For Those About to Write, I Salute You (with 5 NaNoWriMo Tips)

WritersdontcryBrainstormOnly 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.

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Comments (7)

As a four-time NaNo participant, I want to thank Susan J. Morris for recognizing this fantastic creative endeavor in her blog!
I have one thing to add, though, for anyone who is participating this year: remember that Tip #1 is entirely optional. Sometimes NaNovelists get too caught up in figuring out what their story is actually going to be about, and they forget to have fun. It can work just as well without an outline as it does with one; at least in my own experience I've done better without. Just depends on your personal style and preferences.
And if you haven't yet read Chris Baty's guidebook, "No Plot? No Problem!", definitely do so before you begin.
Thanks again, Susan!

Posted by: Brooklyn J. Frances | Monday October 29, 2012 at 9:37 AM

That Rubik's cube metaphor? Perfect.

Posted by: Barry Hamilton | Monday October 29, 2012 at 10:04 AM

Brooklyn: four-times--that's awesome! And yes, all tips are always totally optional. For me, I've found outlining ahead of time (as much as I rue the process!) significantly increases my daily word count, such that it's almost always an advantage for me. But if it doesn't work that way for you, then just get writing! Thanks for the helpful comment!

Posted by: Susan J. Morris | Monday October 29, 2012 at 10:08 AM

Barry: Thanks! I was struggling a little while ago with how to express to a non-writer how intense and hard and visceral it is to try to outline, and finally came up with the Rubik's cube metaphor. It's such a brain-straining process!

Posted by: Susan J. Morris | Monday October 29, 2012 at 10:11 AM

I did it last year and it taught me so much and I got a complete book started and the written out of the deal. Excited to do it again and have been pondering for a month what to do, what to write, or what to work on. Thanks for some inspiration! And yes it was damn hard and I wrote my ass off and my hands ached! But worth every second of it!

Posted by: Shannon | Monday October 29, 2012 at 12:00 PM

Shannon: That's awesome! Nicely done. Good luck with this year's NaNoWriMo!

Posted by: Susan J. Morris | Monday October 29, 2012 at 12:39 PM

Hallo! Weißt du, ob sie irgendwelche Plugins zum Schutz vor Hackern zu schützen machen?

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