In 2009, I signed up for a contest called NaNoWriMo. NaNoWriMo is held over the month of November each year and the idea is that you start and finish a 50,000 word novel (minimum) in that month. It seems fast paced and the emphasis is definately on quantity rather than quality, but oh the whimsical fun!
I mentioned that this is a contest, but with a difference:
Who are you competing against? Yourself. If you beat the hurdles and excuses that prevent 50,000 words, then you win.
Fact is, I usually write two manuscripts a year. One takes me 11 months and the other takes me 4 weeks. Why? Deadlines. I make sacrifices and push myself for November, also my family and friends understand my pressure and give me the space and support to write. For some reason I just can't drag that on for the rest of the year.
In 2009 I worked out my plot by starting with a brainstorming (also known as Clustering) session. 2010, I had my story prompt from a character exercise I did at the CYA Writer's Conference (you can see my post about it at Character to Plot Workshop).
Already a NaNoWriMo participant? Did you know NaNoWriMo have a Young Writers Program? It allows the junior authors to become involved as well. They don't have to do 50k of words though, they can pick their own limit. Last year my girls did 6,000 words, Emily with her paranormal mystery (about dragons used for murder) and Matilda with her Greek God mystery (Greekafied).
There are some great resources on the Young Writers Program site for beginners too. I found the High School Workbook extremely helpful. It will take you step by step through the process of setting up your plot and characters in a lovely simple format. And it's free!
- Don't tackle anything that needs constant research, and if it does, skip that and fix it later (you can edit in December, you won't have time in November)
- Plan your plot - If I try to write constantly for 50,000 I'm likely to start with a family story and end up with space porn, but only after going through a period of postmodern zombie/military action. I need structure.
- Don't start something you've been planning. Start something new that you are not yet attached to. Come December you can get crazy about your plot and characters, but you won't have time to dwell in November - there's writin' to do!
- Tell everyone you're doing it. Put it on your blog. It will make it a lot harder for you to drop out after 539 words.
- Drag your friends and family into it, or join a region group (you can do that on the site). If you have writing buddies you will urge each other on and help with plot barriers.
What I love most about this challenge is that it is international and although there are would-be authors struggling over manuscripts every day, now I feel part of that group knowing we are all busily typing at once. Join me... join me.. join me....