This one goes out to you NaNo folks! This is super long so sorry in advance.
Look at the date! I can’t believe I’ve gone this far into the month of October without shouting out about NaNoWriMo.
For the un-anointed, thats short for National Novel Writer’s Month, which is a writing event that takes place during the month of November. The intention is to give birth to 50K words, basically a novelette.There aren’t any rewards other than little images you can use on your social media, however just the process of writing is pretty rewarding in itself.
So here we are on October 22nd and I’m so buried in rough drafts of stories ready to be fleshed out, short stories that have been started, and manuscripts in their final phases of development, that I have NO SPARE TIME to devote to NaNo this year. But IF I were to participate the badge would look like this:
It’s almost sad. But not quite.
There is a multitude of beauty in NaNoWriMo. Not only can you use it as an excuse for alone time: Sorry, I’m busy tonight, I have to get my words in. But if you use it right, you’re creating a rough draft that is quite voluminous, so you are ready to dig in and sculpt it for the eleven months that follow, leading up to the following November. You could, if you were that kind of person, even write a new book every year, and finish it in between.
I’ve participated every year except one since 2007 or so. Sadly, they have a new website and it erased my previous contributions, so I can’t confirm the date. But I think that’s right. Some years I got crap, other years I got gold. What kept me going was not just the hope for gold, but the thrill of writing unhindered, without worry of having to edit or be judged for that matter. It’s quite exhilarating.
Anyhow, I thought I’d share some tips and tricks for those of you in the thick of it. If you want to use this for plain old traditional writing, you’d have to make some variations (like pay attention to your family more for goodness sakes!) but it would work too.
So here we go:
Make a schedule. Here’s my *pretend* nano schedule. Keep in mind when I’m NaNo-ing that the writing portion is more like 1 – 2 hours a day, every stink’n day. When I first started it was 3 hours, so I shared that here, but on a good day I write on average 2000 words an uninterrupted hour now, so things have improved. As you can see there are lots of empty spots on this schedule. We’ll get to those soon.
Set a goal for word count. For an on-time easy-peasy NaNoWriMo month, 1667 words a day will do it. More on that in a minute. Here’s a snapshot of my Excel spreadsheet.
Write all the time, even when you’re not scheduled to. All of those blank spots? When I’m on NaNo (or yeah, on deadline,) all of those times when I’m left waiting for a kid or a dinner timer to chime? I’m writing. Constantly. Or doing the business of writing, which you are hereby relieved of for NaNo month. When you do this, you’ll get ahead in your word count. Trust me you want this. Really bad. There will be viruses. There will be whiney friends/relatives/kids/animals who need attention. There will be Thanksgiving. You will need some word padding. Find them here.
Don’t let yourself read more than the last paragraph, or the last chapter if you’re a speed reader. If you let yourself, you will get stuck in the very destructive mind frame of: this needs to be fixed before I can write more. The problem with that is that you’ll never get to the end. I have seriously met folks who have been writing their book for ten years. No joke. So do yourself a favor and just stop it already, don’t re-read unless it’s to catch you up on where you were at.
Editing is a huge no-no. See the above paragraph. Editing will slow you down and quite possibly give you writer’s block. You don’t need that.
Know your genre. I say this because once upon a time I wrote an entire story thinking I was writing Women’s Fiction. It never went anywhere. The story was flat. Years later I looked back at it and realized it was supposed to be a dark comedy/thriller. Now I can see where it was supposed to go. See? This step is hard when you’re just starting out, but try anyhow.
Know the age group you are writing for. This one might be a no brainer for you. It might not. I have a potty mouth. I write sexy and sometimes grotesque. My writing does not lend to YA. I didn’t know this about myself until I wrote quite a bit. But again, give it your best shot. Get to know yourself and you’ll know what your age group is.
For speed of writing, you’ll need these tools.
- Thesaurus – seems like cheating, and I’ve heard those advise against it, but sometimes when you’re speed writing you just get stuck and your brain says one word but it means another. Like voluminous instead of voluptuous or vice versa. Or you keep saying something is cute and you need some more ideas. Boom.
- Dictionary. For spelling, duh. Well, sometimes. But in this case, the pressure of writing will do funny things to your brain. What’s that thing-a-ma-jig called that you put your foot on and make the wheels go? Is it a snowboard? No?
- Caffeine. Because duh. We could add alcohol too but it puts me the fuck to sleep. Same with marijuana. So for the sake of remaining pure, we’ll stick with this.
- Carbs. Also a no brainer. Cookies. Cupcakes. Doughnuts. French bread. Brownies… I could go on but I’m making myself hungry. These things fuel your writing. Seriously. So you’re a health nut you say? Make them high protein with healthy sugar/fats. But still, carbs are a must.
Pantsing -vs- Plotting
There is a huge debate about who is right: Pantsers or plotters. I don’t have an answer for you here. However, promise me you won’t just stop reading this if you’re one or the other. There is some important stuff you’ll need here to start.
Character sketches. What happened to your protagonist(s) and antagonist when they were five to make them who they are today? What’s their family life like? What’s their psychological bend? Funny quirks? Favorite swear words?
Setting profile. Sometimes it will be really simple and it’s in a real place and all you have to do is look it up on Google maps. Others it’s made up. In that case you might have to draw it up so that when you’re describing a scene it makes more sense.
How does your story begin? I know I know, you’re a pantser not a plotter! You don’t need this. Well, you might not need it on paper, but you do need to be able to envision it in your brain. Repeat this to yourself as you read on. The most important part for you pantsers is that you can see each of these plot points inside of your head.
What’s the inciting incident? This is called so many different things in so many different books. It means the point where the story begins, and not page one… that’s different. The event that turns your character’s world upside down and now they have to spend the rest of the book trying to put it back to normal.
Do you know the climax? This one might be asking too much of you at this point, but if you have it the story might flow easier.
What’s the end? Secret: I often write the first scene or three, then the inciting incident, followed by the end before I go and do the rest. It feels like cheating, because then I know a lot about the story before I think I should but boy does it help.
Now for the plotters: If you could put all of this in an outline form complete with plot points on real actual paper, ala Save the Cat or any other, you are more than golden. Trust me, the outline will change a bazillion times as you write, but it’s helpful when you’re getting off track.
I want to point out there are at least 681 THOUSAND books out there on how to write a book, so my post here is extremely lean in providing information. If we really wanted to, we could get all kinds of wrapped up in a character’s, even each of the scene’s Goal(s), Motivation and Conflict. An entire book has been written on that. So we’re gonna bypass it.
But this should be enough to get you started.
If that isn’t enough homework for you, (Ye gads are you seriously asking for more? Really?) Here are some chewy books that will help, in addition to the NaNo website I’ve hot linked up on the top of this blog.
Good luck NaNo-ing!