Planning for NaNoWriMo: Part 3 – Research

It's research time for NaNoWriMo!

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!

With a topic and an outline, you are ready for the third phase of planning for NaNoWriMo. Since you have those two hurdles down, you have a good idea of what you'll be writing about. Also, you will have an idea of what needs to be done before November comes around the corner.

Planning for NaNoWriMo Theme: 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 to revisit memory lane. I'd use a notebook to take notes of memorable events and any important details I may have overlooked while I was outlining the previous week.

I may 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.

NANOWRIMO PLANNING TIP #10: Take Lots of Notes

Initially, when you research, you should write everything down or take screenshots of anything that sparks your attention.

Don't be neat.

Personally, I'd recommend using pens. This way you can't erase any information that may be useful.

NANOWRIMO PLANNING TIP #11: Research Locations

If your novel is going to be about a magical journey across a fantastical made-up land, you'll want to research locations.

  • Search for real-life cities and landscapes that 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 the 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. This way, when you write, you'll be able to easily plan out how the journey flows.

NANOWRIMO PLANNING TIP #12: Research Characters

If you know from past experience that you struggle with coming up with background characters. Especially memorable ones, spend some time at random generator sites. I personally use Seventh Sanctum since they have various generators for all your world-building needs. However, I'm sure there are more if you look hard enough.

What I did to plan for NaNoWriMo this week

As for me, I knew that I needed to flesh out my outline and match it with the academic school year of a high school freshman. I opened up two high school websites, 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. The time you take will vary depending on how much time you dedicate to research, and how prepared you want to be.

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 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.

NANOWRIMO PLANNING TIP #13: 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. Before I used only two different colors while jotting down my information. Now, 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.

NANOWRIMO PLANNING TIP #13: Leave space for notes

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.

I narrowed down my novel to focus on my character Iris. Because of this, 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.

Timer Trick

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 more minutes. You can continue this the following day until content.

NANOWRIMO PLANNING TIP #14: 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 research. If you feel like you are done, pat yourself on the back. 9 times out of 10, you'll discover something new to look up.

This process is time-consuming, but you'll find that this time will be well spent on your NaNoWriMo journey. Keep these notes safe so when you hit writer's block next month, you'll be prepared. Your notes will have lots of information to inspire you.

Until next week, continue researching and taking care of any loose ends for your NaNoWriMo novel. If you have any tips on how to research or tools that you use for research, please feel free to share in the comments below!