Knee-deep in revisions this weekend, it occurred to me that National Novel Writing Month is only 43 days away. I’m totally terrified by hooked on the challenge of writing 50,000 words in 30 days, so there’s no doubt in my mind that I will participate again. However, each year I struggle with one question: how much should I prepare?
My first NaNoWriMo attempt in 2008, I truly embodied the “pantser” method (i.e., flying by the seat of your pants.) I had nothing more than my main character’s name when I started writing. 40,000 words and thirty days later, I ran out of time and my authorly dreams were temporarily dashed.
In 2009, a few weeks into a long recuperation from surgery, I decided to do something productive with the seemingly endless days that I spent in bed and dove in. I had my main character’s first name and at least one major conflict in mind, but this time I decided I needed to do a bit more planning. Instead of plotting complete outline of the entire story (the thought of which makes me cringe with anxiety), I wrote several journal entries from my main character’s point of view. It was an interesting exercise and definitely helped me develop her distinct voice. I also managed to glean several plot points from those entries that carried me through to NaNoWriMo victory.
By 2010’s attempt, I realized my writing style is somewhere between pantser and plotter. I’m no longer comfortable with completely winging it, but I lack the capacity to compose every single twist and turn in advance. Writing several character sketches beforehand definitely helped, especially when my Muse bailed on me in the middle of Week 2. I also constructed playlists for each character to keep me inspired (yes, I’m a music nerd like that.)
For this year’s effort, I have two story ideas floating around in my head. This rarely happens! One of them actually had the nerve to flirt with me during last year’s NaNo. It was very irritating, but kind of exciting, almost like being caught in a love triangle. I’m curious to see which story pushes its way to the top of heap in the next 43 days!