What’s NaNoWriMo, some of you may ask? It stands for National Novel Writing Month. Yup. People write 50,000-word novels in a month. Not yours truly, but some crazy, die-hard, devoted, energetic writers—like Sarah Rubio, an editor for children and nonfiction at Tyndale House.
Sarah is a NaNoWriMo pro, having taken part since 2007. She feels NaNoWriMo has taught her to achieve really ambitious goals, which she meets by calculating in advance how many words she’ll need to write daily to stay on track. Producing 2,000 words a day after her kids are in bed usually takes her about 1.5 to 2 hours. “I try to have a general idea of where I want to take the story so that when I sit down to crank out words I don’t have to spend too much time thinking.”
For anyone feeling a desire to attempt NaNoWriMo for the first time, here are a few suggestions to prime your pump when you’re freewriting in the beginning to familiarize yourself with your story:
Begin with brain dumping, pouring out those unedited, unfiltered ideas onto paper and seeing where they take you. Often the results surprise even the writer. Who knew what odd, interesting ideas lurk inside your brain! Type continuously to keep a flow going during a freewriting session. Sarah uses a version of freewriting with uninterrupted typing during her designated writing time. “If I get stuck on plot, I’ll start writing descriptions, fleshing out my characters or setting, or writing notes about what might come later or something I want to change about what I’ve already written.”
Writing prompts can familiarize you with your characters—their quirks, voices, problems, and wants. Here are a few suggestions:
- Try beginning a series of paragraphs with one of the following phrases:
- The unspoken apology hindered the . . .
- Everyone knew who was lying by the way . . .
- If stories could have scents, this one would carry the aroma of . . .
- The last time we saw him . . .
- Don’t ever forget the day . . .
- He should’ve known better than to . . .
- The sounds outside the window bring to mind . . .
- Put your main characters in a scene together and create a power struggle, allowing the power to shift from one character to the other by the end of the scene. This can be done verbally or through action.
- Write a letter to your main character empathizing with her struggles, encouraging her to get over her struggles, or chastising her for her selfishness. Cast a vision for how you’d like to see this character grow.
You get the idea. To become better acquainted with your story and characters, clarify your characters’ wants by brainstorming those wants and their influence on your story’s conflict, plot, and tension.
Setting: Freewrite about where your novel takes place. How does your setting contribute to the mood or metaphor of the story? Is it an urban or rural setting? What is the novel’s time period—modern, futuristic, or historical?
Point of View: Brainstorm about who you want to tell your story and why. Remember that a unique point of view adds interest for your reader. How would your story change if you switched from third person to first person? Consider introducing a very unusual narrator—like Death (The Book Thief)—or a collective narrator, as in “we” when a group of cousins tells a story in During the Reign of the Queen of Persia. Experiment!
Characters: Sketch out and introduce unexpected and unusual characters. In Chris Fabry’s novel The Promise of Jesse Woods, the author introduces us to a young boy who moved from Pittsburgh to Dogwood, West Virginia, with his pastor father. Feeling out of place, Matt forges a fast bond with two unlikely friends: a mixed-race boy and a tough-as-nails girl with a sister on her hip and no dad in sight.
Revision: We wouldn’t recommend anyone write a novel in six months and then send it to an agent or publisher the following day. Revisions are important and offer you the opportunity to layer and deepen your work. Take advantage of these opportunities—but take advantage of them after November.
Most of all, be kind to yourself. Anyone who attempts to write a novel in a month is a rock star. Sarah Rubio didn’t make the 50,000 word goal her first year attempting NaNoWriMo, but she’s reached that goal every year since. The moral of the story? Don’t quit!
One of the best ways to get story ideas is to read voraciously. If you’re in need of a new book this month, consider picking up one of the many great e-book deals we have . . .
Visit E-book Extra for more great deals available this month!
Thanks for reading! Are you trying NaNoWriMo next month? Let us know in the comments!