Today is lift-off for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). If you don’t know what the heck I’m talking about, and you are a writer, check out the info here.
The idea of writing 50,000 words in 30 days can be a bit harrowing. Many writers won’t attempt the feat, while some writers start, falter, then quit. Then there are those who survive the beast and are considered winners–a 50,000-word draft to a novel.
The biggest pitfall in NaNoWriMo is the tendency to write a 50,000-word mess. Many writers find it impossible to revise their NaNo novel because they had “pantsed” the story. “Pantsing” is writing without a plan. You start with a breath of an idea and run with it, letting it take you wherever it wants.
Some writers fare quite well with this writing approach. But it’s fair to say, across the board, those writers struggle with revisions.
That was me until about a couple of years ago, when I grew tired of writing pantsed novel after pantsed novel and being unable to revise them. I no longer saw the point in writing a draft that I couldn’t turn into a novel that other people would want to read.
So I began to change my approach and now I plan my book through my own pre-writing strategies that include a lot of lists, maps, bullet points, and What if questions.
I go into NaNo with a structure and character arcs in place. Even though I still do the bulk of my November writing in an organic, freestyle fashion, I’m following a course that I had outlined weeks ago.
My top tip to help you write the structure of the main storyline that you can weave 50,000 words around is to come up with a logline or premise statement.
A logline is a one- to two-sentence pitch of the main thrust of your novel. This is a great tool that has helped me to construct major turning points and character arcs—all I need for November.
Your logline should include your hero, setting, his/her heart’s desire, and what/who is in the way. Stakes can be implied in your logline, although stating them outright is fine too.
Let’s clarify the goal – which is to write 50,000 words in thirty days. It doesn’t have to be an amazing 50,000 words. Don’t fret about quality or grammar or run-on sentences.
But if the 50,000 words all jumble together to create a tangled mess, like gum stuck in hair, then revision is going to be a nightmare.
That’s why writing 50,000 words of the big picture (three-act structure and character arcs) will work far better than if you try to focus your rushed writing on the sentence level.
Remember, 50,000 words is not a full-length novel. And it will read like a rough draft, with lots of plot holes and loose threads. But if you write the events that relate to your logline, you are keeping your book on a clear course. Construction and Revision will not be a nightmare.
Tape up your logline somewhere near your writing habitat so you can glance at it easily. Anytime you’re not sure what to write next, look at that logline. What’s your story about? What are your characters supposed to achieve? Who or what is stopping them? What is at stake?
Are you participating in NaNoWriMo? Do you have a logline? Feel free to share it in the comments below!
Have a writerly day!