In a week and a half, I will board a train and head up to Whistler, B.C. for my annual writing retreat. For seven days, I will be entirely alone. No calls, texts, or requests for rides. No laundry, no animals to feed, no mucking out or sweeping or bill paying or banking or radio interviews…nothing but me and my characters.

In a word, BLISS! But…and this is true for every person in charge of every project imaginable…a focused period of work is only as good as one’s preparation. Right?

This year, The Ghost Lords is going through revision 4.5 and my goal is to tighten the story and firm up the overall plot line. To prepare for this, I’m doing something new. I am writing a plot outline using Cathy Yardley’s book, Rock Your Plot.

If you are like me (relatively new to this novel writing stuff!), the ideas and constructs discussed in this book are structurally powerful. They frame and shape and clarify many goals that we instinctually have but are, perhaps, not quite sure how to go about achieving. However, no matter who you are, “if you’re interested in increasing your writing productivity and speed by streamlining your writing process,” then I believe this book will help you.

And so…with NaNoWriMo on the horizon, I’m tossing you a meat-covered bone, handing you a package of the BEST coffee, and giving you the equivalent of a time-stopping device! No matter where you are in your writing (young, old, new or experienced) I suggest you check out Cathy’s website and start “prepping” for what is to come!

As today is Day #3, my personal goal has been to identify the GMC for each of my characters. As many good writers will tell you, effective characters typically have huge backstories, even if you never hear about it. My characters are no exception, but with all of that detail, there comes a problem. Those long and detailed character histories are important, but they totally slow me down when I have to sift through nine paragraphs to remind myself of one salient point. So, as we are often advised to do with our “story premise,” I’m forcing myself to write down each character’s GMC in a single sentence. GMC Cheat Sheet…here I come!

I don’t know if this sounds like a good idea to you, but for me…it’s excellent preparation for a valuable and productive writing retreat. I hope you will take some time to figure out what you want to do and then take some more time to consider how best to go about it. Whatever important task you have set for yourself…in order to be faster and more effective…prepare, prepare, prepare!

So, forget about Halloween salutations! This week, as NaNoWriMo (and the rest of your life) approaches, I’m going with: Happy Prepping! Otherwise, this might happen…