Only two days left until the start of NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month—the one time of year where hundreds of thousands of writers set out together on a terrifying quest to each finish a complete, 50,000-word novel by the end of the month. It’s perfect for beginners, inspired to write but intimidated by the time and scope of a novel. It’s perfect for advanced writers with overdeveloped critical faculties, looking to fall back in love with the creative side of things. And it’s a perfect excuse for just about anyone to get in some practice—both in writing, and in that good old fashioned butt-in-chair discipline.
So: for those about to write, I salute you. And on top of that, I offer you these tips to being one of the awe-inspiring 14% who walk away 50,000 words and a new story richer.
1. Write Outlines for Your Plot and Characters: I know, I know! Outlines suck. They really do. I have yet to meet a person who, when I suggest an outline, goes “yay, outlines, that’s my favoritest part!” And there’s a reason for that. Outlines force you to work through all the muckiest parts first. It points out conflicts you just really didn’t want to have to think about quite yet, and spotlights holes you’re positive weren’t there when you thought up the idea. It makes you hold the whole book in your head at the same time—like a giant Rubik’s cube, where every piece you fiddle with breaks some other piece, so you have to mess with yet another piece--generally making your head feel like it's going to explode, until the whole thing finally--mercifully--clicks into place. But once you understand your plot and your characters, it’s easier to visualize your story. And once you can visualize it, all you have to do is write down what you see. Easy-peasy, right? But one more thing: since this is NaNoWriMo, do not spend too much time on this stage. Normally, I endorse spending as much time as you need to untangle plot and character elements before moving on—as there’s nothing worse than encountering a novel-breaker three-quarters of the way in—but set yourself a time-limit on this one: no more than three days. That’s 10% of your time, and that’s about right for NaNoWriMo.