Every writer has his or her own style. When it comes to National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), however, the usual approach doesn’t always work. During NaNo, Wrimos from a variety of age levels, skill levels, and writing styles have to adjust their thinking in a way that will aid them in hitting the lofty goal of writing 50,000 words in 30 days. There are as many approaches as there are Wrimos, but a few common ones tend to pop up every November.
“I Outlined Everything Before NaNo Even Started!”
Some people write better with an outline to work from. This is perfectly acceptable according to the NaNoWriMo rules, provided that the outline doesn’t contain any actual text for use in the novel.
Many Wrimos spend October getting to know their characters, herding plot points into the proper order, and carving out settings for the two to mesh in. Outlining Wrimos find it easiest to go by this prescribed list, working their way towards 50k according to a strict plan. Extremely organized or routine-oriented writers may find this the best way to succeed in getting their NaNo novel down on paper.
“I Wonder Who These Characters Are?”
For some, a novel begins with the characters. Shadows and ideas of people pop up in the imagination, slowly solidifying into three-dimensional people who have the potential to carry the story on their own. Wrimos who rely on the character-driven approach may feel like the characters know best with it comes to plot, and often follow them where they lead.
The danger of this, of course, is that sometimes the natural actions and interactions of the characters can’t always be trusted to craft a cohesive story. Other times, the characters’ relationships with each other reveal a rich history that rewards the author with an impressive amount of word count. Trailing around after characters is always a crap shoot, but it’s one that pays off well for a good number of people and can be a viable NaNoWriMo strategy for those willing to take the risk.
“This Is The Best Plot Ever!”
This is the opposite of the previous approach, when instead of characters an author starts out with a fantastic plot idea that just won’t leave his or her brain alone. Even just the small kernel of an idea can become something enormous and complex when attacked with the reckless writing abandon that NaNoWriMo requires.
Like relying on characters, putting total faith in plot has its potential pitfalls. No matter how good an idea seems at the start, it’s just that: an idea. A good storyline needs good characters, and sometimes these blossom out of the story without apparent effort. Other times, however, a good plot winds up dying a slow death in the hands of two-dimensional characters who can’t contribute the personalities necessary to move the story along.
Regardless of what approach a Wrimo takes to hit 50k, it’s ultimately up to them, the authors of the stories, to see it through and make sure that it works. Outlines may need changing, characters may need to be reigned in, and plots may need to be tweaked. It’s all in the name of hitting a goal that seems unattainable right up until the night of the 30th when, some for the first time in their lives, Wrimos around the world tap out the last keystrokes of their novels and become authors in their own right.