As Danni mentioned two days ago, October heralds the dawn of National Novel Writing Month (that’s NaNoWriMo to all you hip cats out there). For those of you are somewhat unsure, the idea is that if you write two thousand words a day every day for a month, you’ll end up with over fifty thousand words: the amount which many novels amount to. The concept of writing a novel in such a short time, especially to unpublished authors and the like, is something which easily intrigues: every member of this blog has at least made an effort to complete NaNoWriMo with varying amounts of success.
While I’ve never fully completed the challenge myself due to a diet of uni, gaming and an attention span that would make a goldfish blush, you may actually be tempted to try this and as such it’s time to use my powers of observation to enlighten you and give you a few tips for the occasion. Huzzah!
Firstly, yes today is the seventh of October. If you think you’ll need every single day to write, then it might be worth starting in November or counting thirty days from today. I only put this because people nitpick – and rightly so! Analysing the small details is one of the most important things a writer has to take note of. There are two methods I’m going to cover for writing a novel in NaNoWriMo, which people acknowledge with different opinions, from “I want this on my tombstone” to “It’s not a real method, he’s just rambling to save time!”. The first is the strategic approach, which involves plotting out the main storyline, the characters and covering every inch of your preferred habitat of creative construction with sticky notes or the like. The amount of detail you go into depends very much on your writing style: I have seen fellow writers drown in piles of print-outs and sticky notes (no names…they know who they are) and cover their walls in enough paper to make them forget what colour the paint is. Obsession over your own novel pumps up the quality in a lot of cases, depending on your ability to plan.
The other method is what I like to call “Devon’s Organic Method”. Treat the novel as a plant, if you will. No, I don’t care if you live in the city and don’t remember what colour a plant is, for the purposes of this mental exercise, it’s a plant. A potted cactus if you’re that hard up for ideas. Now, the way this works is that you create a character, give him/her a setting and go from there. Sometimes when you grow a novel without planning ahead, your own mind will surprise you and you’ll start surprising yourself with the amount of depth that grows. A novel isn’t a tattoo – you can go back and change things, planting new ideas and trimming the edges again and again until you no longer recognise it as a one-month project and start treating it like the potential masterpiece it is.
The latter method is sometimes considered more appropriate when it comes to NaNoWriMo, where time is of the essence. In a way it all comes down to the amount of effort you’re willing to put in and the time to put most of the effort in – do you plan ahead, using most of the effort and then join the dots later on, or do you work harder on generating ideas as you go along? The correct answer is that it doesn’t matter! At a certain point the two methods of novel writing will merge into one, and you’ll be well on your way to the feeling of smug self-satisfaction, and who knows? You may even win!
Just don’t expect to have a more glorious notification of victory than the woman who won while giving birth a few years ago.