#NaNoWriMo begins in less than twenty-four hours! Are you ready?
My writers should all be receiving a packet over the next couple of days with some daily words of encouragement.
Even if you’re not participating, you’ll be well received by a writer as a side-line cheerleader. Usually around the 20K word point. That’s the largest hiccup in most cases. Once you reach that milestone, the 50K seems doable, and the manuscript starts to feel self-written. Prepare yourselves, though, because somewhere around 35K, you’ll like have two more thoughts start to crop up: (1) “Yep, I can write this. I don’t need to finish this month, because I want to make sure I get this just write.” (2) “I’m going to have to start over or do another novel. I don’t see how this is going to end.” The last 10K will write itself in one final push.
Just Write It
When you hit those bumps, don’t focus on the story, focus on the habit. That’s what this month is all about—the writing habit. If you need a break, start writing about why you want to succeed and what writing means to you. Chances are, after about three hundred words about why you want to succeed during #NaNoWriMo, you’ll stop ruminating and start back in on your novel.
Another great help is writing sprints! Writing fellowship can be likened only to that of horse owners. Something in our nature creates the perfect breeding ground for fellowship. This is National Novel Writing Month! Use that! If you’ve never written a novel, or you’ve tried and stopped dozens of times before, use the fellowship of thousands of authors across the world all pulling for and encouraging one another.
I’ll be working on my own writing project, though my goal will be 70K. 70,000 words divided by thirty days equals 2,333 and 1/3 words a day. To reach the 50K goal, you need to write 1,666 words a day. How many words a minute do you type? If you can type 60 words a minute, you can knock that goal out in less than half an hour. Of course, will you probably do that? No, because when you’re writing a novel, you’re likely to stop and think from time to time. However, hitting your goal in less than two hours a day is completely doable. So, if you’re cramped on time, aim for an hour before everyone else wakes up (or before you head off to work) and an hour before you go to bed.
To help you achieve your goals, I’ll be starting #MadWritersUnite back up on Twitter. That’s the hashtag I use for writing sprints. So, if you’d like to join me, that’s where you’ll find me. The plan will be to have one round of sprints in the morning at 5 a.m. and one again in the evening at 5 p.m. I’ll likely do them throughout the day, as well, and I may shift that time if it turns out that everyone can get on a different time, so stay posted for any changes. Those time are just meant to snag people who are doing the morning and evening writing sessions
Together, we can do this!
Five and Five Theme
To keep with the five and five theme, let’s do a quick review of what goes into a novel for the novel-writing newbies out there:
5 elements of a novel
Characters – Every novel should have a protagonist and an antagonist, as well as supporting characters. Each character should have their own personality, and ideally, their own speech patterns and nonverbal mannerisms. Most importantly, though, each character should have their own character development that reacts to the plot catalyst in a unique fashion, progressing toward the ultimate climax. No two individuals will likely respond to the same catalyst in identical ways, let those unique reactions drive your story forward.
Setting – Where does the action take place? By the end of chapter one, we should know when the action is taking place and where it is taking place. Setting can be used to set up the plot. Think of the changing of the seasons and what each means symbolically. You can use that imagery to help set the tone for your plot. Also, keep the setting simple in the beginning while your reader gains their bearings. Science fiction, especially. Don’t try to introduce too much too quickly. Character and setting are equally important, so flesh them both out with purpose; weave them together, don’t throw us in a stew and start stirring the pot before we even know what’s cooking.
Plot – see post below
Point of view – Use this with purpose. My preference is third person, limited, past tense. However, whether you choose first person present, first person past, or alternating/multiple POV, past tense, the thing to remember is purpose. What do you gain and what do you lose by each? Write what feels most comfortable for the first draft. You can always go back and change it.
Dialogue – Keep this natural. Say it out loud, and be careful not to let this be where your plot progresses. Quick tip: Watch for question marks. Is the question meant to be planted in the readers mind? Take it out and shift the narration and plot so that the reader comes to the question naturally.
5 elements of a plot
Exposition – This is where the reader gains their bearings. Things I like to see here are who, what, when, why, and where. Who is taking us through the story? Why are the ones taking us through, and why should I care about them? When does this all take place? Where does this all take place? This is where you create a sympathetic character and let the reader take a look around the set before things start speeding up. At the very end of this exposition, we get ready to transition to the rising action. When the plot speeds up, I better already have my bearings. If I do, then then this is where the characters begin to come together and we see the catalyst behind the plot should become clear. Very important here, remember that the catalyst is just that—an inciting incident—one that changes the direction of the character’s world. It should be your character’s personality, background, and disposition that decides how to react to the catalyst, not the catalyst that determines the character’s next move. That sounds a little tricky, but that’s what character development is all about; how does your ordinary person react to an extraordinary event? We need a decision that, once made, changes the direction of their fate and cannot be undone.
Rising Action – Once the decision is made, there is only one way to get to the other side, and that’s straight through. What will our character ultimately have to face? What are they working toward? Where is the catalyst leading them? This is the rising action, and should feel just so—like the action and tension are increasingly out of control (it is up to you to control the pace of plot progression, but the character should feel less and less in control). Keep turning the crank on the jack in the box until every crank makes us jump just a tad, but then delay the gratification of letting the top spring open. Rising action is all about delayed gratification—in romance, horror, mystery… we know the spring is about to get sprung, but we don’t know when, only that’s getting wound up.
Climax – Let that clown free! This is where the pop springs open and the character has comes face to face with the final impediment. Sink or swim. Life or death. What will come will come, because there’s no turning back now. We made our decision, and now the ultimate impediment to our happiness is staring us in the face. The bad guys finally caught up to us, the past has slapped us in the face in front of our new romantic future together, the toasters have finally made themselves known—whatever it is, this is the top of the action. This is the top of the roller-coaster, and there’s nothing to do but hold on!
Decreasing Action – How does the outcome affect all of our characters? The beginning of a novel should just be the ending rewritten in some ways, and that’s what we’re looking at now. Tying up all the loose ends we used in the beginning to set up the rising action.
Dénouement – The resolution. How did our character change? Will life ever be the same? Would we want it to be? Something in our exposition should have made our character sympathetic, and given us something to latch onto as a reason to follow them through the book and route for them. Bring that back up and give us satisfaction that our journey has come full circle.
So many words!
Don’t be intimidated by how much goes into a novel. If you’ve read books, you have an inherent sense of all of this already. Trust that to be your guide for the first draft. Then, you can go back and check to make sure all of these elements are here. Mostly, I wanted you to see one thing:
THIS POST IS WHAT 1,667 WORDS LOOK LIKE. If you can write this much every day, you can complete a 50,000 word novel in one month.
Now, that doesn’t seem all that hard does it? Remember, too, that you are not alone in this. Professional and amateur writers alike will all be taking part during #NaNoWriMo, and this only comes around once a year. Any time you stop and doubt yourself, ask yourself, “If not now, when?” Just think, too, when you gather around the Thanksgiving table this year and everyone asks what you’ve been up to, you’ll be able to say, “Oh. I’m a few days away from finishing my novel. You?” How’s that for some news, huh?