Which also means it’s officially…
NANOWRIMO PREPPING MONTH.
(Are you freaking out? Because I’m totally freaking out.) (Also, I warned you NaNoWriMo will be like my only posting subject for a while. #Sorrynotsorry)
SO. Last week I basically took a whole post to yell at you all to just write the story you want to write and not let fear stop you! Buuuut some of you may be thinking, “That was all well and good, Christine, but I still don’t know what story I want to write for NaNoWriMo.” I mean, out of the 2938398434 plot bunnies that have been vying for your attention, IT CAN BE HARD TO CHOOSE. There are so many variables.
What are you in the mood to write? (Fantasy? Rom-com? That weird steampunk story with ninja sorcerers and zombie pirates that’s been sitting in the back of your mind for years?)
Do you want to try writing out of your usual genre or stick with the familiar?
Should you write something with a small cast to make things simple? Or a large cast to help add to that word count?
Are you wanting to write a story that will actually be publishable or just do something fun and crazy for yourself?
What story are you even willing to stick with for 30 long crazy days???
THERE ARE A LOT OF THINGS TO CONSIDER. Deciding on what book to pour your HEART AND SOUL AND SWEAT AND TEARS into can be…daunting. Terrifying. Overwhelming. Let’s face it, sometimes it’s a complete nightmare. Remember last week when I said I lost sleep trying to decide on what my NaNo novel would be? Yeeeah.
Because I love you all, I’ve compiled a list of some tips and questions to ask yourself to help you wrangle that unruly indecision into submission! (This is more a less a part two or continuation of last week's post. Sort of… Let’s just pretend!) These are all things I’ve done over the years (and not only with NaNo, with ALL my novels) that have helped a lot, so maybe, hopefully, perhaps they’ll aid you as well!
LET’S GET TO IT.
#1: WRITE WHAT EXCITES YOU
This one is probably obvious but it’s very, very, very, very IMPORTANT. Spending hours inside one single novel can be…tedious. To say the least. Especially during NaNo when you’re forcing yourself to write day after day after day. You do NOT want to be bored with your story.
If you have a story idea that just doesn’t fuel your soul then…maybe find something else that does? That’s ultimately how I settled on what I’m writing for NaNo. I had multiple ideas, but one in particular made me literally do a little jig I was so excited to write it. (I’M AN OVER EXCITABLE PERSON, OKAY??) It was at that moment I knew that was the story I wanted to write this November.
So whether you’re doing NaNoWriMo or just looking for that next book to pen, make sure it’s one that makes your heart dance at the thought of forming it into being.
AND don’t just write the story idea you love, also write scenes you love. See, back in the olden days, with Baby Christine’s novels, I’d often just write whatever next scene came to mind. I’d settle for my first ideas, even if they were mediocre. As a result, I ended up writing a lot of boring scenes. Which meant I was bored. Which also means my readers would be bored. WHICH IS A BIG NO NO. I did quite a bit of this in my NaNo 2012 novel. I had so many scenes I forced myself to write that I just…didn’t want to. Needless to say, that wasn’t my favorite NaNo.
Thus, once NaNo 2013 rolled around, I made one simple goal: Make the story AWESOME. No more mediocre scenes! No more boredom! Which included making every single scene something I’d enjoy writing. I do extensive plotting with NaNo novels, so as I plotted, when I thought up a scene that bored me, I’d ditch it and replot the scene into something I knew I’d have a blast writing.
NaNo 2013 was one of my most favorite NaNos. (And one of my most feelsy novels to write because emotional scenes are my faaaave. Those poor, poor characters… Bwahahahaha…haha…ha. Ahem.)
Since that experience, I’ve learned—plotting or pantsing—if I’m about to write/plot a scene that bores me, I need to STOP and rework it into something fun to write. Which, in turn, will hopefully be something fun to read.
Moral of the story: Write a whole book that is chock full of stuff you enjoy writing about. Don’t just “settle”. Write something you LOVE.
#2: WRITE SOMETHING NEW, BUT WITHIN THE REALM OF FAMILIAR
Okay, so this is very much a suggestion, and may be personal taste. But after 7 years of NaNo, it’s something I’ve discovered is helpful for myself.
(Disclaimer: Yes, I did write each book of the same series for all seven of my NaNos, so I don’t exactly have the expertise of someone who wrote completely different novels every NaNo. But each book in my series followed different characters and, though set in the same world, had very different plotlines, so each one still felt new and fresh. Thus I still learned what I liked to write and what I didn’t along the way despite it being 7 years of one series.)
Sometimes I get bored writing the same ol’, same ol’. I have to shake things up and try new things to stay interested in my novels. But, at the same time, there are some things I know I’d never want to write. (Like historical fiction, for example.) I like to stay in my comfortable realm of speculative fiction, while still adding some new, interesting plot devices I’ve never tried before. That way, I’m not too overwhelmed writing something I have no clue how to write, but at the same time know I have some fun, unexpected things to try my hand at.
