So You Want To NaNoWriMo

So you’ve decided to take the leap.  Is it your first year?  Your billionth?  Are you a professional writer?  You ARE?  WHY ARE YOU READING MY BLOG!?

 

Okay, so let’s get back to first timers.  Or repeat offenders.  What’s your plan?

STEP ONE:  MAKE A PLAN

My plan has been to half-ass an outline, of which I’ll maybe get half the month out of.  And then I’ll pants* the rest.  I’ve had the heart of this story in some iteration or another for years, so I’m confident.  I’ve got extensive notes about these characters.  I have oodles of witty dialogue involving a psionic direwolf.  I’m on this shit.

STEP TWO: WRITE THAT SHIT

Easier said than done, right?  Absolutely.

Make time for yourself to write.  Steal it.  Do what you have to.  I’m planning on writing at lunch, and then for at least a couple hours at home after work.  I’m lucky though, because my wife is also a writer.  She gets it.

You’re not writing a masterpiece… even if that’s the endgame.  You’re writing 1700 words a day, every day.

That means no editing, no rewrites.  Only go forward.  Frustrated?  Skip that section and write the next one.  Or drink.  Just kidding.  You can drink and write at the same time.  Don’t give up or give in to despair.  That’s what half-way through December is for.

STEP THREE: ?????

STEP FOUR: PROFIT

Okay, now we’re underpants gnomes.  Sorry about that.

You’re the only winner with NaNoWriMo.  Your whole plan was to write FIFTY THOUSAND WORDS IN THIRTY DAYS!  You didn’t give up!  You didn’t surrender!

THIS WAS A TERRIBLE PEP TALK, RIGHT?

I’d apologize, but let’s face it.  We’re in the same boat.  Work competes with the projects and no plan survives contact with the enemy.

You’re going to feel an intense pressure, as with any attempt to write. (Or not, in which, you’re awesome.  Go you.)  But if you keep writing, you keep working, you’ll get it done.

I’m just some guy writing on the internet, but I believe in you.  I know that if you want to do this insane thing, you will do it.  Maybe I’ll even read it when you’re done.

 

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What I learned in November.

There, a nice general blanket title.  I’m terrible at coming up with titles, as I’m sure you’ve noticed.  And as I’m sure I’ve mentioned, I spent the month of November writing 50,000 words towards the draft zero of a novel.  Never having been the most regular or prolific writer in the past, begging out to a lack of inspiration or time, I have found the past month most enlightening.  I would like to recount the things that I have learned, that they may help other aspirants to the craft of fiction.  Or something.

I. Keep it basic

And what I mean by that is, don’t sweat the details.  Sure, world-building is crucial and there are many factors to keep in mind as you tell your story.  But there is nothing wrong with writing a skeleton draft.  Figure out the details as you go, and anything you missed you an always fill in on the next revision.  Throughout the entire month, whenever I started to orbit around a niggling piece of minutae, I had to remind myself that I could fill it in later.

II. Dedication and Discipline!

I have the luxury of free time this month, as my paying job is part-time at the moment.  Never mind that, because I am dedicated to the art of procrastination.  I can always find something else that I could be doing, rather than writing.  Some video game, some episode, Twitter or wasted hours on the internet.  The coffee shop that I write in is lovely and distraction free.  No music, no wifi and a very nice, spacious layout.  Leaving the house, laptop in tow, means that I have made a decision to write.  So when I get there, even though I may doddle about or chat, eventually I will write something.

III. Bad Words!

Every novel, short story, etc… goes through at least a few drafts, if not dozens.  It has been said that a story is never finished, it is only released into the world in its most refined state.  That state won’t happen the first time you write.  You have to write the bad words to find the ones that you can’t believe you actually wrote.  So just write it.  As a harsh self-editor, it took work to just let it out.  But I did it, and I have most of a draft of a novel to prove it.  So let the bad words out.

IV.  Planning

Notes, outline, dramatis personae are all very important things when starting a novel.  I had the barest fragment when I started this, just the scene of a girl in an abandoned and overgrown city.  I wrote two pages, then didn’t touch it for nearly six months.  When I was trying to think of a new idea for Wrimo, I found it again.  I spent a couple months building the world, getting a rough sketch of the characters and the general threads of the plot.  I outlined the first twelve chapters, and then I sat down and began writing.  When I ran out of outline, I just figured out the next handful of chapters ahead.  So on, so forth until I figured out the ending.  I’m still trying to get there, actually.

But November has passed, and as a writer I feel most accomplished.  I have two-thirds of a working draft, a better idea of where the story is going and moreover, I learned my capabilities as a writer.  Hopefully what I learned can help you.  Or just make you nod.  I finished NaNoWriMo with 50,249 words, and have a nifty certificate to print and frame.

NaNoWriMo is coming…

November is National Novel Writing Month, which is a way cooler holiday than any ol’ silly Columbus Day, and yet vastly under-appreciated.  Like Cultural Awareness month.  And being both bold and ambitious, I’m going to partake this year.  For those unfamiliar with the practice, the goal is to write 50,000 words in 30 days.  Morgan Spurlock should make a show about that!  But seriously, you cannot use a previously written draft or anything.  Starting on Nov 1st and ending on Nov 30th, 50,000 words.  My writer’s group did the math and it comes out to 1,666.666, etc. words per day.  Or 3 pages, single-space in 12pt Times New Roman.  Did I mention that I’m a nerd?

This is a weighty task for any writer, let alone someone like me.  I’m looking forward to a more kamikaze style of writing, where I don’t self-edit my stories into the abyss before they see the light of day.  I’m writing a rather dystopian story, about a society fallen, and the people living in its ruins.  A little urban primitive, a little evil global science conglomerate, genetic engineering, strange new abilities and a big crazy adventure.  Intrigue, spiritualism, science!  How is that for a plot synopsis?

My question is point-of-view.  Would it be better for pacing to have the prolonged tribal perspective before introducing more complex elements?  Or should I intersperse settings and points-of-view evenly throughout?  I know that this all only matters in the writing of it, but this is my puzzle.

Everyone should take a crack at writing a novel.  It doesn’t have to be complex or groundbreaking.  It doesn’t have to be a New York Times Bestseller.  It just has to be yours.  There is no prize for writing 50,000 words in 30 days.  Well, I mean there is.  You wrote a novel.  You do it because you can, because you have one story that you absolutely must put down in writing.  Check it out here: NaNoWriMo.  They even have a program for young writers.  At the least, read a book or two in November, and think of all the people that want to write new stories for you.