National Novel Writing Month, now known colloquially as NaNoWriMo, is less than a week away. We know many of you will be participating this year, and some for the first time. So we've been putting together some words of advice and inspiration and scattering them around the internet - on our tumblr, our twitter, our Pinterest boards - to help you on your way.
For those who don't know what we're talking about, NaNoWriMo is a month (November) in which you commit to writing 50,000 words of that novel you've been putting off for who knows how long. You can sign up on the official website, which is run by the fabulous people at the Office of Letters and Light. Once you've signed up, you'll be cheered on by a host of fellow writers in the same bizarre boat as you are. It's thrilling, productive, and inspirational.
There are so many ways to get prepared for a month of solid writing. Helpful Twitter folks have compiled a list of suggestions at the hashtag #nanoprep, along with links and words of encouragement. But the most basic elements are obvious:
1. Know your story. You don't have to know how it ends, but you do need to know if it's a mystery/fantasy/coming-of-age story about a spunky detective/space wraith/baby gorilla who buys a haunted house/finds love/breaks out of the jungle.
2. Know your characters.
The truth is, you'll get to know them as you write. But you need to at least meet them beforehand. Give your characters a personality test. Make a list of all the ways you and your protagonist (or antagonist - no one's judging) differ. Write a scene from your character's perspective that has nothing to do with the story just to hear how they talk. Put your character in your favorite movie/novel/TV show and see how they react. And don't forget your secondary characters. If they feel flat, so will your story.
3. Know your audience. If you're writing for kids but haven't met a child since puberty, it might be time to meet a few. And take a look at some things they're reading. Maybe you want to share your novel with your support group. Maybe you secretly wish you were Robin McKinley. There are so many different kinds of readers, and you can't write for everyone. When you know who you're writing for, you're free to not write for all those other people. So you don't have to impress all the Borges readers of the world. Or include a five thousand year history of your fantastical kingdom. Write for your audience.
You have six more days of prep before NaNoWriMo begins. Once the clock strikes on day one, the most important thing won't be arranging your outline or developing character hobby lists. It'll be putting words on the page. Whatever has kept you from that in the past, now's the time to get over, under, or through it.