For example, I wrote a 7-book medieval fantasy series for the last 7 NaNos. Medieval fantasy is my genre, it’s the one I feel the most comfortable with. The one I started out writing, and will probably always come back to. Buuuut after 7 years of writing in the same medieval world, I kind of wanted to shake things up. Where the first few books stuck to a very classic medieval fantasy world where the most interesting thing that happened was swordfights (so many swordfights Z_Z), as I got older and more experienced in writing, I shook things up in the series. Such as stars being people, and a dragon the size of a city, and EXPLOSIONS. Explosions everywhere! (Not even kidding.) I also raised the stakes, added torture scenes (that was a new one for me), threw in a very interesting character, etc., etc. Suddenly, that simple medieval fantasy series I was kind of getting bored with by the time I got to the third book became WAY more fun to write. And I happily wrote 4 more books and finished it. All because I chose to try new things, even though I was writing my “comfort zone genre”.
Yes, it is good to try new things and get out of your comfort zone. Buuuut, ya know, sometimes we have comfort zones for a reason. I think I’d be a terrible historical fiction novelist. That is not my comfort zone, and it’d be silly to attempt it just for the sake of “getting out of my comfort zone”. We have the genres we love and don’t love. It’s as simple as that. So why not just expand our comfort zones? Why not stay inside them, but spice them up with some new, shiny things? Like unicorns and explosions. (You can never go wrong with either of those things. #Fact)
Believe me, spicing up a genre you love is a blast. These days, what makes me want to write the most is adding new, crazy twists to genres I already love to write. Familiar and new—best of both worlds!
#3: HOW MUCH RESEARCH ARE YOU WILLING TO DO?
This is an important question, especially for NaNo novels. Because once November 1st hits, none of us are going to want to cut into our writing time by spending hours on Google researching…only to realize those hours of work was spent just so you can write one paragraph of something accurately. Now, a lot of people while first drafting just make notes at parts that need to be researched, and then do the proper researching during the second draft. That’s good. I totally do this myself. (Well, sometimes I fail at the whole physical note taking, but I make notes in my brain. That counts…right? Imakesomanymistakes.)
BUT. Let’s pretend I did
lose my mind and decide to write historical fiction. Maybe I spontaneously feel like writing a 1800s novel set on the sea. WELL GUESS WHAT. I’m kind of the worst at history and am super bad about knowing the terms of things as simple as clothing items, and I know nooooothing about ships. If I didn’t research I couldn’t write anything. Instead of just a note here and there reminding myself to research a sword fighting technique or what mushrooms are poisonous and then moving on with the story, the WHOLE novel would just be one note that said “DO YOUR RESEARCH YOU UNEDUCATED LUG NUT”. And that’s only 7 words, so it wouldn’t exactly be a successful NaNo. But, if I had the mind to, I could spend the entirety of October pouring myself into 1800s facts and learning the inner workings of ships and be ready to write those 50k words instead of…7.
SO. It’s just a matter of how much you want to research or not. Being fully prepared once you’re ready to begin that story will save a lot of stress, believe me!
#4: SMALL CAST OR LARGE CAST?
(Aha, I mentioned this one at the beginning of the post. Continuation!)
This is actually something I very much took into account myself for this NaNo. See, for the last two NaNos, I was writing the big two-part finale for my medieval fantasy series. Which meant every. single. character. that was featured in the previous books were now ALL together in these finales (with the exception of the ones that died eheheheh…heh). I was juggling about 20 main characters at once. (I really wish that was an exaggeration…) Needless to say, I got a leetle overwhelmed. And by that I mean I was banging my head on my desk wondering, “Whyyyy did I make so many characters???” (I may have to cut some come revising time. *cough*)
After two years of that and finally being done with the series, I decided something for this NaNo: It’s going to be a small cast. No matter what novel I wrote, the cast was going to be SMALL.
But that’s just me. There are many pros and cons to small vs. large casts, particularly for NaNo novels.
-Small casts are easier to manage, but they don’t always aid in the large wordcount department.
-Large casts will get you a lot of words (my series finale ended at 147k words because I had roughly 94958 loose ends and sideplots to tie up, yeeeah), but it can be overwhelming. I mean, I can’t even remember my own name. How am I going to remember 12 character names??? And manage it in only 30 days?!
But this is of course a personal thing. Some people always want to write large casts, some people prefer just having a small group to keep up with. These are simply thoughts to consider before you embark on this 30 day writing journey! Or…any writing journey!
‘Cause writing 50k words in 30 days requires a lot of prayer!
Okay, but seriously now. This is something I’ve been working on for the past couple of years, and it has made a huge difference. For some reason, I used to not think of praying for my writing???? Which was crazy, because my writing is basically my life. And I firmly believe God gave me this passion for it, so why would I not include Him in the whole process?
