Getting Ready for Nanowrimo – Characters, Scenes and more, oh my!

Nanowrimo is 7 days away. One Week. Are you ready?

Now’s the time to really start exploring things in your head. If you haven’t already start living in your novel’s world. Go meet the characters, check out the sites, watch the movie.

Surround yourself with inspiration

Whatever it takes to get you thinking, do it. Sit around drinking coffee, or scotch.

Put in that old french film or the Lord of the Rings Trilogy.

Cover your walls in tear sheets from magazines, print outs from the internet, or crude drawings you think up at 3 am in the morning.

Let your mind go wild, explore, feel, drink it in and then — take notes.

Get yourself ready to be constantly writing

  • get a PDA
  • a small note pad
  • laptop

Something to have with you at all times, for when inspiration strikes and then jot it down.

I’m not saying write. I’m saying jot down notes. In this next week write down:

  • character names and brief descriptions
  • the beginning & the end
  • major themes, metaphors, symbols
  • scene concepts
  • act structures
  • a title – it’s a working title, you can change it later

character names and brief descriptions

Don’t go crazy on this. Unless you really think its going to be important. So many sites out there will shoot you full of this 5+ page character description sheet that would make a dungeons and dragons player run outside to play baseball. (trust me they hate that).

You don’t need it. You don’t need to know what your characters favorite flower is. You don’t need to know the first person to show your character plaid socks. You don’t need to know what your character might say to a man literally selling a product called “Snake Oil”.

It’s in you. You’ll figure it out on the fly.

Make brief notes now, just get the gist of the character and then let things flow. If you create a 10 page list front and back of ever single thing your character does or doesn’t like, you’re going to waste time cross refrencing these things when they show up in your story. You’re going to suddenly remember half way through act 3 that “oh shit, nothing makes sense any more I’ve just written 20,000 meaningless words that I must now scrap”

believe in yourself. You’ll know the answer when it comes up. Cause yes your slightly effeminate viking actually prefers tulips to those hawty tawty orchids.

Yes it was that crazy wiccan psycho bitch in 8th grade Marci that used to prance around in her plaid socks that drove Marcus in to a rage. How could she think that was stylish!

and Yes the brooding emo Jeremiah would snicker and sarcastically say “hey snake oil, good for you buddy you’re a golden god.”

The beginning & the end

Do it.

Two dragons by Giampaolo Macorig.

I know you’re one of those “I want let the story take me along for a giant ride” kind of writers.

You think knowing the end is to restrictive, to much like drawing a line in the sand. But you couldn’t be more wrong.

Knowing your ending up front, let’s you push your story to the brink. You can write as far out as possible and the fun, the challenge becomes “how the hell is this ever going to get there!? how do I get back”. it’s the biggest rush ever as you slowly start to see all the connections.

“OMG that’s why I had him meet that girl on page 74! She’s coming back to kill his sister!”

Just jot down a few quick notes.

Beginning : Marc is a pizza delivery guy, trying to save money to get back to school, working day in and day out, with nearly no social life except World of War Craft and Date.com

End : Marc takes the throne as the dragon lord (mostly likely after a mysterious girl kills his evil manipulative sister)

major themes, metaphors, symbols

This might be a little harder to do before you’ve actually started writing. When I actually wrote my first novel I didn’t even think about most of these till the 3rd or 4th pass. But try.

See what might be the most logical symbols in your characters world that connects to the ending.

In the previous wacky example, Pizza surrounds this guy. So ovens, and fire seem like logical symbols and metaphors that connect to the world where he will be the dragon lord.

it’s just that simple. Take two things and tie a rope around them, that’s probably your metaphor.

scene concepts

Obviously in 50,000 words you’re going to have hundreds to thousands of scenes and you’re not going to find them right now. But as you go about your week some key moments should pop out at you.

Write them down.

Write individual scene on note cards – then you can lay them out to try and find the best order for them to occur, which will help you when you try to make an outline.

These should be pretty quick things

Marc learns of his destiny/prophecy

Marc is taught to breath fire

Marc finds the golden sword

Marc kills the dragon lord

It can be more complex then that, but it really doesn’t need to be.

Act structures

Take all your scenes and create a structure, an order, am outline.

Pretty easy just mess around with the order of things. Try to find the natural peaks and dips. Give it some momentum and rhythm. This is all personal taste, but obviously you don’t want to put all the slow parts in one act, and then all the action in another. Mix it up keep it moving.

Give people a taste of the wicked and then use their enthusiasm to get them through some of the slower parts, where you need to explain a few things.

A title

You’ve got all this stuff, give your project a title.

You’re not gonna be stuck with it, but it’s there to refer to, to inspire and to get it out of your mind so you don’t spend hours obsessing over “what the hell do I call this thing”.

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