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How to Prepare for Nanowrimo ~ National Novel Writing Month
The Great American Novel
Nanowrimo is coming soon and will you be ready?
Nanowrimo (National Novel Writing Month) happens every November. Writers and amateurs from all over the world spend November glued to their computers, tapping out the next great novel, all in one month. The goal is simply to finish ~ 50,000 words of a new novel and you are a winner.
Sound fun? At Nanowrimo, the online headquarters for the project, writers can register, ask questions, log their word count, and find support.
If you'd like to take part in Nanowrimo and be successful, here are some tips to help you prepare for November 1st, before you write the first line of your novel.
Where to Get Ideas?
Start with an Idea
Do you have an idea for your novel already? If so then you are already ahead of the pack. If not, then spend some time brainstorming ideas. Get creative and try to find something you know you'll love spending an entire month writing about. Here are my best idea-generating tips:
- Create a Mind Map or Bubble Cluster Sheet. Start with the hint of an idea and draw it out by asking questions about it. Let's say you'd like to write about outer space. Will your novel have aliens? Spaceships? A city or galactic village home on a distant planet? Just keep asking questions to brainstorm and answer them. Jot everything down.
- Get more input. You can get ideas from anywhere. Try interesting news sites or newspapers, magazines, and other books in genres you like.
- Write it down. Whenever you get an inkling of a story idea, write it down! That way you'll remember it. Don't think you'll still remember it later, too often you won't and the great idea will be lost. So it's helpful to keep a small pad and pen with you to jot down ideas as they come.
- Talk with others. Kids are especially good at playing make believe and making up entire stories out of thin air. Play with some kids and see what ideas pop out.
- Re-work old ideas. West Side Story is Romeo and Juliet. You can change the setting of a story to completely come up with a new idea. Change the main character's occupation, or put traditional character types into a new arena. Have fun and combine two used ideas into a new unique one.
How to Outline Your Novel
Need help on how to outline your novel?
Now that you've got your idea, you're going to want to draw out the story into an outline. The outline will help you on November 1st to know where to begin and to guide you when you are in the middle of Chapter 15 and have accidentally killed off your main character.
To start outlining, it's time to ask more questions. Questions like...
- Who is your main character, your protagonist?
- Who is your antagonist?
- Is this an ensemble piece? Who are your main characters then?
- What happens? Write out a summary of what is going to happen in the story.
- What are the main plot points?
- What scenes have to happen in your story? Write out a summary of them.
The Big Picture
Now it's time for some fun.
Get yourself a large corkboard and flashcards. For every scene you have, write it down on a flashcard and pop it up on the board.
You can use a classic 3-Act structure which simply means a beginning, middle, and end.
Arrange your flashcard-scenes on the corkboard in the order that you want. Now you can see where you have gaps and need connector-scenes. Think up scenes to connect other scenes and evaluate your story.
You can have anywhere from 40-60 scenes, it really depends on your story.
Get those scenes in the correct order.
Last Minute Questions
Now you can evaluate your entire story in terms of questions like:
- Do you have a theme? And more importantly, are you happy with it?
- Does the story flow?
- Do you need to do more research in certain areas to be believable?
- Do your characters need more backstory?
- and so on.
You can evaluate your whole story this way, before you've written a single page. Then just go back to your scene cards or the written outline to polish it up.
And you are ready to write! Consider it a first draft and plug away, using your outline as a guide. If you haven't written an outline but want to use your scene cards, just arrange them in the proper order on the board and use that as your guide.
Nanowrimo is about having a deadline to get a great amount of work done ~ a whole novel in just one month. With an outline as your guide, you'll be able to concentrate on getting all those words down without having to worry about where you're going. You can spend the whole month happily emersed inside a story you'll already have come to know well. And if you decide you're not happy with the outline, well, then go ahead and complete your novel anyway, that's what Nanowrimo is about ~ getting it out of your head and on to paper. You can always brush up later. But most writers find having the structure of an outline to guide them takes away a lot of problems later on. Because if you spot any problems in your outline, you can fix the problems at that stage, rather than after you've already written a ton of words down.
It's 50,000 words in one month, November. Have fun with it!
Here's to happy writing and ending November with a huge accomplishment, your very own novel!
So use the time before to prepare and then you'll be confident when you have at it in November!