We have 11 days till NaNoWriMo begins. A lot of us have spent the last twenty days (or more!) planning the life into our stories. Our story bibles are growing fat, our outlines maybe even look like outlines. We are so excited. We are full of confidence. We can not wait for November 1st to jump in and get wet.
This post is not for you.
What if you don’t have a clue yet? What if all the ideas you’ve been chasing around to write just refuse to shape into something you can use? What if you’ve never written a novel and you’re just that terrified? What if you’ve been trying to write a novel but you’ve never been able to finish because it never turns out quite how you want it to?
What if your only goal for NaNoWriMo is to write?
There’s this strange logical fallacy that the world attaches to writing. Consider the likelihood of these conversations:
Barb: I’m decorating a cake for my nephew’s birthday.
Random Non-baker: That’s awesome! Have you found a location for your bakery, yet?
Barb: I bought a rubber stamp kit and I’m going to make stationary.
Random Non-Stationarier: So when can I buy your letterheads online?
Barb: I made this skirt.
Random Non-sewer: I bet your clothing line is going to take off. You are going to design your own line, aren’t you?
Barb: I sketched this picture of my World of Warcraft character.
Random Non-drawer: You should totally apply to the game company as a designer!
And yet…. This conversation happens all the time, doesn’t it?
Barb: I’m writing a novel for NaNoWriMo.
Random Non-writer: Have you found a publisher yet?
Apparently, it’s entirely cool to pursue all sorts of creative endeavors as hobbies… sewing, drawing, landscaping, woodworking, crafts, building computers, wine-making, baking, cooking, model railroad building… and do it for fun. On the side. In your free time. Because you enjoy it.
But if you want to write… You’re clearly going to want to be published.
Moreover, if you want to write, you’re going to type THE END and immediately drop it in the mail for your work to be welcomed into the publishing industry with open arms and smiles and free candy.
Forget the months and years spent studying the industry, honing craft, getting the false starts and junk out of your head. You wrote a story, you want it published… right?
No way. Several of my area NaNo-ers write for the *gasp* joy of writing. The publishing game is not for them. They just prefer writing over fishing or watching TV or baking cakes. Or maybe, they enjoy writing in addition to fishing and watching TV and baking cakes. Being a well-rounded individual actually sounds like a nice thing for me to be, someday.
So where does that put you? Maybe you’ve never written a novel before, and the amount of work ahead overwhelms you. Maybe you want to get a practice novel out of the way so you can work on the skills you need to tackle your Super-Awesome Idea.
Or maybe – for whatever reason – you just don’t care about getting published. That’s not a bad thing.
In that case, let’s talk about quick and dirty ways you can get a story idea going. If you have no goals of publication, the possibilities are literally (literarily?) endless!
6 Ways to NaNo for The Love of NaNo
1. Mashup. Take one classic novel, add one unexpected supernatural/modern element, shake violently. Romeo and Juliet and Lolcatz, anyone?
2. Fanfiction. Other people’s worlds and characters are copy-protected, but if you’re 100% certain you don’t want to even try publishing this NaNo, like ever, then why not see what happens if your favorite TV show never got cancelled? Or if you could come up with a different *cough* better *cough* ending for that video game? Or what happened before that movie? (Or after?)
3. Retelling. If Cinderella and a clever twist popped to mind, cool. If not, head to your library and start going through those huge tomes of obscure fairy tales and stories. Or, maybe you can combine this idea with one of the first two: pick a supporting character from a popular story and tell it from their perspective.
4. A Prequel (or sequel). After a dozen starts and stops on the novel I tried to write, I put it aside to write “the sequel” to it (even though I hadn’t even finished the first). It helped me finish, because I already knew the characters and the setting. The only new thing for me to plan out was the plot, and a lot of that was inspired by what had “happened” before.
5. Ripped from the headlines. Truth is stranger than fiction, isn’t it? Ask yourself why these crazy people in the papers do what they do, see if that doesn’t give you some ideas.
6. Tell one specific person a story. Some pro writers do this, too, where they have a first reader they “write for” when they write. But you don’t have to be a pro to use this technique. Have a child or nephew? Why not write a story they will enjoy, a personal gift from you to them? Or maybe this is a good time to interview a loved one and get some of their life story typed out to pass on to the next generation. Or maybe Gramma would get a kick out of finally hearing all those crazy things you and your brothers did growing up, in the form of short stories.
So… there you have it. 6 ways to NaNo that you may not have considered before. And you’d better believe that I won’t be asking anyone about their “publishing goals” in the next 40 days!