Today I want to talk about one of the tools that I use regularly while writing and planning any of my stories. Ready, Set, Novel!: A Workbook was a workbook gifted to me by mom parents back at the beginning of college, and it’s a book that I have loved and kept with me at all of my apartments. It’s something that I’ve absolutely loved, and I plan on keeping around for a long time. I originally found this book after my first time doing National Novel Writing Month, and after my parents saw me win that they decided to help me with the process. (And I asked for the book way too many times.)
Ready, Set, Novel!: A Workbookwas written and created by Chris Baty, Lindsey Grant, and Tavia Stewart-Streit. Chris Baty is the founder of National Novel Writing Month, and you can read more about him and what he’s up to on the National Novel Writing Month Board of Directors page here or on his website here . Lindsey Grant is the former Program Director of National Novel Writing Month, and you can find her written works here . Tavia Steward-Streit was helped publish novel writing workbooks in the past and has been a supporter of National Novel Writing Mont and she has been published in multiple fiction journals. Together these three created Ready, Set, Novel to help novelists work through and begin to put the thoughts in their heads onto paper, and we’re going to take a deeper look into it now.
I personally use this workbook a lot, and I sort of use it in an odd way. I go through the workbook and write down everything into a separate notebook that is reserved for that book/story. I do this because not only does it give me as much space as I need for everything, but it lets me add in pictures, notes, or just free write in the world as I need to before I even start with a blank page. This is a lot more work and takes more time, but it lets me reuse the workbook as much as I want, and makes the experience more personalized overall for me.
The first chapter of the book is called “Storming your Brain”, and the main point of it is to get your first ideas on paper and come up with what you want your story to do. I honestly don’t use this section much, because I normally know sort of what I want to and what the story will be about. I normally think and plan out ideas more than I should before I even start working in this workbook, so I don’t really use the first chapter. This chapter is great, though, because if you have a very early idea it makes you think it over and adjust it so that you’re able to write pages upon pages about it, and spend hours with this idea that you have before you even start. I see a lot of people using this chapter, I just don’t because it’s not how my mind works.
The second chapter focuses on your characters, and for me I think that it’s specifically your main characters. I normally go through this with the top five main characters that I know I will need to plan out. This is because there is so much in these chapters to help your work with your characters you’re going to want to work mainly with your top ones. I truly love this chapter because this is where I start to meet and really get to know my characters. There are so many worksheets from just a basic profile to here’s this person’s life history and here’s three pages about how they broke their leg when they were little or this was their most embarrassing moment. This chapter makes you go so in depth that I love it, and it’s my favorite chapter at of the entire book. The one complaint that I have about this chapter is that I wish it was laid out differently. The way that the book is laid out you go through step by step for all of your characters at the same time, so each character’s information is split up. I hate this, which is another reason for me to use the notebook instead of using the workbook itself.
The third chapter is just overall plotting your book and putting down what you want to do on the paper. This chapter is sort of tricky for me to explain. For me I always follow the work book and make several “Plot Machines” that follow not only the overall plot, but follow the story of each character and each sub plot. I do this because it makes me keep all of the parts in mind and focus on ironing them all out before putting them together in one large “Plot Machine” that’s color coded and works for the story overall. The hard thing for me in this chapter is that I don’t want to write everything down, I don’t want it to be final and set in store. So what I always do is stick a post it note on my work space to remind me that nothing in this stage is set in stone, it’s just brain storming the overall idea of what’s going on so that when I go to outline it’s easy to work with. I feel like this chapter is also laid out a little odd for me, but again working in the notebook alongside the workbook is perfect for me because I can jump around as much as I want.
Chapter four is a lot of fun. This chapter is about creating your setting and building your world. Although this chapter is sort of general if you are creating a world from the ground up it works well for most situations. My absolute favorite thing about this chapters the map activity, where you actually get to map out the world that you want your story to take place in. I find it difficult, because I’m not the best at drawing and I feel I have to be, but it’s so helpful when you’re looking at the overall picture of your story. IT also makes the area that you’re working in more believable because the arcade can’t be located in one place, and then is suddenly three blocks over in the next chapter.
Chapter five is the hardest chapter in this book, in my opinion. This chapter is all about setting up deadlines and figuring out how you’re going to finish this project. I find this the works because I am always changing my plans and deadlines, or I’m doing National Novel Writing Month and I have my deadlines set for me because I want to win. I’ve talked to other people though and this chapter has really helped them and they love it, so it’s just looking at how you work the best.
The last part of the workbook is pep-talks, a playground, and some coloring pages. The pep-talk at the end of the book is actually something that I read every now and then when I do get discouraged. I feel like there should be a few, though, so that you have variety, but for different pet talks it’s easy enough to look them up on the internet and find some different ones. I also really like the playground, because for me once I get past chapter 2 I like to try some prompts to get to know my characters better and find their voice. Often times these prompts and free writings are located anywhere and everywhere in the story’s notebook, because they’re just fun to try to see how they work.
Overall I really do like this workbook, and it’s one of the things that I keep going back to when I’m preparing a new story. I love the templates and questions that the workbook asks you, and I find them so incredibly helpful. Although I don’t like how the workbook is set up I find it easy to overcome through putting all of the information into a separate notebook, which also gives me the freedom to do whatever I want.
In the near future I plan on also purchasing No Plot No Problem , which is also promoted by National Novel Writing Month as a novel-prep workbook. What resources do you guys use to help prepare your novels and stories? What do you think is the best part of this workbook? Let me know down below in the comments.
See you soon,