I’m sure many here are aware that November is Nanowrimo – National Novel Writing Month. As explained at the official site here, and here and here, the goal of Nanowrimo is to bash through 50,000 words of a novel in a single month.
I could not be more supportive of this idea – it gives focus and a nice juicy competitive edge to an endeavor that can seem completely overwhelming when you’re facing it all on your own. Through peer pressure and the truly national focus on the event, Nanowrimo forces people to commit. It’s easy to get caught up in and carried along by the writing frenzy of tens of thousands – or maybe by now hundreds of thousands - of “Wrimos”. And I’ve met and heard of lots of debut novelists, like Carrie Ryan (The Forest of Hands and Teeth) Sara Gruen (Water For Elephants), and Lisa Daily (The Dreamgirl Academy) who started novels during Nanowrimo that went on to sell, sometimes sell big.
But as everyone who reads this blog knows, I’m not a big fan of sitting down and typing Chapter One at the top of a blank screen and seeing what comes out from there. It may be fine – but it may be a disaster, and it doesn’t have to be.
If you’re going to put a month aside to write 50,000 words, doesn’t it make a little more sense to have worked out the outline, or at least an overall roadmap, before November 1? I am pretty positive that in most cases far more writing, and far more professional writing, would get done in November if Wrimos took the month of October to really think out some things about their story and characters, and where the whole book is going. It wouldn’t have to be the full-tilt-every-day frenzy that November will be, but even a half hour per day in October, even fifteen minutes a day, thinking about what you really want to be writing would do your potential novel worlds of good.
And let me just say right now, for the sticklers: in Nanowrimo rules it is NOT cheating to have an outline before November 1. As you can read in the FAQ, outlines and prep work are encouraged.
So throughout October, in between some pretty crazy Halloween touring for THE UNSEEN, I’m going to revisit some of the key story structure concepts we’ve been talking about on this blog, the stuff I think would be most helpful in prepping for the marathon writing session that Nanowrimo is, and people who want to do more than fly by the seat of their pants come November 1 can maybe get a jump start on their novels by following along with some fun prep work, which I will actually try to spell out in assignments.
Come November 1, you can throw all that prep work out the window and just go for it with all of the other crazy novelists.
But you know what? Even if you never look at that prep work again, your brilliant subconscious mind will have been working on it for you for a whole month. (Cause let’s face it – we don’t do this mystical thing called writing all by ourselves, now, do we?).
And the work you do today will make the work that you do in November really fly, and – I hope – really count.