NaNoWriMo – Week 1

How’s everyone doing so far? Week one is usually the most energetic week of NaNoWriMo. Writers are still riding high on the idea of pummeling their notebooks or computer screens with word after word. We’re not really tired yet, and we probably haven’t yet reached a point where we’ve gotten stuck.

Let’s keep it that way.

Pantsers: Don’t get in Muse’s way. Let Muse take your story in any direction she sees fit. Muse will offer possibilities you aren’t prepared for. Even if it’s something that doesn’t quite work in the story as it stands now, you might find it works after you’ve structured and outlined and figured out how the story is going to end.

When I was a straight-up Pantser, I never took the time to organize all of Muse’s ideas during NaNoWriMo. If something struck me as a good or somewhat decent idea, I would add it straight into my NaNo draft, but I highlighted it in some way to alert me later that this idea needs more fleshing out—and may not even belong at all.

On any other occasion, I would use a scrap folder to store the overflow of ideas. This method didn’t work for me during NaNo, because bouncing between files can be a time sucker and a distraction. I learned quickly to just stick freshly bloomed ideas right into my rough draft and kept writing.

Pantsers will generally approach NaNo with the firm objective of getting words down. This spillage of words method means that there isn’t much expectation of a logical character arc or three-act structure. Pantsers are generally aware they’ll be dealing with all of that after November 30.

That said, if you’re a pantser, simply write for the pure enjoyment of it and hold off on structure until you’re ready to tackle rewriting.

Planners: Even the best plan will have a plot hole or loose thread. It’s okay. Highlight it and write yourself a quick note to remind yourself that this particular area is problematic. Go to the next event or turning point in your plan and work on that.

Some writers might feel the need to stop drafting and re-plan. I’m not sure that’s a great strategy. Remember, the objective with NaNoWriMo is to get 50,000 words down. You can still do that without stopping your momentum. I’ve already seen posts from writers, not seven days in, who have discovered they’re stuck and have stopped writing and switched to outlining. I don’t know. That feels kind of self-defeatist to me.

Even though I tout pre-NaNo strategies as the reason I am able to not only finish my draft but be able to decipher it so I can revise, I also think it only works if we’re in that mental space to begin with.

Interrupting your writing to do some outlining gives your creative center a dangerous message that you don’t trust it.

Ever tried NaNoWriMo but abandoned your story either midway or at the end of the challenge? Then NaNoWriMo Prep is for you! I teach pre-NaNo strategies to help writers prepare for their 50,000-word creation so that they stay on track all thirty days. Read this post by Kate Johnston | Author & Story Coach to find out how you can get in on the fun.

If you dove into NaNoWriMo without a plan, then stay on that path and keep writing till you hit 50,000 words. If you outlined pre-NaNo but hit a major plot hole and you’re sure the rest of your story won’t make sense, keep writing till you hit 50,000 words.

But! I have some advice to help you with both of those situations so that you don’t create a huge mess for yourself.

Write scenes. Scenes are one of the best ways to learn more about your characters and your plot. Don’t worry at this juncture if your scenes are related to your main story goal. Just put your characters into a melting pot of conflict, tension, and aching desire and stir it up to force your characters into a reaction and ultimate decision.

Some things to thread into your scenes to help you connect more with your story:

-setting

-props

-weather

-dialogue

-backstory

-flashbacks

-description

-five senses

These scenes may or may not make it past the NaNo draft. Treat them as though you were in the Discovery stage and you’re just exploring your story to find the best material you can. This still counts toward your NaNo goal because you are getting words down.

As you head into week 2, focus on pacing yourself. Try not to push yourself too fast too often. If you keep a steady pace based on your average daily word count, then you’ll be golden throughout the challenge.

What do you like best about writing scenes? Do you keep a scene list to pull ideas from?

Have a writerly day!

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