Every year, tens of thousands of writers join NANOWRIMO (National Novel Writing Month) with the sole purpose of finishing the first draft of a novel. Actually, the goal is to write 50,000 words during November, which is not enough for even a genre novel, but still a solid start and a daunting goal. 50,000 words in a month averages 1,666 words a day, every day, for each calendar day—no day off. The organizers operate a complete network to help you reach your goal through the inherent struggle.
Last year was the first year I participated and managed 30,000 words; a decent beginning (approximately a quarter of my proposed length) and 1,000 words a day. Contented with my output, this year my goal is to build on the number. I don’t stress about not hitting 50k. A thousand words a day is a realistic goal, and still enough to challenge me; normally, I average between 500-750 words pinched between the full-time job and family life.
The Prep Work:
Just like dicing and slicing vegetables for a proposed soup or stew, the preparation for November can help eclipse the writing goals. The last couple of weeks I have set aside time to plan what I want to do.
To outline or not? Writers debate this constantly and say there are two types, the Outliner and the Non-Outliner.
There exist fanatical Outliners that map out each scene and plot nuance before sitting down to actually weave the prose. Lists and research folders bulge with ideas, events, and concepts for the proposed books. Some make elaborate time-lines, endless lists of clothing types, props, character sketches, calendars, and anything else they think might be needed during the writing process. These are the types of people that plan every hotel room, rental car, plane flight, tourist attraction before starting a vacation—they do not want any surprises along the way. Guess What? No matter how well you plan a trip, things will happen that were never anticipated, and those moments are some of the best-remembered occurrences when a trip is over.
Some writers sit down to write with no idea where their story will go. Maybe they only have an ill-defined character or plot, and to them the joy of writing is the journey. You got it; these are the same people that purchase a one-way ticket and let life lead the way, where lodging, food, or transportation is garnered at the time of need. The experience is the key, not the planning.
I am a little bit of both. I love the mysteries that lie ahead, twitch excitedly when a new character or plot twist shows itself from the thrust of the scene I am writing. I also want to know where the story is headed, though not necessarily every path or diversion my travels may take. For this reason, I have a basic outline in mind.
First, I know how the lives of my protagonist and antagonist intertwine, along with what motivates each toward their individual goal.
I know where the story takes place, whether an ancient city or one of my imaginings, a time long ago or one that never existed, or perhaps even an altered present.
I have a skeleton plot by chapter, at least the first dozen or so, and also have the major plot points encompassing certain things I want to happen. All of this is speculative, though, and a lot of the fun of writing comes from the breaks from the original plot flow. Still, it gives me guideposts to shoot for; inevitably some will disappear and be replaced by events that are better suited while cascading through the ebb and flow of a story.
What are you doing to prepare for National Novel Writing Month?
See you on the next page,
This Week’s Writing Quote:
“I would hurl words into this darkness and wait for an echo, and if an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight, to create a sense of hunger for life that gnaws in us all.” Richard Wright, American Hunger, 1977