Want Adventure? Try NaNo!

October 27, 2011

And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise.  The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.  ~Sylvia Plath

By: Stacey Purcell

It’s that time of the year again. Sure the weather is changing, we’re getting ready for Thanksgiving, and Christmas is right around the corner- but that’s not what I’m talking about. It’s NaNoWriMo time!

 If you’ve never heard of it, then you need to slide on over to http://www.nanowrimo.org and check out what all the hype is about. Chris Baty began this writing adventure (because that’s what it truly is) in San Francisco July 1, 1999. There were only twenty one people registered to participate. It’s grown slightly over the years and in 2010, there were over two hundred thousand signed in to write their little hearts out from around the world. So far NaNoers have contributed 2.8 billion words throughout the years.

In 2000, with one hundred and forty people ready to write, he moved it to the month of November in order to take full advantage of the miserable weather that time of year on the Bay. He had some home grown help from friends, but it was mostly done manually and took a lot of man hours. Finally some automated help came to the rescue, however it wasn’t the end of their problems. Almost as soon as they had stuff online, writers would try to upload their word count for the day only to find the system had been hacked. Pornographic images blared across the screen along with the, ever so clever, words “YOU SUCK!” Sigh. It was a long row to hoe. They persevered and it is now streamlined and easy to register.

The goal is to write fifty thousand words in a month. Simple, right?

Well it is..if you do some preparation beforehand. I’m a true pantster and chuckle at myself when I’m shocked by what just happened on the page. Who knew the characters would do that? I certainly didn’t. I’m also a procrastinator and get easily side tracked. This year I have two tools I’m going to try while jumping in with both feet. On September 8th, 2011, I wrote an article here on the Pomodoro Method of productivity. (If you haven’t read it, I think it will help most writers- All You Need Is A Tomato To Solve Your Problems) This will help me keep on track and make the most of my time.

The other tool I have is a card given to me by Michael Hauge this summer in New York. He is a master teacher and full of wonderful ideas to adapt screen writing techniques for novelists. Screen writers have to have turning points happen at specific times in a movie to keep the audience from getting up and leaving. He’s translated this structure into a lay out for a book.

Stage I(The Set Up) 0-10% ,

Stage II(New Situation) 10-25%,

Stage III(Progress) 25-50%,

Stage IV(Complications And Higher Stakes) 50-75%,

Stage V(Final Push) 75-90/99%,

Stage VI(Aftermath) 90/99-100%.

Turning points are like sling shots to propel your reader to the next stage and they must occur in between each one. By the time you reach Turning Point 3 located between Stage III and Stage IV, your character is at the point of no return- she/he must continue on the quest. This keeps your material fresh and exciting.

As I’ve already stated, I’m not a plotter, but this year I’m doing a general outline of major events so I stay on task and don’t wander off into la-la land with my story. Pacing is so important and I’m hoping this will keep my writing tight and very tense.

If you haven’t tried NaNo, I highly recommend it! Countdown has begun and I’m sure the Pomodoro and Michael Hauge will keep me going!