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As my regular followers know I’m the ML for the Charleston, SC region of NaNoWriMo. This will be my third year MLing, my sixth year participating in NaNo, and (hopefully) my sixth year winning. Last year we had a sudden growth spurt in my region, prompting me to try to beat the numbers this year and grow even more. Which means more work for me. I know, I’m kinda stupid that way sometimes 🙂
One of the things I’ve decided to do to help our region grow is give a presentation at the library called “How to Write a Novel in 30 Days”. This presentation will be taking place on Monday, and I’ve done about… zilch to prepare! Now, granted, I know I can make a presentation in a few days because I can write a 50,000 word book in 18 days. So at least there is that! And to help get my thoughts in order for this presentation, I’m going to tell you how I write a book in 30 days.
As you can imagine, it starts with a lot of sticky notes. I write down every idea that I have. Any little bits of dialogue that come to me, any scenes that I want to include, songs that make me think of the story. You get the idea. I’m not an outliner by any means (the few times I have tried I have failed miserably) but I don’t exactly go into any story blind either. I go in with an idea of the characters, and I trust them to lead me on a great adventure.
I’ll usually storyline through the entire story at least once, beginning to end, so I have an idea of the direction and know that there is an actual beginning and ending (middle no so much – as long as I can get through the beginning, a rough idea of the middle, and the ending I know I have a story).
More important than the plot though are the characters. I make sure I know my characters before I get into the writing. Sometimes I’ll write backstory. Sometimes I’ll throw them into a random situation (Rebecca’s world is especially good for this, since it’s full of doorways to other worlds and I can throw characters into her world or bring her into theirs at will). Usually I plop them down into the Cafe with a few of my other characters (Mikayla for the shyer/younger characters because she’s nice and everyone loves her, and Kindra for the adults and troublemakers because she can take care of herself so well). I know Kindra and Mika so well that I know how they’ll respond and I use them to figure out who the others are. They start talking, maybe start a good fight if it’s Kindra, and I learn about how the new character handles a confusing, often scary situation. Sometimes they’ll have a cup of coffee or a shot of whiskey or maybe just sit at a comfy chair by a fire and spill about themselves, their world, and their deepest secrets (that’s what the whiskey is for, of course).
This year I learned that my new characters don’t know what marriage is. They have bonds (to anyone they feel most connected to), and they have mates (for the purpose of having children). Sometimes it’s the same person, but if your sister is your bond you can’t really mate with her, can you? So then you find yourself a mate, who would be somewhat like your wife/husband, but there is no ceremony and the relationship can be dissolved at any time without a lot of hassle. A bonding ceremony is much harder to dissolve. I found this out because the new girl, Neona, was introduced to Mikayla’s husband and didn’t know what a husband was. It would have taken me much longer to figure that out otherwise, since all of my major characters are too young to be mated. The Cafe is probably just as important to me as the sticky notes.
As NaNo starts I stick to my word count goals. I write extra whenever I can. If I get my 1667 words in for the day but I’ve got more I’m itching to tell I keep going so that on that random Friday when I don’t feel like writing I don’t have to. I don’t let the Zero days get me down, and I use the 3K days as a buffer. I push myself, but I don’t push myself over the limit constantly. NaNo can burn you out and wear you down, but when I start to feel that way I take a day off and read.
And the most important thing you can do during NaNo? Meet the others doing NaNo with you! Go to the region events if you can (misery loves company, and often turns into excitement at the write-ins), and visit the forums if you can’t make the events. Find a NaNo buddy – someone to word war, commiserate and cheer with, help when you’ve hit a roadblock and don’t know what to do next. Writing is such a lonely profession, and NaNo is the one time a year when you can really slough off that skin of loneliness and be part of something huge and great and terrifying and satisfying.
And that, friends, is my secret to writing a novel in 30 days or less.
Don’t forget to visit the other Wrimos in the blogchain and find out how they write a novel in 30 days!