Nanowrimo 2012—Prep Work

Don’t wait until Zero Hour to start writing for Nanowrimo.
Here are some tips for preparing yourself for the long haul–50,000  words.
1. Place.
What’s the main setting for your novel? How many locations do you use more than twice? Where does your Page One open? Does it open in a cave? On a spaceship hurtling past dark stars? Does it open in a laundromat (see Jack Remick’s Blood)? Does it open on a lonely beach road, a car chase (see Robert Ray’s Bloody Murdock)? Does it open in a boudoir with a bidet? Does it open in the cage of a Werewolf? Does it open in the Oval Office? In the Situation Room? In a school with a student shooting a poison dart at the teacher?

2. Character.
Profile your five major characters. Protagonist, Antagonist, Helper One, Antag One, Helper Two.
For each main character, jot down these info-bits:

  • Back Story Trauma
  • Motive
  • Agenda
  • Want
  • Need
  • Can’t have.


3. Back Story.
For each major character, write 3-5 pages of back story. To connect the back story to your Page One, use this simple method of increasing the distance in time:

Startline: An hour before the book opens, the protagonist was….

  • Startline: A week before the book opens, the protagonist was….
  • Startline: A year before the book opens, the protagonist was….
  • Startline: Five years before the book opens, the protagonist was….

Writing time: 15 minutes for each startline.

4. Structure—3 acts and 7 key scenes.
Novels that sell—and novels that last—have the three-act structure. To sharpen the focus of the three-act structure, we borrow from the screen-writers and the dramatists and the result is seven key scenes, First Encounter, Opening, Plot Points One and Two, Midpoint, Climax, and Ending. Key scenes pace your writing. In a novel of 300 pages, Plot Point One marks page 75. For more on key scenes, see The Weekend Novelist Rewrites the Novel.
5. Story.
Story is a competition for the resource base. To tell a story, you have a protagonist who battles the antagonist for possession of the resource base. If you do some story work now, you won’t waste your precious Nano-Rimo moments wondering what you are writing.


6. Subplots.
A novel is a tale told with a plot and at least two subplots. Smart writers work out their subplots using core story, which describes a character arc. For example, when Jane Eyre arrives at Thornfield, she is a Victorian Cinderella—her core story is Rags to Riches (orphan girl climbs the economic ladder). Thornfield represents her castle, but to possess the castle she must nab the owner, nasty Mr. Rochester with a crazy wife. Rochester wants to replace the nutball wife with sane Jane, no matter than she is plain—his core story is Queen Replacement. If you don’t take the time to work out story arcs for your main characters, you will lose time on the torturous trail set by the creators of Nanorimo.

7. Help is but a click away. For writing your novel, keep coming back to Bob and Jack’s writing blog

8. And good luck out there.

For more structure, check out the 20 Steps to Starting Your Novel on this blog.