Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Write that novel NOW! Nanowrimo

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.

Nanowrimo works.

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.

- Alex


All the information on this blog and more, including full story structure breakdowns of various movies, is available in my Screenwriting Tricks for Authors workbooks.  Any format, just $3.99 and $2.99.

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If you're a romance writer, or have a strong love plot or subplot in your novel or script, then Writing Love: Screenwriting Tricks II is an expanded version of the first workbook with a special emphasis on love stories.

Smashwords (includes online viewing and pdf file)

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Jake Nantz said...

Awesome idea, Alex. What a great nudge leading up to NaNoWriMo.

Alexandra Sokoloff said...

Thanks, Jake - it makes sense, doesn't it?

Hope to see you this weekend at the workshop - even more of a jump start!

JD Rhoades said...

Oh boy oh boy oh boy...

Bobby Mangahas said...

Hmmm. Maybe I can get novel #2 (mostly done) with this year's NaNoWriMo. A long shot, but a definite possibility.

Unknown said...

This will be my first NaNoWriMo. So far, I've named my characters, drawn a family tree with birth dates, etc., thought up a general story line and some plot points.

I'm spending a lot of time thinking about the Book to Be, making notes everywhere, asking myself questions.

The result of all this planning is that I'm champing at the bit. I can hardly wait for Nov. 1.

Meanwhile, I look forward to reading your pre NaNoWriMo series. Thanks for all your help.

Rob Flumignan said...

Okay, I wasn't planning on doing Nano, but with this I just might. Maybe we'll start our own thing. OctoOutMo? OutlinaMo? Something.

Could be just the kick I need.

Anonymous said...

Any chance you'll be doing your workshop in the bay area?

The weeklong one you were part of looked fantastic too... just a plane too far to co-opt a movie title ;-)

In the meantime, I look forward to the continuing online version!

Wendy Wagner; said...

This works out perfectly for my evil plans! I just read _Anatomy of a Story_, by John Truby (your recommendation, I think!), and now I'm gearing up to do some pre-Nano story structuring. Your blog will be really encouraging. I'm really hoping that this year I write something I love.


Mayra Calvani said...

Good advice, Alex! I've done nanowrimo three times and already registered for the 4th. :-)

Alexandra Sokoloff said...

Ooh, so exciting to see that people are already up for it! Even Dusty! I'm going to do it for myself, too.

Alexandra Sokoloff said...

RJ, it doesn't have to be DONE - but think how much closer you'll be!

Alexandra Sokoloff said...

Sandra, you're in great shape already then, but I think you can get a lot further with some of the stuff we'll be talking about. Glad you're here!

Alexandra Sokoloff said...

Rob, I was thinking about the Os in October and Outline, too, but didn't get very far. Of course, I would never have come up with a name like Nanowrimo, either.

Alexandra Sokoloff said...

Anon, no workshops in the Bay Area scheduled so far, but I am doing a couple of online ones, first one coming up in January. I'll post more about it when I know.

Alexandra Sokoloff said...

W, isn't Truby awesome?

I'm always happy to facilitate evil plans.

And Mayra, how great that you're here. This really will be inspiring.

Sonja Foust said...

I am so in! I love NaNoWriMo, and I am DETERMINED to win this year. :)

Unknown said...

For NaNo to be productive, I think outlining is essential to the journeyman.

As a beginning writer, it was a huge boost just to crank out a 60k book. But now, cranking out 60k that I'll drop on the "dusty shelf" isn't worth the time.

I need the ideas to be solid and the plot exciting so that it won't be a total rewrite in december.

Cheryl said...

Excellent article. The one year I participated in NaNoWriMo I didn't have time to complete enough research, so needless to say, after 6000 horrible words and nights of trying to research and write at the same time, I decided it wasn't for me.

I'm tossing around one of three ideas right now, and hope to have an outline and character interviews done by the third week in October.

Thanks for the inspiration.


Anonymous said...

An insightfull post. Will definitely help.

Karim - Positive thinking