These articles are all about November's Nanowrimo! If you don't know what that is, check out my first article, here. Geared to anyone currently participating in NaNoWriMo, This miniseries is for you!
Welcome to week one! I'm here to answer some quick questions, and tell you about the first week of Nano! I find that this is the most comfortable week for me. I'm so excited that I get a bunch of words out, pretty quickly. BUT, if you don't write regularly, you may not have the same excitement/preparation as I currently do. So, what do you do? Plot out. Even if you're joining in the middle of the month, take some time to plot your novel. Trust me. This will help you. Take a template, and plot your main points and the plot arc. You also need to know your characters. Who are they? What do they look, act, and even smell like? What do they want? Fill in this page's sheet, and get to know them and their goals.
There are also some other things you'll need to know, including why your protagonist is against the antagonist (why is there tension between them/why do they hate each other?), how your supporting characters are going to influence the work, and what direction your story's going to take. You should also consider a rough sketch of any characters you plan to include (unless it's like a crowd/group of people). Knowing your characters helps you write in a more consistent style, showing a great distinction between each character, so no readers start to wonder who's saying what.
Once you have all that written down, you've got a map for the rest of your novel and the month! This will help your book so much, especially when the enthusiasm wanes. If you feel like you need more prep, you can come back and outline specific scenes of your novel, so that writing them will become easier, and your novel will flow more. Don't stress too much about your outline. Your outline is nothing but a rudder, guiding your first draft to that completed word count, and your nano win! The thing that needs to be remembered is that this is just the first of many drafts. This isn't the editing phase; it's the writing phase. Just get your words onto paper, and tell your story. The editing part comes in January/February, depending on how long you want to wait before you jump into fixing it up.
When you've sufficiently outlined, log into your computer, or pull out a pen and paper. It's time to get writing! There are three basic ways to start your novel, and none of them are to give a lot of backstories. When you give too much backstory, the novel becomes slow, and readers fade before they finish the first chapter. They want to read about the conflict, not about Margaret's whole week, starting Monday, when the main conflict comes in on Friday. You want to skip a big, long backstories. The ways that you should start your novel are like this, start at the beginning, start in the middle, start at the end.
Pick the one that most inspires you, and run with it. If you picked to start at the beginning, giving some backstory is warranted. People do need to know about your character a little before you jump in. If you start in the middle, start in the middle of the action. Maybe your novel starts at the climax of a sixty-foot roller coaster, and your character is afraid of heights. The novel could start with him/her wondering how she got into that situation, and then continue in action while peppering in short flashbacks to convey the story. Finally, and most difficult, is to start at the end. I've never done this, and I'm still not exactly sure if I'd be able to. You start at the end of the action and again push in flashbacks and things to let your reader know the context of the story. Some people also find it helpful to skip the first chapter until the rest of the novel's done, but you can do it any way that works.
Starting to write may be a little difficult because words are hard. Getting thoughts from your brain to your page (virtual or physical) takes energy and a lot of momentum. A lot of the time, I find myself staring at the empty page, unsure of how to start, or what to write. Once I finally get writing, however, I find it hard to stop. Still, those first few words can cause some wasted time. So how to avoid that? Writing prompts. Write your own, or pull one from online that fits your novel. Just make sure that the author of the prompt has made it free to use. You can also look at inspiring pictures from your genre, or listen to inspiring music. Or, if you feel like you're not going to be a hermit for the day, you can go out and observe the actual world. Just sit, watch, and listen, then draw from your inspiration. If the above doesn't work, try writing exercises, or looking at what you've already written from a different perspective. The majority of the time, you just need to get your brain moving, and the gears turning. Like a train. The wheels turn slowly before they move quickly, but once the train is going, it's easy to keep moving. So what are you doing? Push that novel into motion!! Go. Write. Conquer!