Not So Common Sense

Random thoughts on random acts, from the mind of author Gavin Kingsley

NaNoWriMo Day 2: NaNoPrep

It’s day two and I’ve fallen behind (already). If this is your story too, don’t despair, there’s still plenty of time to catch up. Read on and I’ll show you how.

If you missed yesterday’s post, November is National Novel Writing Month or NaNoWriMo for short. It’s a month long exercise in writing discipline where if you can manage to write at least 1667 words a day, by the end of the month you’ll have a 50,000 word novel on your hands. That’s quite the accomplishment. You can sign up and get more information here. This year besides hitting my daily word count goals, I plan to try and document my progress and offer tips on the pages of this blog. So let’s get into it.

Day 2: NaNoPrep, or “What You Should Have Done BEFORE NaNoWriMo Started”

Let’s say you’ve never written anything more that a couple pages. When you decide to start writing it will likely go one of two ways. If you sit down at your blank screen and start typing at some beginning, banging out words until you’ve surprised yourself by the end, that’s what we in the biz call Pantsing. Essentially you write by the seat of your pants instead of by any plans. But maybe before you can tackle that blank page you need to have an outline, character profiles, maps and much much more. You’d be what we call a Planner.

There’s plenty of debate on which is better but truthfully you can finish NaNoWriMo either way. My first NaNoWriMo started with just a broad plot idea that became more streamlined over the thirty days. Still I’d recommend you take some time to settle on the overall direction of your story and get to know your main characters. Even if your don’t go full on plotting every detail of your project there are a few questions you should ask yourself before every project. I used these tools below for my second NaNoWriMo novel and the writing process was much smoother. I haven’t looked back since.

In my quest to keep my writing sharp a came across the blog Duolit with great info on self publishing and writing in general. In one of their posts they shared six writing outlines (you can find the full article here). These are a great place to start as they offer a basic and detailed plot outline, basic and detailed character profiles and some other resources that make a great read. While I plot more and more, I still think of myself as a Panster. I like to spend time with my characters, flesh them out until they are real, then I let them loose in their world, nudging here and there till we cross the finish line. While I have a basic idea of where I want my characters at the end of the novel, that ‘end’ often changes as I write. Because of this I personally find the character profiles the most important to my process.

Duolit’s profiles cover things like character goals and motivations, as well as personal info like hometown, family life, special talents etc. Do a Google search for character interviews and run through a couple for each of your characters. You’ll learn so much about them and it will in turn create ‘real’ people no matter how fantastic the story.

Once you have a handle on your characters you can tackle the plot. How you handle plot, only you will know for sure. You may be fine with simple chapter breakdowns (as I am) or you may need even more detail. The chapter breakdown is the tool I use to track the progress of the story.

freytagmodelThe Freytag Model above is not only essential to the overall plot, but each chapter should also have this same rising and falling action, except your resolution creates the problem of the next chapter. Once you get a handle on this rising falling ebb and flow, you’ll be a writing ninja and NaNo expert!

Back to the writing…
So at the start of today’s post I mentioned that I was behind and I’d have some tips to get you caught up. Step one: don’t panic! It’s only day two. Or maybe it’s day four. Six? SEVEN!?!

Stop panicking, take a breath and step back. Everyone has a busy schedule and it may not be feasible to write everyday (you really should though). But if you’re serious about your goal you’ll need to either set aside a small block of time every day or a large block on the weekend (for instance, really it’s up to you). To hit 50k words you just need to write 1667 words a day. Let’s say you didn’t write at all yesterday, instead of trying to double up, just add a couple hundred extra words a day till you’re caught up. This is always my catch up plan, then I’ll use a larger block of hours on the weekend to try and get ahead.

Make it a game. If you’re on Twitter the official NaNoWriMo account is always hosting word sprints where your write as much as you can Inna given period of time. Maybe you just need a change in environment, get out of the house and write. Or lock yourself in a room with headphones if you’re the distracted type.

Wherever you do it, however you like: Write! One word after the other until you’re done.

Well, time for me to get back to work. I’ve got some catching up to do myself.

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