National Novel Writing Month – Common Problems And How I Faced Them

So you have decided to take part in the National Novel Writing Month event this November.  Great!  I wish you the best of luck, and hope you do not have to resort to using the full title of several books to bulk up your word count.

However, some of you who may be considering NaNoWriMo may be a bit hesitant to try.  You are wondering if you have what it takes.  You have other concerns about your stories and your characters.  That’s normal, everyone had them.  Even I did.  And it is quite possible to overcome every one of these concerns and complete your NaNoWriMo project.

“I have a middle and an end, but no beginning”

A lot of people have this issue.  The key is to not let it be an obstacle.  If you don’t have a beginning, then start from what you have.  It is possible that you may discover that starting in the middle adds a new level of intrigue to your tale, leaving readers wondering how the characters got to this point.  You may even end up writing something similar to the movie Memento, which tells a disjointed story as the reader learns more and more about what brought the main character to where he is.

Take my first NaNoWriMo project for example.  This novel, titled Son of the Swordsmaster: An Alex Falconer Adventure was based on an idea I had rattling around in my head for a while.  The problem is that this idea plays out less like a beginning of a series, but the third or fourth book in the series.  Granted, I could have tried to start with whatever Book 1 would have been, but really, I did not have a clue what it could have been.  I had an idea for it, but the more I thought about it, the less it seemed to gel as a decent idea.  So, I set it aside and moved onto this story.  I wrote, assuming some of the details that would have been in earlier books were generally known.  Anything that pertained directly to the story I was writing was covered through a number of Lost inspired flashback chapters.

“I have the characters, but I don’t have the story”

Sometimes just putting a few unique characters into one room will lead you to your story.  Why are they in the room?  How do they interact with each other?  Does any one character start to stand out as a leader, and should that character be the leader?  With a combination of characters and a simple premise, you can complete your NaNoWriMo project.

For my second NaNoWriMo project, I did not really have a story.  I had a number of characters, many of which had been rattling around in my head in one form or another.  They had no real connections to each other, beyond their unusual circumstances: A young man hunted for reasons he does not know; a psychic ex-hockey player; a werewolf private investigator; a young woman trapped playing a Lovecraftian game for her life; and a witch hunter.  I pulled these characters together and added a sixth character: a mysterious stranger seeking to help, and unleashed them in November.  The end result was called Paranormals Anonymous, a story about a support group for people touched by the unknown.

“I hate my characters”

This can happen.  It is possible that the character you thought was the main character is a total jerk and really not worth the effort to bring him to life.  Or, the main character can be a total jerk who makes a journey in which he realizes what he has been like and makes a change to what he could me.  Or he just is not your main character, but your main antagonist.  It is quite possible that the story you thought you were telling is not really the story of your main character.

“My story is not matching my outline”

To be honest, I really am not the best person to speak about outlines.  Whenever I try to adhere to one, I find myself forcing my way through it, trying to match what’s there and getting frustrated when what I’m writing is not matching the outline.  I have found that I feel most comfortable writing when I allow the story to grow organically.  It is possible this is why I have such a hard time editing, since the first draft becomes the outline that I then start to have issue with.

Just for kicks, ditch the outline if it is giving you problems.  Start with the idea, and begin to write.  Remember, the idea behind NaNoWriMo is to end up with a first draft of a novel (and to write 50,000 words in the month of November).  You may not be completely happy not working with the safety net of an outline, but you may find that the story you want to write flows better when it is allowed to grow on its own.  Besides, any issues that may arise when you write like this can be resolved when you move to editing.

“My idea is not very original”

I read somewhere (I don’t remember where) that there are no more new ideas.  I’m not entirely convinced that is true.  But, what I do know is that unless you end up plagiarizing your story from another source, the way you look at a particular plot is your own.  The idea of vampires fighting werewolves may not be original, but you may have the one take on it that is unique enough to set it apart.  The only way you would know is if you write the story.

My third NaNoWriMo project at the moment remains untitled.  It is a story that mixes vampires, zombies and werewolves into a mish-mash story.  It is by no means unique.  But what makes it different is the way I approached the story.  My vampires are not the typical bite and bleed blood suckers, but more along the lines of psychic vampires.  My zombies cause a major sticking point as the vampires often point out that they are not real zombies, but ghouls, playing off the difference between the traditional zombie and the modern “Romero” zombie.

This thing to remember when you take on NaNoWriMo is that you are simply working on a first draft of a novel.  The fact that you need to complete at least 50,000 words in 30 days should not factor into anything.  To be honest, you can attempt NaNoWriMo at any time of the year, unofficially.  NaNoWriMo is looking to get people thinking about writing, and to get people writing.  If you do this, you will have succeeded even if you don’t make the word count.

And, of course, don’t forget to have fun with your writing.

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About chyrondave

Avid comic reader, amateur writer, music fan, and someone with opinions, lots of opinions.

Posted on October 12, 2011, in Creative, NaNoWriMo, Writing and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

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