NaNoWriMo: To Succeed, Plan ahead

Thursday, October 23, 2014
Image courtesy of National Novel Writing Month.
NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month. Writers who accept this challenge agree to write a 50,000 word draft of a new novel during the month of November.

Fifty thousand words in a single month is a lot, but if you plan ahead you can do it. For a successful NaNoWriMo begin prewriting now. That’s right. You can’t start your draft until November, but you can prewrite so that you know more about your story. Your prewriting should include these 4 things.

Characters. A novel is all about the characters. Who are the major players in your story? What are their goals? How do these goals put them in conflict with each other? Journal, make lists, Pin appropriate images, write letters from your character to you, the writer. In short, do whatever it takes to get to know your characters. Get a feel for their voices so that when they speak, you can get their words down fast and true.

Plot. What does your character want more than anything else? What, and who, stands in her way? What will she do to reach her goal? Answer these questions to create at least a rough outline for your story. You need to know what your character wants, the inciting incident that gets the story moving, the attempts and failures to meet her goal, the darkest moment when it seems that all is lost, and the climax. Depending on how you develop a story, this might be something that you want to develop before or at the same time as the characters.

Research. What do you need to know about to make this story happen? Maybe you need pictures of your setting, some knowledge of 1930s Chicago or the ins and outs of bee keeping. Start pulling these materials together and do your reading now. Because I write so much nonfiction, I think in terms of research. As you write you will almost certainly find holes in your research but the more you know before you start writing, the better.

Setting. Where does your story happen? We think of world building as an issue for science fiction and fantasy, but any time you take your reader outside of their comfort zone, you need to world build. What are the details that make this place unique? Whether it is a trailer or an aging farm house, Laura McHugh does this in The Weight of Blood. Her setting is so real that it pulls you into the Missouri Ozarks.

Work on these things now and you will be able to sit down on November 1st and begin drafting a whole new novel.



Margo Dill said...

So, I have my idea and I'm hoping to make specific plans next week--with it all fresh in my mind, I am committed to succeed. . .so we'll see. Thanks for these tips.

Unknown said...

Wow! Talk about a blast from the past! Nice to read some of your work Sue. I am participating in it this year. I wrote my first novel this summer. Maybe I will see you at one of the events around town.

Sue Bradford Edwards said...

Margo-Sounds like you're getting things lined up.

Ana-Not this year. I'd love to use it to write a new draft of my novel (a new character and setting so a complete redo) but I have a huge nonfiction project due the first Wednesday in November.


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