Saturday, October 29, 2011

Are You Ready for NaNoWriMo?

NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month, starts Tuesday. Are you ready to tackle the monumental task of cranking out 50,000 words in 30 days?

One way to get yourself prepared for NaNoWriMo is to assemble your materials before the festivities get underway. Here are a couple of handy checklists that can help you get your brain in gear before you put fingers to keyboard or pen to paper.

For Plotters:

Are you a natural plotter? Do you like to have everything broken down into a handy dandy outline before you start writing? If so, this checklist can help you get your ideas sorted and organized for your November writing marathon.

  1. Character outlines. There are many tools available online and elsewhere to help you write up basic information on your characters. This article at How to Write a Novel offers links to major and minor character outlines. Here’s another from Deviant Art, and still another from Take a gander and pick one that fits your style.
  2. Plot breakdowns. A detailed plot outline is essential for a plotter. You probably have your own method for breaking down your plots, but here are some additional methods you might like to try, especially if you feel like your plotting routine has gotten into a rut.
  1. Worldbuilding lists. Even if you’re writing a contemporary story, a list of locations with descriptions and other information can help you orient yourself and your reader. For complex worldbuilding such as in futuristic, science fiction or fantasy reads, these checklists are essential. Here are some worldbuilding resources focused on fantasy writing, but which could be adapted for sotires based in the real world, as well.
·      Worldbuilding

With these tools, you should have a good start that will help you power through your novel and meet that NaNoWriMo goal.

But What About Pantsers?

Don’t worry, pantsers—I haven’t forgotten about you. I personally write with a combination of outlining and pantsing, so I’ve got some ideas for you, too.

While you don’t want to outline yourself into writer’s block, which I know is a problem for many pantsers, it can help you produce more efficiently and consistently if you take the time to consider a few things before you get started.

  1. Who are my characters? This probably won’t be a detailed character outline, but in many cases knowing your characters on a gut level can help answer many questions that arise as you’re ad-libbing your way through your first draft.
  2. How does my story “feel?” Is it a dark drama, a lighthearted comedy romp, or an adventure? Even if you don’t know yet where your characters will take you, the overall tone and genre of your story can help determine some of the essential basic elements.
  3. What is the “shape” of my story? I see stories as pictures sometimes—not of the main characters or the places, but of the pulses within the story. The story starts on a low point, then swells to a specific set scene, then eases back for more introspective moments until the next big scene comes along. Keeping track of this overall movement can help you determine where you need to go next if you get hung up in your flow.
  4. Are there any specific, major scenes I want to include? Many pantsers have big scenes they know they want to work toward, whether they occur at the beginning, define the story climax, or wrap up everything into a neat package. In scriptwriting, these are often referred to as “set pieces,” and usually involve action of some kind. If you have an idea of what these major crossroads scenes will be in your story, what characters will be involved and what the consequences will be, you’ll have a goal to write toward as you construct your tale.
  5. How does my story end? This may or may not be an answerable question at this point, if you are a true pantser. But, like having set scenes, knowing where the end needs to be can give you a point to work toward. This could be as simple as knowing that, since the story is a romance, the romantic protagonists need to get together by the end.

If you’d like more tips, tricks, and outline ideas, check out these additional resources:

I hope these tips and resources are helpful, and best of luck as you tackle NaNoWriMo!