How’s everyone doing so far with NaNoWriMo? Last week I mentioned I was diving into NaNo somewhat unexpectedly, and the experience has been like eating pizza on the go–too rushed to thoroughly enjoy the experience, but super happy I get to do it at all.
WEEK ONE is usually the most energetic week of NaNo. Writers are still riding high, pummeling their notebooks or computer screens with word after word. We’re not really tired yet, and we probably haven’t yet reached a point where we’ve gotten stuck.
Let’s keep it that way.
PANTSERS: It’s probably easier for pantsers to accept the fact that NaNo is all about quantity, not quality. This is a great time to let Muse take control and drive your story forward.
When you don’t know if you have enough story to write, I suggest putting in events that might help take the story into a different direction, twists that will help give you some more yardage. Extra details are good, too. Try including all 5 senses in each chapter you write–really dig deep with that sensory detail to make things jump off the page. Or screen.
Let Muse take your story in any direction she/he/it sees fit. Muse will offer possibilities you aren’t prepared for. Even if it’s something that doesn’t quite work in the story as it stands now, like 17th century pirates showing up in the middle of the Vietnam War (don’t ask). You might find it works after you’ve structured and outlined and figured out how the story is going to end.
Dialogue is great filler for those times you hit a dead zone. Sometimes my characters will talk about what they’re going to have for dinner, or about the weather, stupid stuff that real-life people really do talk about but has no place in a book! (Yes, that kind of dialogue MUST be edited out on the next draft, but with NaNo, we’re only concerned with putting down words.) The funny thing about pointless dialogue is that 9 times out of 10, it will reveal my next event or plot point that matters to the overall story goal.
Pantsers probably aren’t inclined to organize all of Muse’s ideas during these 30 days. And that’s okay. Random ideas and characters such as 17th century pirates that show up during the Vietnam War (seriously–don’t ask) happen more often during a pantsed writing session than a planned one.
I learned long ago to never discount anything in the early stages of a story. So that I don’t lose track of all possibilities, I jot them down directly in my NaNo draft as they hit me. On any other occasion, I would use a scrap folder to store the overflow of ideas, but not during NaNo.
Bouncing between files can be a time sucker and a distraction. Just put them right into your rough draft (the other benefit to this is that they will apply to your word count! Bonus!!) I always highlight or asterisk the ideas that may (or may not) fit my NaNo novel. That way, when I go back and re-read (when NaNo is over, you eager beaver, you) the asterisked/highlighted ideas pop out at me, reminding me that that they are extra ideas that I might (or might not) be able to work in the story.
PLANNERS: Even the best plan will have a plot hole. It’s okay. Steer around it. Highlight it or asterisk it and make yourself a quick note that this particular area is problematic. You will have puh-lenty of time after November 30 to fix the problems in your story.
I know some writers micro-plan throughout NaNo—they’ll hit the pause button on the actual writing, do a little bit of work on the outline/structure, then go back to the WIP. I’m sure this works for some. If you find yourself getting too distracted with the micro-planning (like not going back to the challenge of writing 1,700 words a day) then my suggestion is to scrap the micro-planning and simply write.
Like the title of the post suggests: Don’t Think—Write! This is where so many writers get stuck with NaNo. I know, it goes against a planner’s blood to ignore plot holes or other structural/plausibility issues. After all, that’s why they planned in the first place—to avoid such demonic pitfalls.
Writing yourself one-line chapter plans can be helpful. Some of the chapter plans could say something like “Marcy and Brad go to the hospital to meet the victim”—something very basic, but enough to provide setting and character motivation and a chapter goal. Much of the time, as long as we know what the goal of a chapter is, then we know the direction of our story’s path. When we know the direction of our story’s path, then we know enough to write the next chapter goal.
For those of us who have decided to use NaNo as a way of working on the quality (not concerned about word count), then focus on story goals that push your story forward. I give some examples here. Because the energy of NaNo is pretty contagious, it is easy to use other writers’ positive mojo to get your own work done. Use these 30 days to tackle that story that has been evading you all year. Dig deeper into the heinous villain to make readers see the sympathetic side to him/her. Write with joy, not stress, during this month. Feel your story building through developed characters and twisty plot lines without worrying how many words you’re scribbling down.
How y’all doing with your word count or story progress? Share in the comments below.
Have a writerly day!