NaNoWriMo – a few tips to get you started with a novel
NaNoWriMo is just around the corner. During the month of November, many books will come into being as authors hothouse ideas into 50,000 words or more. Some of the books that come out of this “national novel writing month” are later revised to become full-length books or win awards. Others languish on the hard drive of some long-gone, forgotten laptop.
Not all books are created equal. Some have their origins in pieces of short stories, poetry, magazine articles, or even a blog post. The key to a successful work is how well the author can integrate multiple pieces of work and develop a plot that flows from the first page to the last.
If you’re one of the millions of people who have a partial manuscript or your own original story, you may be wondering how to go about organizing a cohesive work that will have a beginning, middle, and end.
First, take a moment to appreciate all the work you have done so far. Almost every writer starts out with the idea of writing a book, but only the very talented manage to finish something that is readable.
Take a moment to celebrate the fact that you’ve completed something and continue with the following tips to turn it into a book:
Organise your NaNoWriMo ideas
The first step in turning your manuscript into a book is organising ideas. Identify scenes that you think are important, and move them to the top of your list. Do all the characters need to be there? A common problem with first novels is an overloaded cast list. Who is there for a reason, and who’s just adding colour?
Cut out every scene or chapter or character that doesn’t belong.
Identify the plot
When you read your NaNoWriMo ideas list, it may not immediately be obvious. Try writing down what you think the plot should be, then compare it to what you’ve sketched out. If they’re very far apart, then you probably want to refine one or the other.
Organise your story
The next step is to organise your manuscript into a start, middle and end. There’s a vague consensus that you spend 15-20% of the book setting up the story, 60-70% on the story itself and the rest on how things work out.
You can also create character arcs and see if they match up with the story. If there are multiple main characters, do they achieve what they set out to do?
Does the story have a beginning, middle, and end? Does it have a conflict and a resolution? Is it believable? Will the reader care enough about all of the characters?
Using a beat sheet to write a novel
If you want to turn your story into a book, you may be interested in using a beat sheet. This is a breakdown of the length and type of scenes that you need in your story.
Beat sheets are pretty straightforward, and the effort you put into planning your story will pay off in the end.
I’ve created a free beat sheet to help you sort out your ideas, read more here.
Good luck in NaNoWriMo and I look forward to seeing your work published.
My new romantic comedy ‘Ghosted‘ is out on 31 October – though it’s nothing to do with ghosts and ghoulies and things that go bump in the night. It’s a Christmas romance, set onboard a gay cruise. A romantic comedy to restore your faith in human nature. I’ll be talking more about it in the coming days. Sign up to my mailing list to win prizes, bookmarks, copies and score bonus content.