Halloween is fast coming upon us. For many people it means carving pumpkins, wearing costumes and passing out candy. But for some writers, it marks the last day before November, better known as National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). If you are one these writers, taking advantage of this time to do some preliminary work on your new novel will save you time while you are in the thick of NaNoWriMo. Below are some tips to get you prepared for November:
- Write out the story goals in detail. What is at stake? Get a sense of the larger picture and the personal picture. What does the character want? What would it mean for the story if she gets it? What would it mean if he doesn’t?
- Create a plot outline. Some writers are meticulous planners, which helps them stay on track. Other writers are “free-writers” who prefer the spontaneity that comes from not knowing what going to happen next. I would suggest something in-between: a broad outline of the plot, so that you have an idea of where you need to go with the story, but still have room for experimentation and discovery.
- Get to know your characters now. This will alleviate the time you’ll spend
during NaNoWriMo guessing at your character’s responses to important decisions and
how they should act when they encounter unexpected challenges in the story.
- Design the world ahead of time. Or at least, have a good
idea of the environment your characters are going to exist in. This will save
you from getting bogged down in world building during NaNoWriMo. Hone in on the
details of the world, including weather, geography, people, and objects,
letting these details reveal the character who would be observing or
experiencing them. And although this world may be very familiar to your
readers, describe it in a way that is unfamiliar, strange or foreign. In other
words, let the unfamiliarity and unique perspective of the character seeing it
for the first time come through. If the
story is set in an exotic, strange or alien place, try to describe it as if it
was familiar, demonstrating the ordinariness of the world.
- Do any preliminary research that you think you’ll need to know, or at least have on hand. Research can easily become a black hole and make you lose momentum while in your NaNoWriMo groove. While you can’t anticipate every piece of research you’ll need, you might be able to do a little research to help you understand how to get your character to a particular plot point or what the motivation is behind a character’s action.
- Start setting aside time to write now. Get into some kind of writing regiment (you can do these exercises to fill that time), so that when November starts, your NaNoWriMo efforts won’t feel like a sudden shift in your daily life.
- Set up a support system with other writers. There are
some great resources and blogs about National Novel Writing Month, but start with the official NaNoWriMo site first. Sign up for free
and get help and support in just about any aspect of your NaNoWriMo experience,
from planning to staying motivated throughout the month.
In following these tips, you’ll be able to start your new novel with a more grounded picture of the world and a clearer understanding of your characters. And if you are only able to do just some of these exercises, you'll still be better equipped to handle the challenge of writing every day in November. 50,000 words can seem daunting but a little preparation can not only give you a good start, it can help you maintain your writing momentum and keep you on track to meet your NaNoWriMo goals.