It's NaNoWriMo time. As we close in on Friday, Nov. 1, and the start of National Novel Writing Month (with the goal of writing 50,000 words in 30 days), here are some thoughts on my process and what you can do in less than a week to prepare to write that story keeping you up at night.
Don't think you have it in you to write a first draft in a month? Haven't done anything to prep? These shortcuts can make starting that writing project on Nov. 1 less overwhelming. It's not too late to take the chance!
LAST MINUTE tricks to prepare for NaNoWriMo:
1. Create an account. Without a NaNoWriMo account, you won't really feel bound to pursue your goal. It takes only a few minutes to sign up, and it's free. Having a live account will give you a nudge to commit. Even if you choose not to follow through, the website is brimming with writing tips.
2. Brainstorm plots/settings centered around something/somewhere already familiar to you. You don't HAVE to write what you know, but, in the case of NaNoWriMo, writing within your knowledge base and/or in a setting you've been to will reduce research and help you get off to a quick start.
3. Get to know your characters. Listen to the voices in your head. Take just a couple hours to create mini character profiles of those you'd like to include in your story. Give each character his or her own page in your notebook and jot down potential names, what they look like, age, occupation, any connection you'd like them to have to other characters, interesting mannerisms, speech patterns, how they dress, etc. This is tons of fun. Through character profiles you can actually get ideas for conflict and plotting (and sub-plotting) for your story.
4. Set it up. Where do you want this to take place? What time of year? Whether it is a place you've been to many times before or someplace completely fictional, write down the basics of your setting. Town? Region? State? Planet? If it helps, sketch a map of the surroundings. If the setting is real, create a folder on your laptop to stash various links that will help you pull facts in later, as you need them, to make your representation of the setting more realistic. An easy option is to go to the area's Visitors Bureau website, which may provide historical information and photos.
5. Create a SHORT plot synopsis. Once you've got some interesting characters to play with and a place to let them play, jot down potential "What if..." scenarios that allow your characters to interact. Which scenario interests you most? Which would be easiest to write without a lot of research? Which creates the most conflict? Once you hone in on the plot you want to pursue, attempt to write a short 1-2 paragraph synopsis. Like the back cover of your favorite book, this synopsis should not be too long but with enough details to draw a reader in.
6. Glimpse the beginning, middle, and end. Just because many planner-type NaNoWriMo participants have taken all of October to fully prep for the big event—spread sheets, blocked off calendar, play list, 30 page synopsis, and a brand new coffee mug—doesn't mean you, a "pantser"-type, can't be successful flying by the seat of your drawers. Just try to have some general idea of how you want your story to start, what specific actions/plot points might happen midway through the story, and some sense of what happens to end the story. In other words, what is your point A and point B and what possible pitfalls will your characters see/experience when traveling down their path from one point to the other?
That's it, really. With the above steps, you've got a base. I can guarantee, those characters are likely to take a few wild turns off the path, and they might even send you down a completely unexpected rabbit hole, but at least you'll have some sense of where you'd like to go. That's all you need to participate in NaNoWriMo. It's all I had last year, and my 2018 project not only made it to 50K words but is now fully fleshed out, edited, and in the hands of beta readers.
Just do it. It's not too late to take the chance.
For more tips, check out my Oct. 3, 2018 blog post on prepping for NaNoWriMo.
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