[Author’s note: I started writing this post, and one sentence in, my laptop shut off and restarted itself. And it has yet to begin functioning properly since. This post may be cursed. You have been warned. Continue reading at your own risk.]
[Update: my laptop’s hard drive actually failed. Whether or not this post caused this unfortunate circumstance is still under hypothetical speculation.]
At this point in NaNo prep land, you’re either scrambling to come up with a novel idea, trying desperately to finish your current book by November 1 so you can start the next book in the trilogy (raises hand) or you have a novel idea, you’ve had a novel idea for THREE FREAKING MONTHS and you HAVE TO START WRITING NOW NOW NOW NOW.
You’re now at the very end of the stage of your NaNo Preparation Plan where paying attention to your ideas is the best thing you can do for the novel inside you begging to find its way out. Technically you could start writing before November 1, and no one would ever know. But nothing is more satisfying than a “true” NaNo win – this, I’m sure, could be debated for the entire 30-day NaNo stretch, which would prevent everyone involved from writing the 50,000 words actually needed to win because they’re too busy arguing about whether or not they’re “literally cheating” … I could keep going. But I won’t.
Here are three ways you can give some TLC to your ideas without turning them loose (yet.)
Let the story unfold in your head.
One way I trick myself into writing realistic dialogue is to picture the scenes in my head playing out like a movie. (Not that I ever actually expect any of my books to become movies, or actual real books). This same tactic can work during your pre-writing stage of novelage.
It’s likely that you have at least one scene you know you’re going to write within the first few days of NaNo, or a piece of dialogue or even a character description. Picture it in your head. Stop what you’re doing, sit down or go for a walk, and let it come together. Sitting there reading this, you might not think this method works. Our brains are a lot better at stringing together ideas than we think they are. You just have to give it the time and space to create, and even when you’re not physically writing, it will turn into something tangible in your mind.
Jot down key ideas, plot twists or that one quote you cannot stop replaying in your mind.
There will come a point when not actually writing down anything your brain is formulating will start to drive you crazy. Whatever your stance in the “writing before 11/1” debate, there’s no rule that says you can’t jot down idea or outline your basic plot, if that’s your way of organizing ideas before the fact.
Sometimes I’ll have a piece of a conversation or a one-liner floating around in my head (I’m a little obsessed with those), and if I’m sitting in biochem and I have absolutely no hope of ever understanding hydrogen bonding if I don’t jot down this line in the margins of my notes, I’ll do it. You don’t even have to look at it again until NaNo starts. Getting it down does get it out of your head, and you can do it without writing the entire scene.
Talk about it.
One of my best friends and I spend a pretty decent amount of quality time together discussing our unwritten ideas. This is a useful kind of relationship to have the week before NaNo starts, and even if you don’t have a writing buddy IRL, the next stage of NaNo prep is to find a writing buddy or two online. The point is, it doesn’t matter WHO you’re sharing your ideas with, within reason, as long as you’re sharing them. Keeping them trapped inside your head can honestly sometimes give you an actual headache.
Talk to your cat about this character you’re going to hate killing off, when all else fails. She might fall asleep while you’re still talking, but at least you’ve released some of those ideas into the air – they’ll sound much better and much more real and defined once you say them out loud. If you weren’t excited about NaNo before, you will be now.
Take a deep breath. It’s almost time to NaNo.
Itching to write? Comment with the genre or subject you’re planning on writing about this year.