It’s coming up on that time of the year again. The National November Writing Month presents a challenge to every writer, professional or hobbyist, to write a 50,000-word novel in one month. Some writers take longer than a month for their planning, not to mention writing their novel. Yet, the purpose behind the challenge is clear; to give you a reason to write and finish a novel, not to perfect a story.
With the first day fast approaching, here is some pro advice on preparing for the NaNoWriMo!
Prepare an Idea
One of the most simple steps in the planning process should be finding an idea.
If for whatever reason, you find yourself drawing a blank, then there is some advice I can give you for preparing an idea. If you are a first-time writer, I would suggest writing a novel with the genre you read the most. If you find you enjoy reading adventure novels, then write an adventure. You will go on to apply the same method for finding the theme, the types of character and the overall vibe of your novel.
Yet, if you are more experienced, I recommend you avoid the easy and comfortable. I recommend that an experienced writer should use the NaNoWriMo to tackle a new genre, or theme, to explore interesting ideas and challenge themselves to write something new. Variety not only makes for keeping the writing experience enjoyable, but it will serve to improve your writing in the long run.
For example, if you enjoy writing thriller stories about robots set in a dystopian future, then try exploring a new theme or genre, such as writing a peculiar pirate adventure, or make it a full-comedy.
Your idea, once you have it, should be as simple as that. Robots in a dystopia or pirates in search of treasure or knights fighting dragons or finding true love in a bakery.
Write a Story Structure in 1 hour
Writing a story structure should be purely instinctual in the beginning, but with the NaNoWriMo, it becomes a little more complicated.
First, it helps to organise your writing plan in such a way that you write a chapter every day. Next, the word count. To meet the goal, you will need to write around 1,700 words a day. Yet, if we round that up to a more suitable chapter length, then 2,000 a day will ensure you complete the challenge with 5 days to spare.
It’s a common strategy, but an effective and dependable one. A strategy that leaves you with 25 chapters to structure and plan. It is a wonderfully messy process as you structure a sequence of events that lead to a conclusion. Too few scenes and there are gaps in your story. Yet, a few more doesn’t hurt. Of course, you wouldn’t want to overdo it either.
The balance between scenes, chapters and word count becomes an aggravating process, but let me simplify it.
First 5 chapters, introductory. Introduce key characters, establish plot, complete first important scene.
Last 5 chapters, climax. Your protagonist and antagonists are nearing the end of your story. The second last chapter is the climax, the last chapter is simply tying off loose ends. That gives you three chapters to divide into preparing additional climax chapters.
That leaves you with 15 chapters to turn into a sequence of scenes and events that take your characters from their naive beginnings to their endings. 15 chapters where you can write just about anything you wish, as long as it is believable in the scope of your story. Don’t be afraid to write with patterns in mind. Such as 2 chapters set up, 2 chapters conflict, 1 chapter wrap up, then repeat two more times.
Your goal is to write the first draft, not to write your magnum opus.
Quick Character Planning
Like with planning your story, you need to plan your characters.
Luckily, this too is an easy process. When planning for the NaNoWriMo, character plans are, at best, vague. As there isn’t much time to perfect a story and it’s characters, planning your character should be simple and precise. Writing brief bios of the characters will be more than enough for you to keep track of your characters and develop them in your story.
A brief character bio should consist of the following:
For many writers, the NaNoWriMo is an endurance game.
Despite it being an entire month in length, 30 days is still a long time to maintain consistent writing. While it is likely that most writers starting the NaNoWriMo start well, many are unable to complete the challenge. That is due to many writers not considering that life isn’t smooth sailing. Everyone has their share of responsibilities and needs to allocate proper time to them.
A hard day at work can lead to taking the evening off to get some much needed R&R, but like when exercising, stopping is easy, but starting again is difficult. One evening turns into many and the result is a dash in the last few days to meet the 50,000-word goal or simply failing the challenge. While this isn’t a bad thing, as you never know what life throws your way, many of these writers could have easily met the challenge and kept their responsibilities in check, had they taken them into account.
Approach writing for this challenge much like starting a new habit. Whenever you have time, write, write as much as you can. Yet, don’t prioritise writing over something important. With a chipper attitude and consistent writing, you can easily overcome the NaNoWriMo and have a first-draft to a novel ready to become a book!
NaNoWriMo…a difficult challenge almost every time, it never seems to get easier. Yet, when writing is your passion, you can almost be guaranteed that you will overcome the challenge. It’s all about maintaining a writing schedule and writing without pause. Accept that the first draft won’t be fantastic, it might not have the best grammar, but by the end of it, you will have something special.
You will have a rough draft to work with. Rewrite some sections, correct errors and a few basic edits can turn it into a fine book to be proud of. I encourage all writers, from beginner to expert, to take up the challenge and have fun with it.
Having fun is the most important part. Even if you end up writing the most ridiculous twaddle you have ever devised it is worth it.
On that note…
Good day, goodnight and happy writing!
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Thank you for reading!
Matthew Dewey, Writer