NaNoWriMo is an internet phenomenon that takes place throughout the month of November every year. NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month and is a unique challenge for fiction writers wanting to produce large quantities of work during a short period of time. Throughout one month, writers challenge themselves to complete a 50,000 word novella.
The power behind National Novel Writing Month is positive peer pressure and a firm deadline. Participants are racing to the finish line with thousands of novel writers, and the resulting word count from their efforts is displayed for the whole site to see. With a writing event of NaNoWriMo’s magnitude, it’s little wonder that many participants enjoy preparing for NaNoWriMo a few weeks in advance.
Most of this preparation involves rearranging schedules and buying extra coffee and snack foods; however, there are a few ways for participants to work on their fiction writing.
While participants are not allowed to write on their actual 50,000 word novel before November 1st, they can begin taking notes and outlining their story ideas, if they wish to do so. Some participants prefer to be a blank slate when midnight strikes and the countdown begins. If you’re less daring than those writers, one fantastic way for you to prepare for NaNoWriMo is by getting to know your fictional characters before the event begins. You can do this by filling out character bios; however, writing a short story involving the character might be a better way to prepare for writing the novel.
Writing a “Backstory” or “Character History” Story before NaNoWriMo:
As you’re preparing for November’s NaNoWriMo challenge, explore a past experience involving one of the characters you’re planning to use in your novel. You don’t necessarily have to use your main character for this personal challenge. Writing for any character will give you insight that will allow you to tackle the difficult job of finding the character’s “voice” during National Novel Writing Month. Events of our past create the person we become in the future, so, by writing a short story involving one of your characters’ pasts, you will be able to build on that knowledge in your novel. By writing a “backstory” short story, you’ll be creating, in the process, a fictional person who is three dimensional and not limited by stereotypes and cliches. Also, you’ll be practicing your writing skills during the process.
Other Tips for Pre-NaNoWriMo Character Development:
Draw a family tree for the character . If you’re planning to write a story where lineage is important or large groups of family members are present, a family tree might be just the reference you need to keep your facts straight.
Find a photo or sketch a picture of the character to use as a quick physical description reference. A fixed image of what your character looks like is invaluable when you’re 20,000 words in and trying to remember the length of your character’s hair or the shape of their nose.
Do research on your character’s job/career. Most of us don’t know what archeologists or lab technicians do during their day to day work. If you’re wanting to give your characters a career in a field outside of your own, do your research. Do you have any friends in your character’s chosen field? Check out books on careers at the library, especially in the children’s section, where books about complex jobs are put in basic terms. Do an internet search and find out what kind of salary your character makes–this will determine his or her standard of living.
Find a photo or sketch a blueprint of the character’s home or main location throughout the duration of the story. Scenes are much easier to write if you already know that the door your character is about to slam actually exists. By creating quick blueprints, you’ll be able to easily picture your character’s movements.
Organize your sketches, notes, and photos in a folder so that they’re easy to access. During NaNoWriMo, you simply won’t have the time to go searching for a lost family tree.
Here are a few links to Character Development (Bio) Sheets:
These are basically long questionnaires for characters. While these sheets are time-consuming, simply reading over the questions will give you an idea of what kind of information you need to know about each character in your NaNoWriMo novel.
My writing group’s blog, http://fantasticquill.blogspot.com/