Well, it’s October again. That means cozy sweaters, apple cider, changing leaves, and bad puns. Of course, bad puns are welcome all year long. What it means for you is preparing for NaNoWriMo!

Not sure what that is?

However, you pronounce it (nano-REE-mo or nano-RYE-mo) National Novel Writing Month happens each November and has since 1999. According to their website, hundreds of thousands of writers participate each year. Although it’s specific to novel writers, they encourage any type of writing, including memoir. (Quarantine experiences to share, anyone?)

The idea is to write an entire 50K word novel. In one month. Whoa.

The reward? A cool printable certificate and bragging rights…while sneaking in Thanksgiving dinner and celebrating our nation’s heroes on Veteran’s Day.

I don’t know about you, but Thanksgiving alone takes me out of commission for at least three days. There’s prep day, family day, and lie in bed in stomach agony day…

Writing that much in that short time requires a plan. And no, having an outline, summary, or notes doesn’t mean you’re cheating.

It means you’re well prepared.

You’re writing a first draft, not something to be shared with anyone other than your closest writer friends (or favorite development editor, perhaps?). But it does help to have a direction for your characters. So, planner or pantser, at the very least write down the genre.

It’s handy to have a clear idea in mind. That means understanding what the Five Requirements are and what Essential Scenes are expected of your chosen genre. Get these down first and foremost.

Once you have that, concentrate on your antagonist. The villain forces the protagonist to react, they’ll need solid motivation for their actions.

No need to answer the 200-question character profile. Remember, you’ll be pressed for time, so worry about the basics. Think of things that will shape them as you write and have the most impact on your story, like:

  1. Their want
  2. Why they want it
  3. What will happen if they don’t get it
  4. Why it’s personal that the protagonist is in the way
  5. What their superpower is

Their superpower doesn’t literally need to be a superpower. It’s at minimum one thing the villain has that the protagonist doesn’t. Maybe the villain is smarter, stronger, richer, in a position of authority, etc. This is what makes them worthy adversaries.

We usually have a pretty good idea of who the protagonist is and their backstory. Their character will be revealed in how they react or respond to the villain. Apply the above questions to them as well, so you know what’s at stake.

Now you can start thinking of the conflicts the villain is going to put the protagonist through. A lot of times, you’ll have a chunk of these figured out already.  It’s worthwhile to get them sketched out on paper. Bullet points will get the ideas down without killing your enthusiasm. 

Remember to organize these conflicts so they grow in meaningful ways. It doesn’t hurt to label them if they land on a requirement or essential scene.

Take as long as you need on this (up until November 1st!). Arrange, rearrange, scratch out, and generally have fun with it. Play the “what-if” game. You know, what if the hero wasn’t a male librarian with glasses and brown hair, but a green gal from Jupiter with purple horns and a flapper dress?

For some, planning may seem like it takes the joy out of writing, but for NaNoWriMo, it’s key to getting to work and getting the first draft done. There’s not a lot of downtime available to debate if your environmentalist character should specialize in photovoltaics or wind generation.

Planning won’t be as painful as your full stomach after turkey and dressing. When you’re done, take a walk and a few deep breaths. Before you know it, you’ll be using up all the printer ink on your completion certificate and thanking yourself for jotting down a few key elements.

Participating in NaNoWriMo? Now’s the time to sign up for my newsletter! Use the form on the right or simply click HERE to snag your free toolkit: Energize and Get Your Writing Time Back!

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