The trouble with NaNoWriMo is not getting the words down, although that is its own particular hell – but in finding an idea, or selecting one of many ideas you may have knocking around in your writer-brain that best suit the nature of the NaNoWriMo Beast. I have spent the past six days running through all my ideas in various genre, stress-testing them and rejecting them all for one reason or another including one with a very promising, series potential character but once I found myself stumbling as I tried to plot it I realised that the story I picked for this character is in a genre that doesn’t suit their character. Back to the drawing board…

Keep stress-testing your characters, story, plot. When it blows out go back and rewire it.

Finally, today, I seem to have settled on a completely different character but one I think is both engaging and all the pieces of story and genre feel like they’re actually all in the same jigsaw rather than including some bits from a random jigsaw I found under the sofa. If you’re wondering how many ideas I currently have on the go across all the media I work in, it’s at least 25 and growing. It’s actually nearer 40 if you include all the screenplays I’ve written over the years which I think I can adapt to novellas/novels. So there’s been a lot of stories and a country full of characters to sift through for suitability!

Hard choices litter the path to the end of every novel. As the phrase goes, kill your babies.

Many of the ideas I have or scripts I’ve written are historically based, or based on real people, so therefore require a lot of research. Due to the nature of NaNoWriMo the project you should select should meet the path of least resistance. So, no research should be necessary – not at this stage. You want to focus on the writing and getting the words down. So, make life easy for yourself and pick a contemporary subject, set it in a town exactly like one you know well: home town, college town or favourite holiday destination; and, pick a genre you know well whether it’s old-fashioned mystery or shape-shifter romance. Maybe if you’re a lawyer, an engineer or an athlete, or know people who are then make your character have a similar background so you don’t have to research what a lawyer does all day. 

Also, whether you’re a pantser or a plotter, you’re going to want to be as in charge of this intense process as it’s possible to be and that is going to require a plot. If this is your first novel you are going to want to be as efficient as possible rather than stressing every day about what you are going to write. So, have an idea how your novel is going to end. If you don’t know how it’s going to end, how are you going to get there? It’s like getting in your car but not knowing where the journey ends. It’s impossible, right, unless you have a lot of time on your hands and a lot of gas money you’re going to have a very stressful time. It’s better if your work reads as focused rather than stressed. Every word you write is essentially going toward the ending of the novel, otherwise what’s the point of those words are they just fluff? So, have a destination, before you start out, it will ensure you have the best chance of actually reaching it.

Draw yourself a map, it’ll help you get to the destination a lot quicker.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a novel to plot.

I’ll do as much of that as I can before I get started on actually writing. Key things for me are to know the ending, know the main character, have a vague idea of the plot, know who some of the supporting characters might be and to dream up an antagonist that will keep the main character under stress thereby maximising the conflict that will keep the reader engaged throughout.

I’ll check back with you next week and update you as to my progress.