NaNoWriMo Post #1: Letting It Marinate
So here we are, almost mid-October, and NaNoWriMo is looming ever closer. I have been lucky enough to have stumbled upon an awesome story idea in the last couple of weeks, which I think I am going to save for November. If you don't have a novel idea yet don't fret, there is still time! But if you are like me and do know what you are going to write about, then this post is for you.
When I get to this point where I have an awesome, fully realized plot line in my head, it is very tempting to start writing now. And I must confess, I have jumped the gun in past NaNoWriMo years. But this year I am going to force myself to wait. Why? Mostly because it is a writing technique I have never tried before. Usually when I get a good idea, I'll plop down in my chair, write a few of the beginning chapters, and then that's it. My story fizzles out or it takes a ton of work to motivate myself to write more on it. This year I'm going to let things marinate in my brain juices before trying to spill out all my ideas on paper. If your writing process usually looks like mine, then I challenge you to join me and wait until the first of November to get started. Let's see what happens!
My theory is this, letting a story marinate in your head for a while gives you time to work out all the wrinkles and fully prepare to write it in the short amount of time that NaNoWriMo challenges you to. 50,000 words is a lot to write in one month, and if you work full time like I do, then you need to give yourself all the time that you can get.
But let me make something extremely clear first, letting a story marinate does not mean "do nothing with it." In fact, it means the exact opposite. Do everything with your story - except write it. Here's how:
Step #1: Laying the Groundwork
I love discovery writing and seeing where things go as I type on the page. But I have found that I don't do as well writing that way when it comes to NaNoWriMo. By letting my idea sit for a while, I am able to think out the entire plot line and know exactly where I am going. My first step then is to write a quick synopsis of my story, including as many details as I can. Next, I make an outline of my novel which can be as loose or as detailed as you are comfortable with. If you want to go above and beyond, I sometimes find it helpful to tell a friend or family member the whole story summary as it exists in my head. These conversations that turn into fun, hour-long sessions with my dad and husband have helped me work out gaps in the plot and brainstorm ways to deepen my story.
Step #2: Build your World
Though your setting may not be the most interesting part of your story to you, it is certainly important to have a fully realized story world in order to engage your reader. Part of the reason the Harry Potter series is so popular is because of how immersive the story world is. The amount of detail makes it realistic. Whether you are creating your own world or bringing to life our world as it was in the past, you need to know it backwards and forwards. And the best part about having your story idea so soon before NaNoWriMo is that you have time to do this!
Some details you create or discover may not even be included in your novel. In fact, I would say that a good majority probably won't show up. But if a situation arises where you need to know a Zubuflax's favorite food, then at least you have thought about it and your writing flow will go uninterrupted.
A fun thing to do, and maybe helpful if you are horrible at visualizing like I am, is to go the Tolkien route and draw a map of your world. Not only is it a nice creative break from writing, but it may spur some new ideas and places you had never thought about for your novel.
Step #3: Befriend your Characters
Much like your world building, do a thorough character profile for as many characters in your story as you can - even the side characters and villains. Become their best friend, know everything about them from their hobbies to their greatest fear. Like before, you may not use every detail you write down in your novel, but just having their background filled out makes for deeper characters and provides more interest for your readers.
Step #4: Do your Research
This is something, that if I follow my normal process, I tackle during my writing as things come up. But it always disrupts my writing flow because of my darn curiosity. I start off looking up Victorian tea customs and end up browsing Amazon for those cute little teabags with book quotes on them. What the heck? And where did all my writing time go? That's right, down the black hole of the Internet, never to be seen again.
With this forced wait time before you start actually writing, try to think of all the topics you will need to know for your novel. Try to stay focused of course, but if you slip a little then at least your writing time doesn't suffer.
My characters for my story live in the Age of Sail, so I better darn well do some research on 18th century sailing ships. Your main character is a chicken farmer? Then learn all you can about chickens until you could tell anyone what they eat, what kind of chickens your character owns, and how many eggs they lay in a week. You get the idea.
Step #5: Take Care of the Random Stuff
Finally, one of my favorite things to do is to create those random materials that my characters will need access to in my story. For example, with my current story idea, my main character remembers a song from her childhood. So I spent some time writing out the complete song lyrics with four to five verses and a chorus. It may not show up at all in the story, but it's there if I need it, and I won't have to take an hour out of my writing time to create it. If your characters will need to interpret some ancient runes, then by all means create now what those ancient runes say about the "Prophecy of the Chosen One" instead of later when you need to focus on cranking out your story.
As a last word, remember to have fun and use all of these things to get excited about your story! The more excited you are, the more likely you are to write like crazy when the time comes. Like all my posts, these are just suggestions that I have found useful for myself. There are many writers out there, all with different writing styles, so don't get bogged down in the details. Create what you think will be useful and pertinent for your story.
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Hi, I'm Jessica! I'm on a mission to make my writing better in hopes of becoming a published novelist. It's been a crazy journey so far as I learn the twists and turns of the publishing world, but it's been worth it. Though I'm still learning how to be the best writer I can be, I'm excited to share what I learn with you. Happy writing!