We are close to November and NaNoWriMo, which many of us writers feel excited, anticipated, and perhaps even a little nervous to participate in. Some may feel that the task of writing 50.000 words is a daunting project. Some might even feel scared because they might think they will spend NaNoWriMo staring at a blank screen. No worries, I am here to help give you tips on how to prepare for NaNoWriMo. In this post I will offer you, the fiction writer, some tips on how to prepare for NaNoWriMo. But first, a short introduction of NaNoWriMo.
What is NaNoWriMo?
NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month and is based on the challenge of writing 50.000 words during the timeframe of November. The essence of this challenge is to get a part of your first draft, or the first drafts of a couple of short stories, done during November.
NaNoWriMo isn’t just about the pain and pleasure of writing, though. You can do more than track the progress of your 50.000 word-goal on their website. You can befriend and be social with other writers, participate in forums where you discuss different things that’s associated with writing, give support to struggling writers as well as getting support from others when you’re struggling, and other fun stuff. NaNoWriMo’s website is basically a community for people who have the same goal — to write 50.000 words during November and get that first draft (or a part of it) done.
Why You Should Plan Beforehand
Since you only have a month to complete 50.000 words you need to take advantage of all your writing time as effectively as possible. This requires some planning of your story beforehand. Let me be clear on something first: planning your story beforehand does not mean outlining your entire manuscript — if that’s not what you want to do. You do, however, need some guidelines of your story before NaNoWriMo starts so that you’ll have a chance to accomplish the goal of 50.000 words.
The reality is that when NaNoWriMo starts, you should write. Not procrastinate or roll your thumbs or edit. To be able to make the most out of every minute of your writing time, you need some sort of plan.
So, what is this plan I’m talking about? Well, check out the list below and find out.
How to Plan a Fiction Story for NaNoWriMo
Get to know your characters. You need to know some basic stuff: some background story, his/her goal and desires, perhaps a little of what he/she looks like, etc. It’s not very important with names right now. Usually when I don’t know a name for a character when I write the first draft I put some keyword in brackets, like: [Main Character], [Heroine], [Male Bully], [Shop Owner], etc. The trick is to not get stuck, so instead of trying to think of a name, just use a keyword within brackets for now. You can always go back and fix that in the editing process, which is not during NaNoWriMo. However, for those of you who want to know more about, say, your main characters, you can use this list of questions for a character interview I’ve posted on the blog.
Come up with settings. You don’t need to be all that detailed about the settings now, just some rough notes on where and when your story takes place. If you want, you can use the worldbuilding questions I’ve posted on the blog.
The plot of your story. Ask yourself some ”What if” questions to get some ideas for your story. You don’t need to be all that detailed about what should happen in every scene, just take some rough notes. Perhaps you want to be a little more detailed and use a story structure as a framework. If so, you can use the Three Act Structure — Act I, Act II, Act III — or something a little more simple, like the Seven Point Story Structure.
Or, if you want ready-made Scrivener or Microsoft Word templates to help you plan and outline your story, with character creation, world building and setting, and story structure, you can check out the templates I've made right here.
This is basically what you need to begin writing your story during NaNoWriMo. At least this is what helps me to avoid staring at a blank screen. And since NaNoWriMo is for a limited time only, thirty days, I have to stay focused on writing and not think about what happens next, or which character had what name, etc.
Hopefully this works for you, too.