Friday, 11 October 2013

Secret to winning NaNoWriMo

The biggest secret to winning NaNoWriMo is preparation.  Okay, plus Butt-In-Chair (BIC), getting the wordage out.

If you’ve ever found yourself on Nov 1 (or Nov 7, or 14 or 29), staring at a keyboard, you may benefit by a bit of preparation.

If you’re a successful pantser who wins NaNoWriMo every year, this advice is not for you.  If you’re an unsuccessful pantser, who spends far too much time staring at a blank page before typing, “Uh, I don’t know what to write next?”, maybe you should reconsider your strategy.

Writers who win NaNo year after year know planning is key to their success.

And no, planning your novel in advance is not cheating.

 Lots. Of. Others. Agree.  With. Me.

You can do as much planning, plotting, arcing, characterising, structuring as you want before 1 Nov.   Or as little.   Plan out enough stuff so you have an idea about what you want to write.

You want enough planning to give you the answer to the question: “What happens next?”   

The biggest roadblock to getting text down is not knowing where you're going.

This is how it works:  You write your opening, possibly the hardest thing to write in a NaNovel.  You write until the scene is exhausted. 

“What happens next?”   Our Heroine meets Our Hero and they clash.
“What happens next?”   Miscommunication.  Bring in Trusty Sidekick.
“What happens next?”  Bad Guy has his day in pursuit of his evil plans.

As long as you can answer “What happens next?” you will flow along rather well.

If you ask, “What happens next?” and your answer is, “Um…?”  You need more planning.

This is how I plan a NaNovel (or any novel, really):

  1.  Form my plot backbone.  What’s my main dilemma? Who are the main characters this affects?
  2. Define the vertebrae:  What is the Resolution?  (I always come up with this first, or my novels fizzle instead of sizzle.)  What are the obstacles that prevent this resolution from resolving?   How does Our Heroine solve these obstacles?
  3. Musculature.   Break down events leading to resolution into scenes.   Sometimes I work forward, sometimes I work backward.  Backward is good.   Z happened, because Y happened, because X happened, etc. Causality. 

Sometimes I’ll conceive A (Inciting Incident), then I’ll conceive Z (HEA) and work my way between the two.  I’ll make my notes about what happens in each scene.  Each scene accomplishes at least one thing to forward the plot, and develop character.  Sometimes more.  The whole novel gets worked out from start to finish.  Every scene is planned.  Arcs are drawn.  Notes taken.  All that’s left is to populate the scenes with words.

That’s what November’s for.

I open my outlined structure in yWriter and open the first scene.  My notes tell me what needs to happen.  I’ve spent the night before dreaming the scene on the stage of my mind, blocking characters, rehearsing dialogue, etc.

Before I type, “Once upon a time…” my book is pretty much written. All I have to do is jot down the words.  And that’s the easy part.

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