Prepping for Nano – the first sentence

I’m doing Nanowrimo this year. For those that don’t know, Nanowrimo happens in the month of November where you write a novel in a month. Yep, that’s right, you write a novel in one month. Nanowrimo actually stands for National Novel Writing Month and although it sounds mental, it’s actually a lot of fun and can be very productive.

Having said that, the last time I did Nano I failed, and it was years ago.
Each November since then, I’ve wanted to take part, but something has always been in the way.
I was editing my book, I was halfway through writing the second draft, I didn’t have anything lined up…etc. etc. But this year, the stars have aligned and I’m at the point where I want to write a really messy first draft to get all my ideas down on paper rather than floating around in my head. 

Vomit draft

I know it’s the way I work, I need to get what I call a ‘vomit-draft’ out to know what the story is, to know who the characters are, to know all the things that will make it the book I want to be by the fourth or fifth draft.

For my last two books, I’ve stormed ahead with this crappy-quick-first draft, but have always put a little too much effort into it.
I keep hardly anything from this first go at the story, I edit and I change and that’s why it makes no sense to worry about prose or research details at this point. I know this now and that’s why I’m doing Nano. I want to get it all out, all on the paper, so hopefully by the end of the month, I’ll have something to work with. And how exciting does that sound? By December I’ll have a terrible first draft done.

SO. Having said that, how to prepare?

Simple Plot Points

I want to write about 3000 words a day. That’s the minimum, so I won’t have time to mull over plot points or decide if the main character has a cat or a dog, this is going to be FAST. It’s going to be the very bare bones, the first pencil sketch of the story. 

But what I do need, are some simple plot points to hang my story on. To keep me on track whilst I’m typing madly, and the first of these, is to know the narrative drive of my book and that has to come down to the first sentence. 

Not the first sentence of chapter one, but more like the pitch.
The answer to the awful question, ‘what’s your book about?’ It has to be concise, to the point, and get three major things in.

The first sentence

These are: 

  1. The main character
  2. The goal
  3. The conflict

It has to be STRONG. It has to be so good, that I could visualise it in the Sunday Times Bestseller list when they do that little sum up under the book’s title. And I think I have it.

It took time, it took me the best part of an afternoon, but I have it and at the moment it’s pinned up above my computer screen. So long as I keep writing to that sentence, I can keep my narrative drive.

Here’s some examples, they are from films, but work the same way. Can you guess what they are? Answer in the comments and I’ll let you know if you’re right!

Guess the film

‘An FBI agent must go undercover to compete in the Miss United States beauty pageant in order to prevent a group bombing the event.’

‘A group of rabbits run from their doomed warren in order to find a new home, but face many dangers along the way.’

‘A jaded Pittsburgh weatherman finds himself inexplicably trapped in a small town as he lives the same day over and over again.’ 

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