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Friday, November 29, 2013

NaNoWriMo is as Easy as P-I-N

Part of a special month-long event featuring writing tips and NaNoWriMo strategies from guest writers and fellow NaNo participants.

NaNoWriMo Strategy Guest Blog
by M A Capelson

 When I decided to enter my first NaNoWriMo Competition back in 2011, I naturally experienced a whole bag full of mixed feelings. The excitement was there, but there was also this unrelenting dread. ‘How am I going to be able to write so many words in such a short amount of time?’ However, as I thought more and more about it, I found myself beginning to construct a strategy of how to meet the problems head-on through a mixture of organisation and determination. I have been asked kindly to share with you that strategy which has helped me succeed in winning NaNoWriMo for the past two years. 

PREPARATION: I never like to jump straight into a project without giving myself time to plan. My last two successful NaNos both went through a stage of preparation before the competition began. Good preparation for me is to choose my genre and plot concept, generate the principal characters, and carry out some minimal research around my topic; all of which enables me to generate a rough guideline of what I intend to write. This preparation stage I prefer to carry out at least one month in advance, which allows me a decent amount of planning time. 

Choose your genre and create your main plot concept first. For the purposes of speedy, under-pressure competition writing, choose a genre that you are both knowledgeable in, passionate about, and above all, comfortable with writing. For me, that genre is Paranormal Horror. While I have plenty of other genres that I wish to experiment with, I prefer to save those for when I have more time to challenge myself. Once you have chosen your genre, you need to think about a main plot concept. What will you want to happen in your story? Create a significant event that your story will lead up to, and think about what sorts of consequences such an event will create for the characters caught up in it. For example, what sort of repercussions would there be for the friends of your main character if he/she were to suddenly disappear?

As for the characters, there is no need to go mad on creating them at this stage. While preparing for NaNo, I find it best to create rough outlines of a few principal characters only, for instance, so far in this year’s NaNo I only know the names of my main protagonist, her son and his carer. I have found that often secondary characters and incidentals have a tendency to introduce themselves as I am writing. Also, don’t worry about creating a title or character names that you want to keep permanently. These issues are not important in a first draft and can always be changed and developed later on.

At the beginning of October, go out and buy an A4 Notebook. This will be the book you use to organise all of your novel ideas into a guideline that is clear and easy to follow come November. Put into this book your plot concept, a few brief character studies and some general research notes. This research does not have to be in depth; just enough to give you a general idea of the subject matter you are writing about. For instance, my first NaNo, ‘Swansong’, is primarily set in an Insane Asylum. So during the planning, I did some basic research into the history of the British Asylum system. Finally, turn your notebook to the very back page. Here, list each of your chapters and roughly describe what you want to happen in each one. This will be your Chapter Guide. A Chapter Guide will be a crucial template during NaNo, as it gives you a guideline of your story chapter by chapter so you always know what to write.

INSPIRATION: While gathering together ideas and creating my planning guideline throughout October, I also like to gather together various things that inspire me to write my story. I watch alot of Films and TV programmes relating to my subject matter, and take notes of any points of interest that I draw from them. I also read books of the same genre by other authors, to get a feel for how my plot concept has been tackled by published and professional authors. 

Another good way to get yourself inspired for writing is to make an iTunes playlist. Collect all the music that reminds you of your story or helps you create an atmosphere, and play it quietly in the background while you write. I find that having a NaNo soundtrack helps me not only describe things in my story better, but helps me write faster as well. Finally, do a Google search for lots of images that make you think of your story. Perhaps there is a celebrity that you would want to see playing the part of your main protagonist, or a photograph of a place that looks perfect for your main setting. Print these pictures off and put them on a cork board, and hang it wherever you will be writing. You can then look at these pictures throughout November to help motivate and inspire you as you write. 

NANO A GO-GO! November is here. You have your planned guideline in place, you know your genre and the concept of your plot and you know what inspires you to write. Now comes the actual process of writing it all down, one day at a time. The first step to NaNo success is to break down that overwhelming 50k word count. NaNoWriMo’s website recommends that a minimum of 1,666 words can be written every day in order to make the target before we run out of November. 1,666 words is alot less daunting that 50,000. However, I prefer to write just slightly more. I usually aim to write no less than 2,000 words every day, which then gives me a comfortable headstart in case I have a day or two in which circumstances dictate that I cannot write. Another thing I prefer to do during NaNo is write my 2,000 words first thing in the Morning. That way, I have got that day’s portion of writing out of the way before my mind can get distracted by other things. I also find I have a much greater capacity for concentration in the Morning.

Lastly, don’t try to analyse or criticise your writing during November. Turn off that ‘inner editor’ and never read back what you have written until the competition is over. There is a time and place for editing and critiquing your story, and November is not that time. Don’t worry about how bad it might be, just keep pushing forward and remember you can always change that awful clich├ęd chapter or dreadful dialogue later.
So that is my strategy. I have used this process for the past two years and have won the past two NaNoWriMo competitions. I have two first drafts of novels ready to be edited and taken to the next stage, and this year, I will do it all over again. One last thing to remember, is that NaNo is meant for fun. Don’t sink under pressure, relax, and enjoy your novel!
About the author
M A Capelsion is a Historian was a passion for the dark, Gothic and supernatural. Her first NaNoWriMo novel, Swansong, a psychological horror taking place in a 19th Century Insane Asylum, is due to be published by the Internet E-Book Publishers Gold Orchid Publishing. Her contribution to this year’s NaNoWriMo competition is The Place Where It Happened, an American Paranormal Horror centred on Demonology.


1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing that great advice!! Perfect for planning the next project (and next year's NaNo!).

    ReplyDelete