Don’t do NANO naked

Finding the balance between the left and right brain, the creator and critic, is always a struggle for me. I can’t be a totally fly-into-the-mist pantser because useless meandering frustrates me. But over-planning is a joy-killer, too.

That’s why, with NANOWRIMO less than a month away, I’ve just wrapped up my “underwear synopsis”—task five in bestselling author and ghostwriter Roz Morris’ book Nail Your Novel: Why writers abandon books and how you can draft, fix and finish with confidence. I love referring to this book when starting a new story.

Designed for your eyes only, the underwear synopsis is not at all like the selling synopsis you’ll write for editors or agents once the book is done. You write this one as though you were explaining the story to a friend (so like there’s this part where a lion’s looking at him and he thinks if I ever get out of here alive…).

The synopsis is populated with story events and character notes you come up with through a couple of brainstorming and index card exercises disguised as engaging games in the early sections of the book. You’ll have read much of Morris’s advice before, but her approach and engaging writing stand out.

She knocks the whispering doubters and critics off your shoulders and stands behind you with practical, encouraging advice. She demystifies and simplifies the process of developing your story, testing the strength of your idea and flushing out characters. She helps you kindle, or rekindle, the initial excitement you had in your ideas and characters and makes you feel confident about carrying them through to “The End.”

I’m following Morris’s advice to let the underwear synopsis sit for a month. I’ll review for major potholes in the week prior to NaNo. But I’m feeling positive. The structure I’ve sketched looks solid. The support posts seem to be in all the right places. I don’t have a detailed blueprint yet, and there will still be much to unearth during the first, “discovery” draft in November but at least I know where I’m going to break ground.

What about you? Are you suiting up or going in naked?