Thursday, October 2, 2008

Gearing Up for Nanowrimo in Three Easy Steps

Nanowrimo: National Novel Writing Month begins November 1

Instead of fretting over word choice, sentence fluency, or air-tight plots, participants of Nanowrimo pound the keyboard in exuberant strokes. The ultimate goal is to produce 50,000 words in one month. Spell checks, grammar checks, and gut checks are all saved for the doldrums of December when you've nothing better to do than explore for belly lint or revise your novel.

Interested in playing along? Well, then, register if you want with the site. Or, if you'd prefer to play it alone, don't. Either way, it's up to you to closet yourself with caffeine and power bars, inspiration and diabolical plots, and get rocking on your first (or next) novel!

So, it's October, and you're thinking you want to be involved this year. What can you do? Well, funny you ask, because that's what this post is really about. Everyone has a different method or angle for getting the most out of this month of craziness. I'm listing but one way.

Things to do before the big day:

1. World-building: Create the world you're writing about. What laws operate within the fantasy, sci-fi, or alternate universe that you've created? Flora? Fauna? Governments? If you're writing about a contemporary setting, get to know the area you're writing about. Chicago? Seattle? A tiny town in eastern Oklahoma? Get a sense of place, immerse yourself in the setting, jot some notes about major landforms or landmarks. If you're writing about a different decade, start listening to the music from that era, search out hairstyles and fashions, understand the major political or civil issues of the day that impacted life at the most basic level.

2. Character-building: Who are you writing about? Get to know your character(s). There are lots of character sheets on the Internet that you can fill in. If you flesh out your protagonist, s/he will have a stronger personality and take you places you never thought you'd go. Don't forget your antagonist. Having a vivid (round in lit terms) personality makes for a stronger story. When the "bad guy" is multi-dimensional, tension crackles. This ultimately thrusts your story forward, giving you a place to go.

3. Plot-building: This can be as simple or as elaborate as you want. Creating a 3-Act story is simple. Act I: Protagonist faces Quest. Act II: Protagonist faces Obstacle. Act III:Protagonist faces Resolution (achieves quest at great cost or fails. Your choice). Here's an easy worksheet to complete if you're looking for specific guidance. I personally like Blake Snyder's Beat Sheet since he's explored Joseph Campbell's Hero and Vogel's Journey (plus major hit movies) and compiled these observations into an easy-to-understand formula.

If you have a basic outline for where you're starting, where you want to go, and what bumps you'll hit along the way, you're prepped for the big month. If you've participated in the world-building month that Eliza sponsored, you're ahead of the game. If you're just starting out, no worries. The ride is worth the pain!

Do you have a different way to prep for this month? Are you planning on participating at all?


Anonymous said...

Decision making time looms ahead. I love Nanowrimo, but I'm not sure I'll participate this year. Nanowrimo is responsible for the fact that I have one completed novel and two incomplete ones. Do I want to continue plugging away at what has already been started, or bury myself under yet another wonderfully nanowacky manuscript? At the very least, I plan to use the Nano energy to sparkplug one of my current projects.

RG Sanders said...

Nice little post, Alex.

I was going to write one about NaNoWriMo just today (I even tuped out a title) but considering the amount of NaNo posts/blogs coming out I had no idea what to write. The last thing I wanted to do was drone on about my own lack of preparation and so on and so forth.

But this post was genius. I think it might even help some people out.

Incidentally - and obviously - I am doing the NaNo dance this year.

Catch me here:

Alex Moore said...

@uppington: personally, i think Nanowrimo is simply a launching pad into bigger, better, badder things. to be honest, and this is embarrassing, i've never actually *done* Nanowrimo. But I've fed off the energy and focus to better discipline myself in my own writing.

@rg sanders: you are awesome;) thanks for the kudos & best of luck w/ your NaNo dancing. I'm hoping this year helps catapult your novel into lots & lots of words. Your blog snippets are tantalizing, but you never give enough...