I’m A Prepper (Part 1)

No, not for Doomsday or Armageddon, or even the ever popular zombie apocalypse, which let’s face it, is that even really a possibility…

I prep for writing. I don’t go into a story unprepared for what may lurk inside.

Ok for those of you who haven’t stopped reading now that you know I’m not here to give you tips on building a bomb shelter in your back yard, or how to tell if your friend is about to turn, I will discuss some of the techniques that have helped me overcome some really apocalyptic writers block. With Camp Nanowrimo right around the corner, these tips may just save your life when the big one hits… ok, probably just your story.

Now I know some of you Wrimos aren’t Planners. Instead you’re the Pantsers, who like to spontaneously craft your pages in the heat of the moment as they come to you with no preparation. I’m not here to mess with anyone’s mojo, so these methods may not be for you, but you’re welcome to read on and take any of these rations along with you for your survival in the month ahead.

  1. Prep- Just like the Doomsdayers stock shelves and shelves of creamed corn and Pork-N-Beans you should prepare for your month long sprint with some shelf stocking of your own. I like to have some snacks on hand in excess just in case I need to hunker down and stay put for the weekend to write. You could even have a special shelf, a writing shelf that is yours and the family gets forewarned that those are your writing snacks and they’re off limits. Having your own snacks can really make a difference trust me. It’s a real bummer if you’re pulling an all nighter and suddenly you get the craving for Flamin’ Hot Cheetos, but the only thing in the pantry is the almost empty bag of brand X plain potato chips that you think may have been spilt on the carpet and then cleaned back up again because you see more than just potato chips at the bottom of the bag. It can kill your ambition and moral. So go out these last few days and grab some necessities, maybe even some more upscale snacks that you don’t buy as often. Know yourself and try to buy what you know you’ll need.
  2. Know Where You’re Headed- Have an outline. A well put together outline is a crucial element to my writing process. I like to call it my Run Sheet and it has saved the day many times. It’s your itinerary for the Nanopocalypse. It keeps you on point and alert to your overall progress. You could also give a copy to a close friend or neighbor so they don’t worry about you when you disappear into your bunker for the month of July. Also, have something to write with and write on at all times. A notepad can be equivocal to a trusty sidearm when you’re out on supply runs or scout missions. You never know when that crucial bit of dialogue will hit you and you need to be ready. Trust me you’ll never forgive yourself if you forget the details of something amazing that popped into your head while you were shopping for budget toilet paper at Costco. It’s like having to leave a man behind knowing he’ll get eaten by the Z’s. It’s that bad, it changes you.
  3. Be Ready for Zero Hour- A good running start can make or break your odds of success in the coming month. Statistically you are more likely to survive and overcome the hostile environment if you start off with a lead. Let’s say that your goal next month is the 50,000 words mark. It is a feat to achieve for sure, and to do so, you will need to push out almost 1700 words a day everyday for 30 days. Time is your pursuer, and words are your running feet, if you stay ahead you’re more likely to survive. But wait, there’s a holiday in there, or one day is my cat, Mr. Jules Verne’s birthday and i need that day off. Then if you can kick out about 3,200 words on night/day number 1 you’ll feel fine taking that day of rest to recoup. The more days up front that you can build your lead the better, because you never know what may come up later in the month.
  4. Don’t Panic and Bug Out- Now I said that if you stay ahead you’re more likely to survive until the evac arrives, but don’t get discouraged if you fall behind. The guy who looses his marbles never leaves the Vault at the end. You can still make it. No matter the direness of the scenario, you must push forward. Don’t bug out, you’ll regret it later. Trust me I almost gave up during my first Nano event, i was way back in the danger zone, like smearing guts on myself so the walkers won’t smell me kinda thing. But then I had a free day that I could sit and write near continuously all day and it turned into an 8,400 word day. You never know when  that spark will hit you and you’ll catch up.
  5. Don’t Get Caught in a Trap- You’re stuck, and the deadline’s creeping up like a bunch of rabid ghouls bursting into the farmhouse you boarded up, or you started writing down the wrong path and its like turning down a dead end road with machete wielding radiated madmen hot on your heels. It can be bad, real bad.  If you freeze up, the deadline will catch you, so you have to try not to let yourself get caught up in a block period for long. You have to rescue your character from the scene. This usually means that I mentally jump my character out of the scene that is causing the block and drop them into a situation that calls for spontaneous decision making from both the character and me. If it’s a suspenseful scene that’s got me hung up, I jump to sometime after the conclusion of that scene where my character has somehow gotten through it and is back on the run. If it’s a dialogue that has no end, I try to throw in a jarring incident like a sprung trap that no one saw coming. Sometimes I use my Run Sheet and skip to the next big scene. It breaks up the trouble spot and gets me onto a different course. Generally I can go back later and either easily connect the two points or erase what bit is now unnecessary with a cleaner overall result.

The main thing is just don’t give up, whatever you do. I’ll cover the second half tomorrow, until then Write On!

Joshua David

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