Today's lesson - Flexing those mental muscles & getting fir for NaNoWriMo.

I am centering today’s mental muscles in honour of this being the last week before the gun goes off and the writers are sprinting away in the mad creative marathon of NaNoWriMo.

So is your story clear in your head? Is your story as tangible as a photograph or is it a scarf, flung carelessly, constantly been blown out of your reach? Could you describe it in a page, in a paragraph or in a sentence? Are character/s knocking on your mental doors or have they been breaking & entering in through the windows? Are the character/s nagging you yet? Have they been revealing themselves to you or are they a little reticent?

Well for today’s muscle flexing, I am going to give you some tools that may help you catch that scarf of a plot or maybe your niggling runner’s cramp is a reticent character. Either way, you have one week left to flesh out your character/s and colour your story. Maybe nerves are striking and you keep on wondering why you have signed yourself up for NaNoWriMo in the first place. I mean it’s crazy to think that you can fit more time into your day solely devoted to writing. What about the animals, or the kids or the spouse – who is going to feed them? What about that pesky Day Job that steals at least 8 hours of your time every day? Before you resign from the Day Job and move into a secluded, but handy hermit’s cottage, just like the spooky one you used to skirt past as a kid….Stop….Breathe…that was 3 deep breaths please…Now refocus…Feeling better? If you are still in the freak-out, hair turning white from stress, stage….maybe it’s time to test yourself a little without breaking the NaNoWriMo rules either. I can help you with that. Of course if you are cool, calm and collected and as ready as you ever will be, well you can do these for fun then.

As this may be the first time you are entering this creative gym, I will go over the etiquette. You need to do at least 1 of the exercises listed here. If you do, let us all know which one you chose and how it went. You can do this by commenting on this post. If you put it up on your blog, please link back through to my blog. As with everything else, feel free to pay it forward and give these exercises to anyone you may feel needs to do them. Now onto the workout floor…Hope you brought your stretching mats, work out towels and water…Ready? Let’s begin.


  • Plotting ~ Write up your novel’s plot into a 1 sentence synopsis. Now flesh that out into a paragraph length synopsis. Next flesh that out into a single page length synopsis.
  • Plotting ~ Music is a vital tool to anyone. Firstly our sense of hearing is the first sense we develop and the last we lose. So with this is mind…Close your eyes and think of the story you have so far. Now listen carefully. In the background you will start hearing a melody that will turn into a song, maybe even a compilation. This is your story’s theme song. Everything needs a theme song. Now you have your NaNoWriMo theme song. Use it for inspiration or even to vaccinate yourself against procrastinitis.
  • Plotting ~ Without telling them it is your story, get a trusted friend (non-writer) to read the synopsis from exercise (1) and tell them to give you an honest opinion on whether they would want to read this story. Also ask them what the plot’s strengths and weaknesses may be. Does the story hook them? If it does not, what is missing? (Aside: Remember every story needs to be read as well as told. Readers give invaluable insight.)
  • Character ~ (This first exercise is for the writer with the reticent and secretive character/s.) Find a spot where you feel comfortable and relaxed. Grab a few snacks and treats. Then make a date to rendezvous with your writing muses. Ask your character/s to introduce themselves to you. You may be surprised. Maybe your character/s are polite and were just waiting for you to make some time for them to introduce themselves to you. (This exercise needs a minimum of at least 2 hours. Make sure you have no interruptions in this time.)
  • Character ~ Close your eyes and picture your character/s in your mental vision. Once you have them in your mind, start a sketch of your character. (You don’t have to be an artist to do this exercise. Remember this is just for you.) You can keep this sketch in your NaNoWriMo notebook or pin it up on your corkboard / wall to keep you focused throughout November. Sometimes you have to see to believe it.
  • Character ~ Close your eyes again. Now ask your character/s what their 6 favourite meals are. Now for the next 6 days make these meals for yourself and for your loved ones. Taste is a vital key to personality. Is your character a gourmet or fussy eater? Is your character a simple home-cooked pasta type of person? Use these meal times to further get to know your character and to flesh out their personality/s.

