Ready. Set. Novel! is the book for you if you are in search of your next novel idea, or have a hint of a concept but are looking to develop it further before you set fingers to keyboard. Co-authored by Chris Baty, Lindsey Grant and Tavia Stewart-Streit, three of the brains behind National Novel Writing Month, this workbook has the same kind of madcap energy as the community website, packaged in a well-designed paperback with plenty of space for your notes, doodles and even colouring.
Ready. Set. Novel! is definitely not a book to read on a bus. Rather, you will want to sit down at a table or in your favourite armchair with a handful of coloured pens and pencils and get to work (although play might be a better description of what the authors encouraged me to do). While there are now many apps to help with story planning, this book proves that the paperback need not give way to newer interactive technologies just yet.
If you do not have a novel idea already in mind, Ready. Set. Novel! contains exercises to kickstart your creative brain, while if you do, there are sections devoted to developing your plot, setting and characters. The authors specialise in quirky approaches to common challenges, such as replacing the well-worn character profile with an artistic family tree and a series of day planner pages for your hero or heroine.
The final section of the book is a series of pages left blank except for short prompts. These are perfectly designed to help you ease your way from the open-ended challenge of creating a story into the more focused process of getting scenes on paper.
I could find only one major drawback to Ready. Set. Novel!. If you are like me and easily distracted by the latest, newest and shiniest idea, it would be wise not to approach this book until you have polished off your backlog of existing projects. Otherwise the lure of all the new ideas generated by exercises like “The Love List”, or “The What-If Game” or “Surfing the Inspiration Superhighway” might well prove too much for the projects you already have underway!