Tomorrow starts NaNoWriMo – a wild madcap adventure in social writing. Authors and writers all over the world take the month of November – all 30 days of it – and write a novel. Well… a rough draft of a novel. Let’s be clear about this – no one gets a finished draft in November. This is a time to let your imagination run wild and just write. Let the characters get themselves into trouble and if you need a little help ask the person at the next table what to do. Take on challenges, add strange things and see what happens. Remember, not everything will work, but that’s what editing is for. If you end up the month and the story is too broken to fix, chalk it up to a learning experience and get on with the next project.
There are many approaches to NaNo ranging from strict adherence to an outline to full bore pantsing (flying by the seat of your pants – no planning, plotting or research). I tend to fall in the middle. Even if I don’t write it down, I will plan. I’ll think about it right up until it is time to write. Then the thinking subsides a bit as I get to actually write. What I have learned in the five years that I’ve been doing this is that I have to have a few things in place before I can succeed at a 30 day novel (or any novel really). I have to know my characters, my locations and my bad guy, I need the start and end points. All of this I told you about in a previous post
I give myself September and October every year to get all of this together. Every year I set up my characters and maps and all of that and every year I fail to get them finished. Last year I failed to get my naming document in place so that I could find the names of smaller characters when I needed them. Consequently that draft is full of “fill in the blank” character and place names. I even managed to forget the name I’d made for the Big Bad and ended up calling him “Lord Fill in the Blank” throughout the novel. So much so that I’ve had to give him the name Phillip Leblanc because I couldn’t get the “fill in the blank” out of my head. I promised myself that I wouldn’t do that again.
Here it is the eve of NaNo yet again and my prep work is not yet complete. I’ve only managed to get to day 16 in the character interviews, my maps are done only because I’m writing a prequel so I got to snag the maps from the second book. The one thing that I made sure was done was the naming document. Now, I should be able to remember the names of all my characters – or at least look them up fast enough to not loose momentum.
Tonight, at about 11:00 I’ll head out to my region’s Count Down to Midnight party. I’ll commiserate with my fellow writers about how unprepared I am for this year again. Then it will be midnight and the typing will begin. Somehow I’ll discover that what I have is enough to make it through the month. Still, this Halloween, the scariest part is how much I don’t know about my characters.