Write a Novel, Get Inspired! (NaNoWriMo 2011)


How many of you have wanted to actually produce your own, full-fledged novel? Have you tried and tried again at your dream, but to no avail? A novel can really be a hit-or-miss sort of thing. What we’re talking about is not shooting for the moon and landing among the stars, but shooting towards that big white thing in the sky with no general direction and becoming lost in the infinite void of space forever.

But this month, be lost no more! Because, for their thirteenth year, The Office of Letters and Light (OLL) has started their acclaimed National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, to help you get 50,000 words down by the end of November.

“National Novel Writing Month,” writes the OLL on their about page, “is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to novel writing. …Because of the limited writing window, the ONLY thing that matters in NaNoWriMo is output. It’s all about quantity, not quality. This approach forces you to lower your expectations, take risks, and write on the fly.”

From NaNoWriMo's website

I sure don't.

To get started, simply register on their website and get started planning, sharing, and, of course, writing your novel. You’ll get taken to your profile, where you can edit information and share the details of your juicy new novel-to-be. You’ll even be able to net some nifty web badges to put on your tacky blog where you post about writing. But really, who has one of those these days?

The site offers a wide variety of ways to get inspired, from pep talks to workshops to daily webcomics. But enough jabber, let’s get started writing your 175-page novel by the end of the month with some tips on finding ideas and staying motivated.

Regarding You and Getting Started

So you’re all set to pump out this amazing 50,000-word novel, am I right? Except, right now, you’re probably not sure where to go. Perhaps you’re staring at a blank slate of Microsoft Word right now. Though, most likely, your novel-writing process has only amounted thus far to something like this:

If you want to plunk out a meaty story that’ll last beyond the first few pages, you’re going to need at least a starting idea. But where do you begin? The short story is easy, just a simple exposition, conflict, and climax, but the novel be a monster, am I right? It’s a kind of writing designed to take on the world! Once you have the most basic of ideas, there are a few ways:

1. Index Cards and Character Arcs

Title says it all. Have an idea for a plot? Start planning out the plot and sub-plot with index cards! Perfect for those of you whose novels are oriented around the characters. With character arcs, you can ensure that the important ones are dynamic throughout the story and that the readers will care about them. And with index cards (for which I’d recommend using Celtx, as it has a great virtual index card system), you can elaborate on the scenes you’ll need to fill your chapters with lots of content.

2. The Snowflake Method

Randy Ingermanson’s well-known method for fleshing out your novel is as simple as one, two, fractal. It’s a very slow and steady approached for those of you who are willing to really determine just what it is you’re writing about. essentially, you begin with a sentence summary of your story, then expand that to a paragraph, then a page, four pages, pages for your main characters, etc. etc. Eventually what you will have is a lot of good material that started off as something simple (so you’re going from a triangle to a snowflake, geddit, geddit?!), which is great, granted you have the patience.

3. Plot Points

Using plot point archetypes, create characters and events to adapt your cool novel idea into a great story. See also the Hero’s Journey. This method is swell for when you’re stuck in a rut and have a great concept, or number of concepts, but no where to go!

4. Write what you know and just keep going

Some people find that outlines distract them from the true task of getting the thing done. And though for the rest of us, this is the writer’s equivalent to a fresh slap in the face, if all else fails, it might be a method you need to try. Give yourself blocks of time to write and nothing but. Many enjoy writing under special conditions, e.g. in the early morning, in a cafe, or in some special place. Give yourself a daily limit, even if just a paragraph, and write until your keyboard starts to bleed.

Of course, if you’re like me, you’re going to cheat and do a novelization of .flow (inspired by this version), a fanmade sequel to the infamous Yume Nikki. Wish me luck at:

http://www.nanowrimo.org/en/participants/itsragtime

– Raggy

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