It’s just a few more days until National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) begins. Have you signed up? I have, though I confess that I’m halfway planning to be subversive and write on the non-fiction project that is currently haunting my waking hours. Just think how much I’d get done if I wrote 1800 words a day!
However, it’s Practical Me that is suggesting that idea, and Practical Me tends to get nudged out of the way by Idea-Generating Me. I really want to start writing that mystery I’ve outlined. The characters keep shuffling in the background, pushing each other out of line, and edging forward, thinking that surely it’s their turn by now. They’re getting a bit unruly, and I’d love to let them out to play. But honestly–how practical is that?
Whatever I end up creating, I hope you’ll join me for a radical month of writing. There’s something so freeing about throwing words on paper, knowing that you can return to smooth out the wrinkles later. For those of you who struggle to silence Eddy, your inner editor, this is a perfect excuse to box him up for an entire month and ignore the screams. You’ll end up 50,000 words closer to your completed novel, and when you let out Eddy, he just might realize that you mean business when you tell him to be quiet!
If you don’t have a project in process and are going to dream up one from scratch, here are three helpful books that can help you through the process:
No Plot, No Problem: A Low-Stress, High-Velocity Guide to Writing a Novel in 30 Days by NaNoWriMo founder Chris Baty
You’ll know by the end of the month whether Baty is a genius, or well, just batty. His user-friendly little guide offers a realistic look at what it takes to write 50,000 words in 30 days, and offers helpful hints for getting it done, and a week-by-week overview of what is likely to be going on in your head as you work through the process. Unlike the authors below, Baty skips elaborate planning and advocates putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) and just getting it written. If you want to “just do it,” Baty’s guide is for you.
Book in a Month: The Fool-Proof System for Writing a Novel in 30 Days by Victoria Lynn Schmidt
If you like structure and organization, Schmidt’s ring-bound system will make your heart go pitty-pat. I like the way she approaches the process, presenting how-to information, optional worksheets, and a calendar overview of what to do on each day. During normal months, it’s unlikely that you’d follow the calendar exactly– you probably have a life, after all. However, during NaNoWriMo, the calendar format is ideal. It will tell you exactly what to do with your aching fingers when you drag yourself to the keyboard on day 17. Even if you feel dry of inspiration, you’ll be able to keep writing, because the groundwork has been carefully laid, and you don’t have to be at creative peak every minute of the process (remember, Eddy’s supposed to be boxed and in the attic!).
Here’s another system for the super-planner. Wiesner offers a comprehensive set of worksheets and instructions that help you create a hyper-detailed outline. Once it’s created, the writing process can be just a matter of filling in details and dialogue. If you want to use this system for NaNoWriMo, you’ll need to condense the outline-creation step in order to leave time for the actual writing.
Wiesner goes beyond the basics to provide additional worksheets for outlining your career. If you have discovered the power of setting concrete goals, you’ll find these sheets extremely valuable. I particularly like her advice on “Getting Ahead and Staying There” through use of carefully structured planning and organized writing. The only danger is in getting too busy filling in worksheets and never actually writing the story. I’m telling you now– use and enjoy the worksheets if that’s your style, but make it quick. You’ve got writing to do!