As you know I’ve decided to participate in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) this year! In preparation, I asked for some tips from fellow VCFA grad (and Dystropian) Shayda Bakhshi. Shayda is a long time veteran (and winner) of NaNoWriMo, and she also gave her graduate lecture on how to succeed at writing waaaaay faster than is probably advisable!
Here are five of her tips on how to succeed at NaNoWriMo:
1) Focus on Something Happening
The best way to get a story moving is to have something happen. The age-old rule is to find the conflict, but sometimes that’s not as easy to come by as you want it to be. Instead, simply try to focus on action. Ask yourself if the “action” of a scene is physical or emotional? Is the underlying conflict introspective or external? Push yourself to identify it and see how it plays out.
2) Give your Character Agency
What does your character want? Underneath everything, what is it that your character yearns for? Dream for? Desire? How will that desire lead them forward through the story? Giving your character agency to act is essential in moving the narrative forward. Without it, you’ll find your character wandering about or running around in circles.
3) Emotional Contouring
Ask yourself what the emotional change of every scene is. Does the scene begin happy and then end in disaster? Are your characters angry at each other, but then end up in a kiss? You want an emotional direction for each scene. Identify what it is so you know where your headed before you write it.
4) Time Management
Keep track of your work habits during NaNoWriMo. At the end of each day catalog how many words you wrote. But also, calculate how many hours and minutes you spent writing them. And what time of day you wrote them. At the end of your first week look for hot spots of productivity, as well as areas where you may have slacked. See if you can organize your next week for optimum time efficiency. Plus, this is useful information for how you manage time outside of NaNo as well.
If your bored writing a scene, your reader will be bored reading it. But even worse, you won’t want to write the next scene because you’re sick of the first one! Cut it. If you’re not liking it – jump to another scene that you can get behind and enjoy. Half of your success comes from your enjoyment of the process. The only rule is word-count. You can write out of order. Cut scenes or head in a new direction. Always write a scene that you’re excited about!
Have you completed NaNoWriMo in the past? Do you have some helpful tips to share? Put ’em in the comments!