It’s the middle of September, and NaNoWriMo begins in exactly six weeks. It may be your first time doing it, or you could be a repeat NaNoWrimer determined to finish this time, or you could have several under your belt and are just looking for some new tips.
I’ve completed a few NaNoWriMos, (and JuNoWriMos), and I’ve also not finished a few. The thing that stopped me was hitting a wall of not knowing what to do next. This is where being prepared can help.
Some people swear by planning. They outline everything they want to see in the story, chapter-by-chapter, scene by scene. I envy people who are that organized. Really I do. Bless their little OCD, listmaking hearts (kidding!). Of course, plotting is the better way. It’s like those uber-organized, super moms who have perfectly tidy homes and lunches planned for their kids three weeks in advance. They take Pilates class every morning before their crossfit workouts, have perfect abs, a but you could bounce quarters off of.
I wish I had your mad skills. All of them.
But some of us aren’t so amazing. For those of us who still live in the trenches of writing, pantsing our way through our novels. We may have scraps of a plan, but we actually enjoy the frenzy of creating on the fly. We like what our imagination comes up with when the pressure’s on. Why else would we do something like NaNoWrimo anyway?
But even if you are a pantser and have no idea what you want to write about, September is the month to do some light prep work to avoid the “What the hell am I doing?” wall that invariably hits when you’ve lost the thread of your story.
Here are five things you can start thinking about now to prepare yourself:
1. Audience/Genre, or who’s going to read it:
I believe it helps to know what kind of story you’re going to write. Will it be children’s lit? Young Adult? Adult? Will it be contemporary? romance? science fiction? Knowing this will help you structure your story.
2. Location, or where the story will take place:
Figure out where your story will take place and start researching location. If it’s a made up town, jot down some traits. Pull together a Pinterest board of locations you enjoy, buildings, beaches, streets, so you can describe them at a moment’s notice. If you’re writing a science fiction or fantasy piece, you’ll really need some notes about the world you’re building. Here’s some basic questions you can ask to create a fantasy world: http://www.sfwa.org/2009/08/fantasy-worldbuilding-questions/
3. Characters, a.k.a. your starring cast:
It never hurts to know things about them. Jot down notes about their life stories. Their personality traits, and where they come from. The way they look. The reason they’re in your novel in the first place. The more you know about your characters, the easier they will be to write about.
4. Conflict, or the protagonist’s issue:
Your story’s central conflict. Every story has a protagonist with a yearning for something, and there are stakes involved. Usually there’s an inherent conflict in the story. Know what these are. Make notes, so that when you’re stuck, you can go back to this central conflict.
5. Destination, or where you’re headed:
It always helps to have an idea where you’re headed with a story. You don’t need to have it all figured out, nor do you even need to end up there if you find out it’s better to go another way. But if you have a destination in mind, you’ll have an easier time figuring out what happens next.
Part of the fun in NaNoWriMo are the crazy ideas your brain comes up with that you’d never come up with otherwise. The editing process for a NaNo project is often long and arduous. And that’s okay. You can always fix it later. No matter what happens, have fun, and keep writing.
How about you? Any NaNoWrimers want to share what you do to prepare? How about what your favorite thing is about doing NaNoWriMo?