Pre-NaNoWriMo: Starting a New Project

This past week I’ve been thinking a lot about starting new projects. For the first time in a while, I have the opportunity to work on an entirely new project. At first, I was excited – I finally have time for all those cool ideas and concepts that were clamoring for my attention while I was revising. And yet, when I sat down to choose a project, I lacked enthusiasm. None of the usual ways I use to build motivation for a story – looking at pictures on Pinterest & Tumblr, making playlists, filling out character & worldbuilding guides – interested me. I felt like I’d hit a writing slump!

Then, as the week progressed, I had two separate conversations with writer friends. In both conversations, they told me about how the stories they wanted to tell are rooted in incidences in their past, whether significant – like an unforgettable moment in their lives – or seemingly small – a place they visited, an observation recalled, a feeling that resonated.

These conversations reminded me of a passage I read in animator and storyteller Hayao Miyazaki’s autobiography, Starting Point. When working on the children’s animated feature, My Neighbor Totoro, he recalled how his son had described the rain as “beads of air” (Starting Point, 369). He was amazed by this thought, and his amazement can be seen in the way he depicted rain in the movie—exactly as his son had described it. According to Miyazaki, My Neighbor Totoro was created from gathering bits like [this]” (369). Later, he said that the longing the protagonists of his film, Satsuki and Mei, felt for their mother had roots in Miyazaki’s childhood. “When my mother was in the hospital and I returned home from school to an empty house, I definitely experienced loneliness” (369).


In the above passage, Miyazaki was not only inspired by a few words of description from his son, but also by the feeling of “loneliness” as a child. Both of these “gathered bits” made it into the story, creating resonance and a point of connection to viewers.

After recalling this passage and talking with my friends, I realized how much of inspiration is “gathering bits” from life observances, our own sensibilities, and childhood memories. And how we should use these “gathered bits” in our storytelling.

I realized, instead of being driven by concept, I should start with finding “gathered bits” that would support my concept. This is the how I would find my story.

Some suggestions of how to find that emotional connection:


of experiences

of people you’ve known or observed

of places you’ve been

REMEMBER: Not everything personal has to be a memory. You can care deeply about:





Television Shows


Art and Images

Exercise: Take your concept and list all the parts of that concept which you have an emotional connection with. For example, for REBEL SEOUL, the tone and heroine were inspired by a very vivid dream, the themes were inspired by Korean history, and certain scenes were inspired by specific memories.

Now with a concept and “gathered bits,” start your new project!

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