I believe last week I mentioned how a couple of years back I had made the decision that the next novel I wrote I’d write with purpose. As in, I wouldn’t just write yet another first draft and then move on to the next shiny thing. I’d actually stick with this book and pursue publishing with it and get serious about becoming an author. But that brought on the question of: WHAT ON EARTH DID I WANT TO WRITE??? This was a big deal. That next novel may become my debut novel and launch my writing career. But what did I want to start with?
Then it occurred to me. I should pray.
And I did. A lot.
Right around that time, the results for the 2nd annual Rooglewood Press contest were about to be announced. The goal of the contest was to write a Beauty and the Beast retelling novella, and I had entered an entry. Well, the morning the results were going to be released, I snagged up my phone the moment I woke up and looked to see who the winners were. My name wasn’t on the list.
But you know what? Instead of the bitter disappointment I expected to feel, I felt…peace. I pondered it as I showered that morning, and the answer to why I felt at peace and what I had been praying for hit me: That novella I had entered would be much better as a novel. In fact, Beauty and the Beast is a very special story to me, and my love of fairytales has been around since I was a toddler. Wouldn’t it be special to have my debut novel a Beauty and the Beast retelling?
And that’s how my novel, Burning Thorns, came to be. If I had won a spot in the contest, I wouldn’t have been allowed to turn Burning Thorns into the novel it is today. I don’t think I was ready to be done with it. Of course, it’s got a long road yet. I don’t know if it’ll be published or not, or what God has planned. But I do know He gave me that peace and has helped guide me on my writing journey.
Because God cares. He cares so much about your passions. He gave you that passion for words after all!
And that’s why I shared this (overly rambly) story with you. To show you that praying for your writing is important. If you’re feeling lost, ask God to guide you to that next story. You never know what amazing journey He’ll take you on!
#6: DON’T BE AFRAID
“Oh come on, Christine!” you’re all no doubt moaning. “You literally wrote a humongous post last week about not being afraid!” I know, right??? And, fun fact, that post from last week sort of started out as this post. But my point about not letting fear hold you back from writing your story got so long, I just made it its own post and decided to write this one for later. (Which is why I keep mentioning last week’s post in this one, since they were originally going to be one in the same.) What can I say? I HAVE A LOT OF THINGS TO SAY.
But yes, I’m putting this point here anyway because IT’S SUPER IMPORTANT. And I have one more thing to add that I didn’t mention last week.
Sometimes it is tempting to not write that SUPER AWESOME EPIC AMAZING story idea you have for NaNo because we are writing at breakneck speed and making a mess of things. The idea of totally creating a disaster out of that story idea you love so much is scary.
And I’m going to be real with you, NaNo novels are messy! THEY ARE. You’re writing thousands of words in just 30 day. SO MANY TYPOS. SO MANY PLOT HOLES. HOW DID THAT CHARACTER’S NAME GET CHANGED THREE TIMES? I DON’T EVEN KNOW WHAT’S HAPPENING. (<--- My actual NaNo experiences.)
But you know what? Honestly, sometimes I wonder if my NaNo stories come out better. Yes, they're littered with typos and dreadful writing and even plot holes, but the HEART is there, possibly more than with other stories. Because I'm living my novel. Non-NaNo novels I write are usually written more slowly in between life. But with NaNo novels, they are my life. For 30 days I’m living and breathing that novel and, no joke, I get a little disorientated when I look up from writing and focus back on real life, because I’m so utterly and completely honed in on that novel for so many days in a row. I get so wrapped up in the world and characters and emotions, I think they come out with more HEART and LIFE than my other novels. Typos and plot inconsistencies can be fixed during the editing phase. But it’s during that first draft phase that you’re putting the HEART of the novel together. And that’s what really makes a good story into a great story.
So even though I did a whole post on it last week, I’m saying it again: Don’t be afraid of getting your novel “just right”. Just WRITE it. (SeewhatIdidthere?)
#7: DO WHAT YOU WANT
You know what? Forget all my tips and ignore my advice and listen to Loki instead:
This is your novel. Your time you’ll be using to write it. JUST WRITE WHAT YOU WANT. Don’t be afraid (<— okay, that’s the one tip you shouldn’t ignore), don’t let anything hold you back. If you want to write about leprechauns who live on the moon and battle space werewolves with cheese graters, DO IT.
Stay in your comfort zone. Don’t stay in your comfort zone. Plot all month. Forget plotting and pants the whole thing. Write the largest cast ever. Or make a story that literally only has one person. It doesn’t matter!
JUST WRITE WHAT YOU FEEL LIKE WRITING.
You’re going to have an absolutely amazing time!
Now my favorite bit, talking to YOU. Do you have any tips or tricks you use to figure out what novel to write next? Do you have a specific type of novel you like to write for NaNoWriMo? AND WHO’S DOING NANOWRIMO????? (I’m excited, if it’s not noticeable.) Alsoooo if you’re new to the whole NaNo thing or just interested in it but have some questions DON’T HESITATE TO ASK ME. NaNo is my favorite subject and this’ll be my 8th time to participate so…hopefully I know my way around enough to answer any questions. *grins*