Saturday, October 02, 2010

October is Nanowrimo PREP month

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 – now international - 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.

So how many of you are planning to do Nanowrimo?

And are you planning to just start writing, Chapter 1, Page 1 on November 1?

Well, if you’re even here reading this blog you already know 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. Oh, I know, that’s the way pantsers work, and that’s just fine. As far as I’m concerned, the only real rule for writing, ever, is – WHATEVER WORKS. But for some of us, this “start on page one and see what happens” thing is maybe not the greatest idea, right?

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.

Now, I’ve done a series on Nanowrimo prep before, and I don’t want to just rehash that for those of you who have been here a while and are wanting BRAND NEW STUFF (you know who you are, sadists….). So for the month of October, every day I’ll just post a prompt and a link to one of those Nano posts, so those Nanos who want to start now and have the best chance of a halfway FINISHED novel by Nov. 30 can get a jump start 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.

So today we start at the very beginning – as the song says, a very good place to start.

NANOWRIMO PROMPT 1: First, you need an idea.


And now for the sadists – I mean regulars - there’s something else I have in mind for October.

I hate it when I have an idea like this because it means I have to do it, like I have nothing else to do in my life, but what the hell.

Last post we started in on Visual Storytelling, and I mentioned that:

If you start watching movies specifically to pick out the setpiece scenes, you’ll notice an interesting thing. They’re almost always used as act or sequence climaxes - and/or the crucial obligatory story elements like the Inciting Incident or Crossing the Threshold scenes.

Well, that got me thinking that I should do a series on Visual Storytelling as it relates to key story elements – in film or novels. I think we should go through the Story Elements Checklist one element at a time and look at examples of how films and novels handle those elements, especially visually.

My goal here is to get you looking at movies and novels specifically for how storytellers handle these key scenes so that you will be inspired to dig deeper visually in your own stories, especially to enhance the experience of these key moments.

So I’ll be starting that this week, too, after I do a couple of general posts on Visual and Thematic Storytelling as an overview.

Here’s to surviving October.

- Alex


How To Write A Novel From Start To Finish: previous posts

How to write a novel from start to finish (part one)

What is genre?

What's your premise?

The Price
(more on premise)

What is High Concept?

The Dream Journal

Three-Act Structure Review and Assignments

The Three-Act, Eight-Sequence Structure

The Index Card Method and Story Structure Grid

Elements of Act One

Story Elements Checklist for brainstorming Index Cards

What KIND Of Story Is It?

Elements of Act Two, Part 1

Plants and Payoffs

Plan, Central Question, Central Action (part 1)

What's the PLAN?

Plan, Central Question, Central Action (Part 3)

Elements of Act II, Part 2

The Lover Makes A Stand (romantic comedy structure

Elements of Act Three (part 1)

What Makes A Great Climax? (Elements of Act III, part 2)

Elements of Act III, part 2: Elevate Your Ending

What KIND of story is it? (and other notes about Inception)


More Rewriting: The Subplot Pass

Rewriting: Pay Attention To Sequences!

Rewriting: Stuck? Make a List

The Offer S/he Can't Refuse

Top Ten List - Favorite Mentors

Visual Storytelling - Part 1


Screenwriting Tricks For Authors
now available on Kindle and for PC and Mac.


Paula R said...

I LOVE this idea for Nanos. I am a NaNo and if I am not done with the book I started last year with the challenge, I hope to type the End on November 30 with this challenge. I have an idea for a new project, but I want to finish this one first. I have made some great headway since November last year, but I let the fear of failure inhibit my ability to move forward. I hit a big writing wave this summer after RWA Nationals, and I am still riding it. Can't wait to go on this journey with you. I am not much of a plotter, but I just jot ideas down and possible scenarios. This exercise will help me to fine tune those so I can be ready for the challenge. Thank you, Alex!

Peace and love,
Paula R.

Alexandra Sokoloff said...

Excellent, Paula, glad you're into it!

Remember, we all have that fear of failure, it's just human. Because failure is inevitable. It's also luckily no big deal.

Robin M said...

I've been doing nano for the past three years. I'm not a pantster by any means. I usually take the month of October to write a rough outline and develop characters so that when Nov 1 comes, I'm ready to write. Thanks in advance for the prep posts, will be reading and learning.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I'm ready! This month is the release of my first book, and I've already outlined and written the first several chapters of the sequel. So the timing of NaNo is perfect for me.

G.R. Yeates said...

Hi Alex,

Not this year for me, I'm afraid. I'm writing the 1st draft of Book 7 this month and then doing my rewrite in late October. Might try my hand at some short work in the interim. Depends how twitchy I get.


Sarra Cannon said...

I'm in for NaNo this year. In fact, going to the first sort of informal meet-up in the Raleigh area today at Northgate Mall. I'll be writing the second book in a series of mystery/horror YA books that I am going to self-publish. Currently editing book one and hoping to get it up on Pubit and Kindle stores before November 1. Getting very excited, plus I love the energy of meeting other area writers and knowing so many people out there in the world are taking this journey with me.

Looking forward to re-reading your NaNo posts and to exploring visual storytelling this month!

Unknown said...

I'll be doing WriMo, if I can get my outline whipped into shape by then.

Can a person "pants" and outline? Heck, that's me!

Linda Hengerer said...

Hi, Alex,

I'm doing NaNo for the 7th year, 6th as ML. Love the concept of having a deadline, and I'm always surprised at what I end up with. I'm in favor of outlines - I want the story to go somewhere solid, not just meander and maybe be worth something I can work with later.

Alexandra Sokoloff said...

Great, Robin! I've never officially done Nano, but am just getting back to my current book after a lot of backtrack editing, so I figure it can't hurt me to go back over the basics, myself.

Alexandra Sokoloff said...

Alex, congratulations on the book! Details, please.

Alexandra Sokoloff said...

Greg, just your occasional snark will be input enough for me. ;)

Alexandra Sokoloff said...

Sarra, how great that you have a F2F Nano thing going on! There's no doubt in my mind that can have exponential effect on your results.

Mystery/horror - I'm there.

Alexandra Sokoloff said...

Bratty, I think pantsing and outlining at the same time is pretty much the definition of the writing process. As much as I'm always encourage outlining I'm also always in favor of writing what comes out in a given moment. It's always a back and forth between the two, as far as I'm concerned.

Alexandra Sokoloff said...

Hey Linda - wow, that's a lot of Nanos! I guess the truth is I'm ALWAYS in Nano mode, but in real life Nano always seems to come the month I have a new book out. It's the Halloween factor, every year.

Carolyn said...

Hey Alex! Carolyn from Mystery Babes here...and yes, I am digging into your method as I am switching genres and want to stab at it during Nano, so all this prep work will be of brilliant help.

So, following along!