Now choose at least 1 each of the above exercises, 1 for plotting and 1 for character, and let yourself have fun with it. Now how are you feeling about NaNoWriMo? Remember this should be a FUN Adventure and not a chore. You have a story locked inside of you. Use NaNoWriMo to unlock this. Use these exercise to help draw your map for your NaNoWriMo story.

Good luck and happy stretching!

(For any of you NaNoWriMo participants: if you would like to add me as a NaNo buddy, my user name is last_lines)

© All rights reserved Kim Koning.

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Comment by Kim Koning on October 30, 2010 at 4:50pm
Judith, I requested you as a FB friend. Will then be able to add you to the Warriors group.
Comment by Judith van Praag on October 30, 2010 at 4:44pm
BTW I love upport.
Comment by Judith van Praag on October 30, 2010 at 4:43pm
@Kim I'm on FaceBook as Judith van Praag, with pastel picture portrait. Would like to look up your warrior group, didn't see it.
Comment by Kim Koning on October 30, 2010 at 2:44pm
That should be *support and encouragement*
Comment by Kim Koning on October 30, 2010 at 2:44pm
Hi Judith...Thanks for your comments. Yes I do have more ideas and suggestions for pulling those stories and musings from your characters and your plot...Writing from the seat of my own virgin NaNoWriMo experience and what works for me, hopefully can work for someone else too. I will post all my blog posts here on the She Writes site but you can also follow me @
(Judy, I have added you as a buddy on NaNoWriMo. Sunipa feel free to add me as a buddy or tell me what your user name is on nanowrimo and I will add you.)
Tomorrow (in just over 13 hours) I will start my NaNoWriMo Novel..I am in New Zealand so we are the first country to start. Good Luck both of you!
(Judith: Are you on FB? If you are, what is your user name? There is a great NaNoWriMo Warriors group on the FB site that has been set up by the moderator of one of my writing groups. It is a fantastic way to get upport and encouragement.)
Sincerely, Kim
Comment by Judith van Praag on October 30, 2010 at 8:52am
@Sunipa, you may find you don't have any time left to do a daily edit anyway since 1667 per day is a whole lot. My usual average for creative writing is 500 words a day, meaning 1500-2000 one day and 200-700 the next and so on, week after week, month after month. Not stopping to edit does put you in a free-flow kind of mindset, and that's what it's all about. Kim's suggestions are great, and you don't need to stop thinking about them while you're at it. And I have a feeling she's got more up her sleeve for the coming month. Am I right Kim?
Comment by Judith van Praag on October 30, 2010 at 8:47am
Hi Kim, Good points! Two months ago I shook hands with my protagonist by using John Irving's suggestion: "When in doubt, or whenever possible, tell the whole story of the novel in the first sentence." Up till that moment I'd been working on a memoir manuscript. I'm a non-fiction writer entering the fictional highway by means of NaNoWriMo as DutchessAbroad See you there buddy?
Comment by Kim Koning on October 30, 2010 at 3:03am
Yes, you are not supposed to do any editing until the end of November..Feel free to buddy me. Just search for my user name on My user name is: last_lines If you go to the nanowrimo site, it will tell you all the rules. In simple terms, you have start a new novel on 1st november and finish it on the 30th of November writing a minimum of 50 000 words. The whole point of the exercise is to get the novel out without editing. Every day you load how many words you have written, in accumulation. From the 25th until the 30th November, you can start uploading your entire novel for the final word count. Once November is done of course you are then free to edit or change or correct or add to the novel as you please.
Comment by sunipa basu on October 30, 2010 at 1:55am
Hey, be my buddy, I'm a newbie, not a clue as to how to do things. If we log on number of words everyday, does it mean WE CAN'T REVISE YESTERDAY'S WORK?


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