So November is here and that can only mean one thing – it’s NaNoWriMo time!
I’m not taking part this year, as I’m still busy editing the book I wrote last November, but I’m actually a little bit sad about it. Taking part in NaNoWriMo was a great experience and I ended up with a manuscript that I’m pretty proud of – even if it isn’t finished yet.
If you’re still on the fence, it’s not too late to get started.
But how do you choose the right project if you’re undecided?
Do you have a plan, or some of the book already written?
Before I started NaNoWriMo last year, I’d already written about 3,000 words of my manuscript. I used that couple of chapters as a starting point, which helped me engage in the story. I’d already created a window into the world I wanted to build; all I had to do was expand on it.
While you don’t need an outline or a plan for a book to start NaNoWriMo, it definitely helps. As you have limited time to produce the story, it’s much easier if you’ve already made some of the big decisions that might otherwise create a roadblock while you’re writing.
Which are you most excited about?
It seems obvious, but the story you choose to write doesn’t have to be the most logical one. It doesn’t have to be the one that you’ve diligently planned out, or the one you’ve written half of already.
You’re going to be writing in a fairly intense way every day for a month, so you need a project that will engage your interest and motivate you to keep writing.
If you choose a project you’re indifferent about, you’re going to run out of steam pretty quickly.
And sometimes writing is just about that, it doesn’t always have to be about creating an end product.
Do you know where the story is going?
If a full plan is unnecessary, it still helps to have an idea of your ending, or at least the direction the story will take. Some people are brilliant at writing with no plan and making up a plot as they go, but for most writers a structure of some kind is vital for staying on track.
Before you start to write, make a note of half a dozen important scenes that could occur throughout the book so you have markers to guide you through the rest of the story.
It’s also a good idea to think about your novel as a story broken down into chapters, which are then broken down into scenes. Each scene should have a particular piece of action or should move the story forward somehow. Think about the outcome and what has changed for your characters when the scene is over.
Which characters feel most real?
It’s often been said that you should start with the characters rather than the story. If your characters are well formed, the action will flow around them as you understand the decisions they would make in each situation.
Trying to force a character into a plot doesn’t always work, as the best characters tend to take on a life of their own, almost like real people.
How long have you been thinking about it? Is it a new idea?
I’d been thinking about my NaNoWriMo novel for about eight years before I wrote it. Mostly in an unstructured, speculative way that involved playing around with plot and imagining certain key scenes in my mind.
So although I didn’t start with a solid outline, I did have a strong sense of how the book should feel and some of the things that should happen.
But whichever project you choose, remember to have fun with it and if it doesn’t work, why not spend the remaining November days working on something else. Even if your 50,000 words are part of two different manuscripts, that’s still technically a win, right?
And finally, lovely blogger Frankie from As the Bird flies will be posting regular NaNoWriMo themed advice, interviews and inspiration throughout November – definitely worth checking out!