Friday, September 5, 2014

How to Plan for NaNoWriMo, part 1. Watch This Space!

So, NaNoWriMo is coming up. NaNoWriMo is a challenge to draft a novel (or rather, to write 50,000 words) during the month of November. I took this challenge in November of 2009 and drafted JINX, which was published by HarperCollins in January of 2013 as the first book of a middle grade fantasy trilogy.

NaNoWriMo is a good way to motivate yourself to write if you're having a hard time getting off the dime. But many folks who start out on November 1st just don't make it to 50k, and it usually seems to boil down to two reasons, both having to do with planning.

The first is simply time. Writers do the math: 30 days hath November, which means that if you write 1667 words a day, you're good. The problem is few people can really write every day. You run into Thanksgiving (in the US), emergencies, and days of just plain not being able to fit it in. It's better to plan on 2000 words a day. That gives you five floating days off to cope with life's exigencies. (Of course, if a really serious emergency crops up, one has to throw in the towel.)

The other thing that stops people from getting to 50k is that they hit a point – often around the 25k word mark-- where they run out of story. And I think this usually happens because they haven't done enough planning prior to November 1st. I have heard that writers are equally divided between planners and those who write by the seat of their pants, but I don't think it's true. I think pure pantsers are extremely rare, and that most writers need to plan to at least some degree. We may not necessarily want or need an outline of the kind we learned in school. But we need something.

So if you're going to go for the gold this November, it would be a good idea to start planning now. Over the next few weeks, I'm going to be sharing some of my favorite planning methods. Hopefully you'll find something useful that you can incorporate.

Watch this space.

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