It’s October 31st and You Just Decided to Do NaNoWriMo. Now What?

Maybe all your friends were talking about it. Maybe an idea started to develop more meat than you expected. Maybe you wanted to scare yourself on Halloween.

No matter how it happened, somehow you arrived here. The spookiest day of the year with a spooky situation that you really, really want to subject yourself too.

50,000 words in 30 days.

I wrote an article last week about how to edit NaNo when 50k just won’t work. Now let’s talk about some strategies for if 50k might just work after all.

A disclaimer is probably necessary here. I’ve never won NaNo. But I’ve decided to try at the last second. Let’s share some pantsing ideas!

Break down your story into four loose “parts.”

One part for each week. This will allow you to “complete” something every week, shorter term goals can make the gargantuan-ness feel a little more manageable.

Make a list of character-specific plot events

This won’t necessarily be an “outline,” but something to refer too if you don’t know what to write next. Stuck? Do one of those scenes. Any scene. Even if it has to be changed completely at a later point, just look for words on the page.

The most important part of this strategy is to ensure that the events are centered on a character’s action. When making the list, start with a name. “Character goes to x. Character decides x.” Try to avoid things happening to the character.

Change everything often

As pantsers, we probably don’t have a totally clear idea of where our story will go. Maybe we don’t know if have a story at all. This puts us in the advantageous position of being committed to nothing. If you’re running out of steam, take a left turn somewhere. Nothing is sacred, so anything is possible.

A great example of this is the comic series Saga. Saga is constantly adding characters and letting them go, shifting viewpoints, setting things up just to obliterate them and start again. We can use this tactic to keep us going, even if we don’t execute it as smoothly as Brian K. Vaughan does.

Have more than one main character

Telling more than one person’s story gives you more room to write more stuff. A strictly pragmatic kind of choice. Consider it bonus points if you can get the characters’ stories to link up in an interesting way.

Go hard and don’t think so much

That’s the real secret, isn’t it? This is a ridiculous challenge with a ridiculously high number of ways to lose. This is double or triple or quadruple what you would expect yourself to write in a regular month.

So don’t think about it. Just put one word in front of the other, every day.

Good luck everyone!