Don't be afraid to drive off the road though.
Have you begun thinking about what you want to write about for your NaNoWriMo novel? For a number of years I would try various things. I would wait until November 1st and ‘wing it’ expecting/hoping to allow the story to unveil itself to me as I wrote. So writers are very much like that and that’s great for them. Sucked for me because I never made it past week two. Other years I would fill out elaborate character profile sheets in the weeks leading up to November 1st. Ugh. I hated it. Again, some people NEED that. Last year, the year I succeeded and finished a 50K word novel in thirty days was odd. I wasn’t intending on attempting it. The thought hadn’t crossed my mind really…other than a small nibbling somewhere reminding me that I’d always failed before so why try again.
And then a week before November 1st I had a dream. I didn’t remember most of it but I did know that someone died. It was a powerful scene. I left it alone though; shook it off and went on living. Not a day and a half later I was nodding off during ‘naptime’ (hey, a mom needs those!) and was jarred awake. Inside me I realized that someone hadn’t just died. They had been murdered.
Four days before NaNoWriMo begins and I’ve realized that the story was burning inside me and I conceded to the idea that I was going to write it.
I’ve never been one to do those webbing or thought clouds or similar things my 9th grade teacher always had us doing. However I had recently had very good luck with outlines. Never before had I considered using outlines. In fact I detested them. But I decided to try it out.
Now I’m not talking about this kind of outline:
Nope. My outlines were more of just simple one or two word, maybe one or two sentences per chapter. Thirty days, thirty chapters. TO BEGIN WITH. For example:
C1. (Chapter One): She falls to her death but learns she can’t die.
C2. She goes to the priest of her church to talk. Learns she can’t enter the church. Bangs on door until someone opens.
C3. She sees her brother who she killed two years ago and runs off into the woods, scared and confused, and alone.
C4. She meets him and he seems to have answers but he doesn’t want to share them. She follows him.
As you can see each chapter leaves a lot left to be said. Now when I wrote my first outline I wrote all thirty chapters. You know what happened? After chapter two my main character goes and does something I hadn’t planned for and a minor character decided he wanted a bigger role…a WAY bigger role. My entire story changed! Every single thing about it.
So I had to rework my outline. This time however I only worked three chapters ahead; sometimes more. I don’t expect you to have the opening, middle, and closing all worked out. If you do…kudos to you (come back and tell me how that worked out for you and whether your characters agreed to those choices.) Hah!
Go ahead and write up as much of the story chapter by chapter as you can but understand that things will change. That’s fine. In fact, it’s good. Use this outline as a map to keep you moving forward. But you must allow yourself to drive along the dirt roads to take in the secret treasures on the journey. If you veer off the road you’ve paved for yourself, plow over the grass and make a new road.
Have fun with it and don’t constrict yourself to one way and only one way. Give it a shot.