A novel (even for NaNoWriMo) is nothing without preparation in advance. How you want to prepare, if at all, is different for every person. For this post, I'm focussing on how I'm preparing for the 1st of November.
This sounds somewhat cryptic, because isn't the whole idea of NaNoWriMo that you're not allowed to write your novel before the 1st? You are, however, very much allowed to add your novel to your account. You can do this by going to MyNanoWriMo > My Novels on the website. The website will ask you for a title, genre, cover image, a short synopsis and an excerpt of your story. But what if you're not sure yet about the title, or if you want to write the synopsis after you've finished? No worries there, you're allowed to leave blank spaces or change things. Once you've created your novel, you're officially participating in NaNoWriMo. No going back now!
I for one do have a few ideas for a title, but do not want to commit to anything before I've finished my novel. For now I've chosen One Day Like This because I do not want to leave it blank, but chances are the title will have changed towards the end of the month. I also haven't added a cover because it depends completely on how the story will progress.
I'm a firm believer of structuring in advance, which is why I've already decided on a beginning, middle part and ending. Of course nothing is set in stone, but to know how the story is roughly supposed to progress will help me if I get stuck during the writing.
The beginning is crucial because it sets the tone for the entire book and it is usually when reader's decide if you want to keep reading or not. I came across some tips on how not to start your novel, which are really helpful. To read them, click here [x]. The opening scene I have in mind was carefully constructed with these errors in mind and loosely based on something that occurred in real life.
The middle part should always focus on some sort of development, a plot twist, the reaching of a goal or finding the solution to a problem. It forms the biggest part of your novel so this is where the action takes place and where you give character- and world insights. It is also the perfect place for plot bunnies. My middle part is still very much under construction.
Endings are important because they make or break a book. I've seen reviewers deduct rating stars because the ending was rubbish and I don't blame them. The most common criticism is that an ending does not answer important questions, that it does not tie up the loose ends. In your choice for an open of closed ending, keep in mind to find the perfect balance between giving away too much, and too little. The ending I currently have in mind for my own novel is semi-open and came to me in a sudden burst of inspiration. If you cannot come up with a good ending now, leave it be because it might come to you suddenly when you're near the 50,000 mark.
Many of the scenes I plan to write are based on things that happened to me or that I observed from others. I simply get my inspiration from real life and it helps me in keeping my scenes and characters somewhat realistic. For some particular genres like fantasy or science-fiction, this might be a little bit harder, but it's certainly not impossible. A big portion of your story will probably be made up, but it will still allow you to base certain character traits on real people, or base settings loosely on places you've visited. It's a really good strategy to make your readers identify with your story.
Because I want my own story to be a reflection of reality, I've made very particular choices. At first I wanted to write a novel without a love story because not everybody finds love in real life. In the end I could not resist the temptation though, so instead, it's going to be a love story that does not work out in the end (because you know, that actually happens despite what romance novels want you to believe). Furthermore, I want to focus on the ups and downs of college life in the big city AND how negative life-events influence people.
Last but not least, creating character biographies has really helped me to get a clear overview of what my main characters are like. I already had a pretty good idea of which character trait I wanted for which characters. From there on I searched countless baby name websites until I found the names that just clicked somehow. Next, I filled in a questionnaire for each important character which I can consult anytime during my writing process. I'm not entirely sure who created the questionnaire but it's really helpful. You can download it here [x].
This is how I've prepared for NaNoWriMo. From now on I will do weekly recaps on my writing progress, any changes I've made and inspirational songs of that week. Somewhere during this month I'll probably also release the cover image for the novel and mood boards for the main characters. Good luck this Saturday everyone!