Saturday, 15 October 2011

Why Doing NaNoWriMo is Like a Trip to the Moon

NaNoWriMo 2011 #2

Preparation Tips

Why Doing NaNoWriMo is Like a Trip to the Moon.


Mark Lee Pearson

Look at the moon. 2000 miles across, 4.5 billion years old, and it’s mere existence affecting the tides of the earth. Isn’t it amazing?

Your first task is to tell everyone that is where you are going to be during the month of November. That way you will not be invited to any social activities that will eat up your writing time. Also you’ll acquire a bunch of friends willing to cheer a crazy astronaut on. Your significant other will also need to know why you’ll appear to be defying gravity for the entire month of November.

Your second task is to go to bed. Get off the Internet and crawl under your duvet. Yes, now! Or as soon as you’ve finished reading this. You don’t go on a 250,000-mile word journey without preparation. You will need to conserve energy for that moonwalk.

Good night’s sleep? Okay, your next step is to plot the moon’s orbit. One sidereal month is 27.3 days. Create a 27.3-day plan. This will consist of an outline of 27.3 chapters of 1800 words each. Each chapter plan will be a sentence or two stating where you lift-off and where you plan to land—in other words a pay off. That is just like a 27.3 sentence summary of your story. The plan is to complete a 27.3-chapter orbit novel; one chapter a day for 27.3 days, with 2.7 days left open for a couple of blue moon events.

Done that? Right, now it’s time to decide who’s going to be the one to set foot on the moon? Is it Neil or is it Buzz that’ll be your protagonist? Focus on one character’s point-of-view. The more points-of-view you have the more complicated your story gets, so keep it simple so you can take the easiest possible route from start to finish. So, it’s Buzz? Right then, Niel can be your antagonist. You’ll need another character too. Someone who will help your protagonist. How about Sting?

Right, we have a crew. It is almost time to prepare for blast off. The date is set. On 1st November you’ll get up one hour earlier than usual and take 15 minutes to write an outline of the chapter you plan to write.

Yes, that’s right, an outline. If you’ve got a map of the stars you’ll easily be able to find the constellation you are looking for.

The outline will be based on your 1-sentence summary for that day. You will need a starting point and an ending point. You will need to know the characters that will feature in that chapter and all of their motivations. Yes, ALL! Characters without motivations should be jettisoned. You also need to know what you want each one of them to achieve by the end of that chapter. In effect you need to ask yourself, “What is today’s pay off?”

You are ready to blast off! With that pay-off in mind start writing at full acceleration. Fully prepared you should get about 600 words done in 45 minutes. At the 600 word mark leave your characters half way through a sentence and…

…go to work/school/drop the kids off at kindergarten. While doing that, think about your day’s plan and formulate a dialogue incorporating lots of conflict. Ideally the dialogue will encapsulate what you are trying to achieve with today’s chapter. Like a kind of microcosm of the whole. Jot it down if you have a chance. Here’s one I prepared earlier,

“One small step for a man—” said Neil, opening the hatch.

“No,” said Sting, “Wait! Giant steps are what you take walking on the moon.”

Just then, Buzz appeared with an ice pick. “You are both wrong,” he said. “That giant leap will be mine, all mine!”

Arrive at work 30 minutes early and, referring to your dialogue and your day’s plan write 300 words with before anyone else arrives. Then write 300 words on your lunch break. Stay behind and write 300 more words before you go home. You have completed 1500 words.

At home switch off the Internet, TV, PlayStation II…and figure out what you are going to do with all this time in space. Don’t forget to look around you at the stars and enjoy the view of earth. You will most certainly find something to inspire another 300 words...or more.

It takes about two days to get from the Earth to the moon. But once you get there the gravity is one sixth of what it is here on earth, you’ll take giant steps, you’ll feel lighter, and more powerful, almost superhuman. And the view from up there is stunning. NaNoWriMo: enjoy the trip, but keep the momentum.

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