Wow, the last part of this month has really been flying by! I meant for this to be a series, but life stuff happened and so now my NaNo prep series is going to have to be a single post. So, consider this your quick and dirty guide to novel preparation, the Lucy way.
So, at the end of last year, I was struggling to edit this novel I’d been working on for three years. It was my first novel and it was an extremely difficult piece to write–dual POVs, different timelines, lots of twists. The thing about that novel is that it taught me how to write. By the time I wrestled my way through that complicated mess, I fully understood how to put a story together. I can’t really teach you that; it’s just something you have to learn along the way. But when it came time to start my next story, I had learned a few short cuts, which I will now share with you.
Start With Your Query
Normally this step is one of the last things a writer does. But I recommend starting here because brainstorming a query letter will solidify your novel idea. If you’ve never written a query letter before, I recommend browsing the Query Shark website for some great tips and examples. Of course, your query doesn’t need to be one hundred percent perfect. You’re not sending it off yet (please, please, please don’t start shopping around for agents until your novel is complete and has been through a few rounds of edits and critique).
Expand Your Query Into A One Page Synopsis
This will serve as the road map to your story. As you’re NaNo-ing away, your story may have a tendency to go into unexpected territory. This is great, but don’t wander so far off track that you lose sight of your main plot threads. Check back with your synopsis often, so that you can steer yourself back on track if things get a little too crazy next month.
Consider Your Voice
Another great preparatory exercise would be to write a few paragraphs here and there in your narrator’s voice so that you can get a feel for how your story will be told. Choose your point of view and narrative tense ahead of time and make sure you understand how to keep from unnecessary head-hopping and tense switches. Writing in a steady character voice will keep you from having to do a boatload of edits once December rolls around.
It Gets Worse
All you really need to get started on your NaNo Novel is a character and a conflict. Keep brainstorming from there, but keep in mind that story conflict needs to build. Your plot will roll right along if you just keep making your main character’s situation worse and worse. Of course, he or she will need a few small triumphs here and there (and a big one at the end) but for the most part, stories need the conflict to just keep piling on.
Okay, so that’s a basic rundown of the things I do before starting my first draft. I wanted to go ahead and put this post up in time for NaNo, but hopefully soon I’ll find the time to expand on these tips with individual blog posts. I also want to show you a few unconventional writing tools I use to help brainstorm, so check back soon. Happy writing!