I, as I imagine lots of others did, received an email on October 16h from from ‘[My] Novel’. It begin:
“Dear Burgeoning Novelist,
I’m writing to tell you I need you. That’s right, I’ve been swirling around in the breathtaking labyrinths of your unconscious mind for a while now, and I’m itching to leap into the world. The only way I can come out, though, is if you commit to writing me in November.”
I think I just got guilt tripped by my not yet formed novel.
As a seasoned pantser (that’s someone who writes “by the seat of their pants” rather than planning it out) I don’t really tend to think about my novel much before November. I have a working title, a one line plot idea, and the first name of a character (not even my main character – just a character) which I gained from answering the question “What is the first sentence of your novel?” on the unofficial NaNoWriMo Facebook group.
Okay, tell a lie… as I wrote that, I decided said character will die in the first two pages. So definitely not my main character.
Last week I woke up in the night and my brain switched to NaNo. Probably because from the bed I can see my thick folder of notes and the printed version of We All Fall Down sitting on my desk. (Now that IS guilt tripping me as I haven’t done any editing in two weeks.) In my sleepy state, it began ticking over ideas.
I’m creating a fictional town in England to base my novel in. I’ve done fictional worlds before but never a fictional town in the real world. I decided I’m going to do this properly. Usually I just dive in, write, and then have the horrific task of remapping my novel to make sense afterwards. We have a huge whiteboard which I plan on accommodating for November and I plan on drawing a map of my fictional town as I go along.
When I woke up, I decided my town was going to be centered around a cemetery. I then decided it would be circular, and then my brain threw out that the plan of the town should be related to the Wiccan Wheel of the Year. I feel back asleep at this point.
I’m not even sure I could incorporate the Wheel of the Year into a town map, and if I could, it would take a LOT of planning and I don’t think I could link it to my plot idea. However, I did really like the idea of having the layout of the town related to my idea, rather than just a randomly built town.
(I was also impressed that I remember my thoughts when I woke up the next morning.)
Right now, it’s hard not to think about your upcoming novel – pantser or not. It’s hard not to feel it clinging to the edges of your consciousness, peering over the edge with wide eyes, giving you a nervous little smile. It’s waiting for your permission to climb up and run about in your mind. Come November 1st, you’ll be pulling that little novel up to your level and you’ll be running with it. Hell, you’ll be taking it sledging and rolling in the snow with it. This is your new best friend.
So, yes, please write your novel. It will be sad and lonely without you. Do this whether you know your only poor unsuspecting character will die soon or not. Listen to your mind when it gives you ideas, and listen to your novel when it calls to you on November 1st.
It’s getting close.
On the plus side, a lot can be done in three weeks. You can write ¾ of a novel. But in this pre-NaNoWriMo state, it’s always good taking some time to take stock of what is approaching, of the challenge you’ve taken on. Take some time to prepare.
So how do you prepare for NaNoWriMo? That depends on what exactly you want to prepare. For many, this preparation may involve extensive planning. For others, stocking up on tea and biscuits.
It helps to know your planning style. Are you a Plotter or a Pantser? Plotters tend to plan their novel in advance – working out character profiles, storylines, the beginning, middle AND end, and generally have an idea of what will be happening in November. Pantsers are the opposite. The extreme pantsers will plunge into NaNo head first with no clue what lies beneath them. (And that, my friends, never ceases to be both exhilarating and nerve-wracking at the same time.) If you’re not sure what your planning style is, go for the middle ground. Jot down a few notes to get you going. Come up with a location, a plot idea, and a couple of characters. Get hold of a map of the area you’re setting your story in – or if you’re making up a new town/city/world, draw it out! Even better, invest in a whiteboard so you can easily add and take away from the map as you work it out.
And it’s not only yourself you need to prepare. You should probably warn your friends, family, and co-workers that you’re suddenly going to be sleep deprived, be living more in the world of your novel than the real one, and your social life may take a dive. Last night I sat down to edit my current work in progress. Our desk is in the bedroom and I hook up my netbook to the larger computer screen so I can see the text easier and research on Google with a split screen. Boyfriend came to bed at midnight and I was still working. He asked if I was coming to bed a couple of times, and I was like “not yet”, then I got frustrated because I couldn’t read my own notes and stared at the paper in front of me for five minutes. When he asked if I was okay, I was all “No! I can’t read my own handwriting! This is terrible!” whilst he looked on bemused. (I did eventually translate what I had written.) When I eventually stopped about 12:45am he asked if this was what November was going to be like.
After 11 years, those nearest and dearest to me are fully aware of what my November is like. They’d be more surprised if I said I wasn’t doing it. But if you’re new to NaNo, it may come as a surprise to them if you’re suddenly locked away (more than usual – let’s admit, a lot of us writers are proudly hermit-ish in nature) every day. Be aware though, by telling people, you will be hit with “Can I read it?”, “What’s it about?” “What do you win?” and “When will it be published?” questions. Prepare your answers. It will help. Maybe invest in a big sign on your door answering them to ward off intruders.
Finally you come to non-NaNo essentials for November. The week before it’s wise to clear out your laundry basket, stock up on your drink of choice, invest in your preferred snacks and easy microwave meals for the days you haven’t got the time/energy/significant other to cook. Tidy your writing area and have notepads, pens, mascots in the immediate vicinity.
To sum up, come November 1st, you want to be as ready as you need to be.
Bring on NaNoWriMo 2014!