“A writer who waits for ideal conditions under which to work will die without putting a word on paper.”
E B White (1899-1985) Writer (via @Quotes4Writers)
NaNoWriMo is almost upon us. Are you ready for it?
Yes, yes, that should have had some sort of deep ominous swell of sound behind it. I’m sure there are a few nanites out there who are prepared, but most of us stare at the calendar with dropped jaws at this point and realize that still not sure exactly what we’re writing about.
I’m here to tell you it is all going to be alright. Take deep breathes. Don’t stress. Here are a few tips on how to prepare for the coming month.
Choose a Protagonist
Knowing who your antagonist is would also be good at this point, but knowing who your central character is is a really good start. Once you know who your protagonist is you can start asking the big questions that will help you determine your plot like what do they look like and where do they live. Probably not what you thought I would say, but these things make a difference.
Let’s try out an example. Your as yet undescribed character’s big dream is to be the best wrestler in the world. If this character is young, buff and talented you’re going to need a conflict to make this an interesting journey for the reader. What if the character is a woman? How about a scrawny kid living in the middle of nowhere?
Not only are these choices going to impact your story, but they also make great fodder for your first few pages if your not sure where your plot is going yet at 12:01 am on November 1st.
Notify Your Close Friends and Family
This is mainly so that they won’t think you’re dead when you disappear into a hole otherwise known as your room or mentally unbalanced when you show up ravenously seeking coffee.
Do you have to share specifics with them? Not unless you want to. There’s commentary both ways on the benefits of sharing goals. Think back on goals you’ve achieved in the past. Did you succeed when your friends all knew or when it was a little more private? Choose whichever way works best for you.
Go Grocery Shopping
Plan now and plan wisely for writing munchies. You’re using a lot of mental energy so, choose brain healthy foods like easily munched fruits, vegetables and cheese sticks. Nuts are great too, just keep in mind that they aren’t the lowest calorie foods. I know I probably sound like your mother or trainer at the moment, but if you don’t have healthy options at hand you may find yourself doing a new workout at the gym on December 1st instead of finishing up those last writing details.
Clean Up Your Writing Area
If you have notes, find a way to organize them so you can find what you’re looking for. Otherwise clear out the clutter if for no other reason than so that you have a place to put those snacks so that they won’t chance hitting your computer and causing electronic misery.
Determine a Back-Up Plan
… as in backing up your files. No one wants to think about computer problems during NaNo but I can attest that they happen. Once the month starts you’ll be distracted and this can easily get pushed to the back burner causing potential heartache in the long run. I usually have a copy on my computer which is backed up to a flash drive and also on Google docs. Not only does that provide me with several options should one fail, but it also keeps my document portable.
To Outline or Not to Outline
Last, but not least, the eternal Hamlet-esque question – to outline or not to outline. I do not outline. Other people do. I actually did try to outline my first year and discovered that a number of changes had occurred by the time I reached mid-book. Most people I’ve had this discussion with have said the same, but I’m sure there are others who love their outlines and can’t imagine life without them
What do I do? I determine plot points. These are things that I know need to happen in the arc of the story. Usually this consists of the beginning and the end with a few major developments in between. It’s the bare bones of the story that get fleshed out as I write it.
Here’s an example from last year’s novel:
Ayree (protagonist), a nobleman’s daughter, is taken captive while traveling and given as a war prize to the field general
Field general recognizes the possibility of building goodwill and takes her to the capital
On the way there she meets Shalen (main character, protagonist in different story)
In capital catches the eye of the king
King finds out she’s the daughter of a duke/advisor to neighboring king
Political marriage is arranged
Obviously there’s a lot more to the story than that, especially since it’s the first of a trilogy, but those are the basics and provide ample base for the writing to begin.
I should also mention that a lot of that happens between the 29th and the 31st of October.
In conclusion, I’m not going to tell you that my way is the only way. People complete NaNo with a lot of different methods. These are just a few of the things that I do every year to try and start my month out right.
“If you could get up the courage to begin, you have the courage to succeed.”
David Viscott (1938-1996) Pychiatrist, Author (via @Qutes4Writers)
What do you do to prepare for NaNoWriMo?