I’ve been on the fence about doing NaNoWriMo this year (that’s National Novel Writing Month, and it’s coming up in November). From the conversations I’ve had with writer peeps, I’m not the only one. Who has time for it? Who happens to have a story idea researched, outlined and ready to go? There are so many reasons not to try.

The Game-Changer

Then something happened a few weeks ago that changed things. Maybe it will give you a reason to give NaNo a shot, too. But first, let me set the stage. You should understand my state of mind. (If you’re a writer, you’ll probably recognize it.)

There’s the story I’ve been working on for a couple of years, waiting to be finished. And then there’s the story I’ve been researching and fooling around with for the past few months, still in the “amorphous goo” stage. Which do I choose? Is either one a good candidate for NaNoWriMo? Do I have time to put together the basic setting, characters and loose outline of the story before November 1? If only I could find a shortcut for this development phase.

I think I’ve found it.

There are no shortcuts to great writing

I know, I know. There are no shortcuts. But we all have our go-to tools when it comes to getting it done, right? That handy thesaurus. And the book on plot and structure that shakes us loose during writer’s block. And our favorite book on crafting complex, living characters.

A few weeks ago I beta tested a tool that puts an interactive face on the contents of several fantastic writing books. Have you heard of “The Emotion Thesaurus”, “The Positive Traits Thesaurus” and “The Negative Traits Thesaurus”? And then there’s the rest of the thesaurus collection at WritersHelpingWriters.net. All that is now updated, enhanced and available through a brand new website: OneStopForWriters.com.

Check out their promo video to get the idea:

Distraction-free help during intense writing times

They call One Stop for Writers a “powerful online library” and that’s a good way to put it. Need a quick idea for conflict to spice up a scene? Don’t start googling things and end up watching cat videos on YouTube or Facebook. Instead pull up the Emotion Amplifier Thesaurus to spark ideas about what could put your protagonist at the end of his emotional rope. Pull up the Negative Traits thesaurus and pick something to add tension to the relationships at play.

Then get right back to writing. 

Becca Puglisi wrote a great article covering some of the ways One Stop for Writers could help you research your book smarter, not harder.

How I plan to use it for NaNoWriMo

The big amorphous story blob that I’ve been messing with all summer still needs a lot of help. It seems to me like the perfect opportunity to put One Stop for Writers through its paces.

  • I need to nail down the traits of my main and supporting characters. Not only does One Stop provide trait thesauri, but there are also character worksheets to help me sketch things out quickly.
  • My settings need to be rich and engaging. They’re an important part of this particular story. I’ll use the Setting thesaurus to prompt me with ideas for all five senses.
  • Each of my characters are going to experience a change in perspective as they go through the story. One Stop for Writers has an Emotional Progression worksheet that will help me map this out.
  • I like stories that reflect the central theme or flavor on many levels, throughout every layer of the story. From the setting to the dialects of the characters to the subtle details of it all, I want the reader to experience the emotional journey I’m trying to express. The Symbols and Motifs worksheet is giving me ideas for how I can work those things in.

Beyond NaNoWriMo

One Stop for WritersI’m excited to try this thing out for short stories, too. I’m hoping I can streamline my process in such a way that I can write a short story a week using these tools. One of the areas I’ve been weak as a writer is in the process of writing a story from idea to final draft. There’s got to be a more efficient way.

Just like having a checklist for a repeated but complex task can make all the difference, these tools could help a lot. I’ll be blogging about my progress with it in the coming months!

The bottom line – let’s talk cost

Oh, man, this part’s easy. You can sign up and taste-test the website for free. But get this: you can get the whole kit and kaboodle for one month for just $9. That’s the cost of a mocha and a breakfast sandwich at Starbucks — and you can use this writing library all November long (or whatever month you choose).

No brainer.

(And no, I’m not getting a referral fee for each person who signs up. I’m just really excited about this thing. I’ve daydreamed about developing something similar for a while, and I’m thrilled that I don’t have to do the work to create it — somebody else has already done it for me! I’m so glad that I pursued the opportunity to beta test the site and get a sneak peek.)

P.S. For Scrivener users

By the way, the programming genius behind this online tool is none other than Lee Powell, the guy who did Scrivener for Windows. How cool is that? He’s one of my personal heroes, given how much Scrivener has helped organize my writing life.