 words behind all of us.
If you decide to hand write your novel, decide the pen and notebook that you would use and allocate it now. If you decide to dictate your novel into a voice recognition software like Dragon, this would be the best time to download, install and train the software.
November is the month for action. It is not the time to wonder whether to write your book longhand or whether you must type it out. If you are commuting to your job, you can even decide to use your mobile device to type out significant portions of your book as you are travelling.
5) When do you want to write a book?
Not all of us have the same amount of time or energy. After falling prey to a faulty thyroid organ, I could never work much after six in the evening. My energy and focus levels fell drastically after that.
Usually, I get all my writing done between 10 am and 1 pm. Even if I attempt to write after that, I would only end up rewriting or deleting it. My best writing is what gets done in those three hours in the morning.
If you are a working professional, the only time you get might be an hour or two before the morning rush or a couple of hours before bed. So, plan your time wisely. Get a baby sitter, if necessary.
We have to train ourselves to write whenever and wherever we can. This blog post is a classic example of how I write.
I switched on my laptop and turned to this blog post at 8 am on a Saturday morning. I must have hardly written for ten minutes when my younger son joined me in the study pleading that I brush his teeth since he was feeling lazy to do it. After that, I gave him a glass of milk and fixed breakfast for the family. This was followed by my bath and feeding myself and the family. Finally, I got back to this post only at 10.20 am and wrote for another ten minutes before my husband wanted my help in packing up for his official trip. It took another 40 minutes before I could get back to this.
If I wait for an undisturbed hour to write my book, the book would never get written. I write in little spurts and sprints whenever I can. All those couples of minutes add up and I have a significant word count by the end of the day.
6) Where do you want to write a book?
Again, needless to say, all of us dream for a study filled with bookshelves wall to wall. We dream of a huge oak desk with a fountain pen dipped in inkpot ready for use at a moment’s notice.
Haha! Dream on…
In the crowded cities of today, space equals money and poor writers hardly have any.
For most of my writing life, at least till the kids were toddlers, I wrote on a laptop that was perched on a foldable metal table. When I’m cooking, the table went with me to the kitchen. My toddler son would be on the kitchen floor playing with some dough that I kneaded out for them while I would type out a few sentences as I stirred the pot in-between.
I did not sit down. Either I wrote standing up or kneeling down. It was horribly uncomfortable. I never had a chair and there is a reason for that. The moment I sat on a chair at the table, my crawling son would be at my feet crying his head out to be lifted up and placed on my lap. After that, he would start jabbing at the keys of my laptop adding to the novel a mass of gibberish that was a nightmare to edit out. However, whenever, I wrote standing up or kneeling down, he didn’t seem to mind.
Writing at home was a challenge for those couple of years before my elder son started playschool. With my second son, I trained him right from the beginning that mummy’s chair is off-limits. If you want to be carried or petted, I would get up from my chair, do whatever you want and then get back to my chair. Once this was reinforced right from birth, my son took it in his stride. Even when I wasn’t in the chair, he would never try climbing atop it.
Now, I have a study and it has a door but I do not shut it unless I have a pressing deadline. I know that is crazy and that I should work undisturbed. But I prefer to have one ear on what is going on outside so that I’m sure the boys don’t burn down the house.
If I really need to concentrate on something, like structuring a novel/ screenplay or writing the climax, I go to the Starbucks near my house. With coffees costing nearly three hundred rupees, and my inability to resist their cakes, the expenditure is bound to be more than five hundred rupees for a single writing session.
If I’m off to Starbucks, then I mean business. For the few hours that I spend there, my focus is completely on the task at hand. My kids know that they mustn’t call me unless they are bleeding or the house is burning. I do not log into the free internet at Starbucks. I don’t check social media and don’t return phone calls. I wear my noise-cancelling headphones though I’m not connected to any music and give all my attention to my project. My Preptober Checklist marks off a few days in November’s calendar where I plan beforehand to catch up on my wordcount through Starbucks sessions.
7) Who do you want to write a book for?
When I initially started writing, it was intimidating. I knew Jane Austen wouldn’t like my book. I wondered if Stephen King would like it. My grandmother would feel ashamed by a few scenes I had written in the book. Did the book have any potential? Would any literary agent touch it with a 10-foot pole? Would any publisher bring it to life?
Write your book for a single person. It could be your mother or your spouse or a best friend. Every time, you write the book, imagine them reading it, gasping at the right places and guffawing at others.
This will not only remove your intimidations but will also motivate you to write faster and better. It is impossible to please everyone. Instead, focus on pleasing one person and your writing will be better for it.
Now that you have decided what to write, when, how, where and why to write, it is time to write your book. Words have the power to make a difference in your life and in the life of others whom you share it with. Ask these seven questions to yourself before you write your book during this NaNoWriMo and also every time you start a new writing project. If you want more resources to find out how you can prepare yourself this October, check this link on NaNoWriMo’s Blog. It is a treasure house of resources for ticking off on your Preptober Checklist.