Every November for the last few years I've participated in National Novel Writing Month, otherwise known as NaNoWriMo. For those of you who might not have heard of it, here's a brief description from their website:
National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to creative writing. On November 1, participants begin working towards the goal of writing a 50,000-word novel by 11:59 PM on November 30.
Valuing enthusiasm, determination, and a deadline, NaNoWriMo is for anyone who has ever thought fleetingly about writing a novel.
I finished the first year, but the last few I fell behind. Although, my novels were all completed after the deadline and some went on to publication. Even though I didn't finish during the 30 day marathon, I did complete a good chunk of the story to keep me satisfied.
This year, I'm doing things differently.
I want to finish!
At heart, I'm a pantser. That means I write by the seat of my pants with no idea where my characters are taking me or what scene will unfold next. Typically, I enjoy this writing style since when I begin writing my story, I feel like I'm also a reader eager to learn what happens next. The bad side of this is when inevitably my characters start to wonder what happens next, too. When they don't know, I don't know. And then I'm stuck. Every time this happens, I usually set the story aside for a bit, confident that my subconscious will send me some communication to help me resolve whatever issues my characters are facing. This could happen within days or sometimes weeks. For some stories, it might be months.
Difficult to keep to a deadline when I'm at the mercy of my subconscious. I think my muse might have ADHD. She likes to bounce around from idea to idea a lot.
There have been times that I have the good fortune to have a nearly complete outline already filled out in my head. On those rare occasions, I write out all the information I know about the characters, plot, scenes, conflict, anything and everything I know. Then on my writing journey, if my writing starts to falter, I can easily check out my notes to find out what happens next and I can take off again from there.
That happy incident occurred in January of this year. It was a dream-inspired story. I filled in a few gaps and got to writing. I wrote 36,000 words in one week! Since my normal word count on a good day is about 2k a day, that was an amazing feat for me! By the end of 3 weeks, I had the rough draft completed.
I sang! I danced! I celebrated!
And then I had to take a month off from writing to clean my house since I had completely ignored all the household chores in my obsessive drive to write that story.
I'm crossing my fingers that I can accomplish that magnificent feat twice in one year.
In preparation, I'm giving my house a thorough cleaning to get ahead of the mess that is to come. Unlike some other fortunate writers, the members of my household don't pick up any of my slack, so if I don't do it, it just doesn't get done. Yes, I've tested this theory by just not doing the dishes. After the cupboards were emptied, and still no one bother to lift a finger to clean anything, I knew it was a hopeless case. If I want my husband to help out around the house, I pretty much have to move out so I don't see the horrible mess that remains in my absence.
Okay, back to preparation.
The actual preparation of my novel is pretty much the same as I've done before. I write down every little detail that I know about the story and the characters. As much as I can. It doesn't even have to be in order. Sometimes I write notes on the middle first, then the ending, then the beginning. I hop around randomly as I fill in my notebook. After its all written out, then I can go back and try to rearrange it to make sense of it all. Sometimes I add a few lines of dialogue or maybe a line or two of description that pops into my brain. If I need to do some research about anything, I add what I'll need to find out. If its important to the story, I'll start researching right away. But if it pops up during the actual writing, I'll make note of it and complete the necessary research later. I don't want anything to take me away from my writing, no distractions, no browsing the internet in search of the correct make and model of a car my character might own. I'll figure that stuff out later.
Some authors use the Snowflake Method or Save the Cat to accomplish this sort of pre-writing preparation. Sometimes I like to use the Hero's Journey to work out the journey of my characters. Just google 'hero's journey' and a ton of links will come up. Or you can check out Christopher Vogler's The Writer's Joureny: Mythic Structure for Writers. It's a great book!
I admit, if there's an outline or some manner of road map to follow, it does tend to make the writing of the novel easier.
Here are some other posts I've seen recently with some tips on how to prepare for NaNo.
NaNo Prep via NaNoWriMo
11 Last Minute NaNoWriMo Prep Articles via Dariel Raye
How to Prepare for NaNoWriMo: To Outline or Not to Outline via Writer's Digest
Getting Ready for NaNoWriMo via Steve Shepard
2K to 10k: Writing Faster, Writing Better, and Writing More of What You Love. It's currently priced at $0.99.
And another here's a site with some free motivational badges for NaNo participants. Something fun to add to your website or blog to brighten it up and let everyone know what you're up to this month.
For those writers participating...Good Luck! And Happy Writing!