NaNoWriMo: Days 14 and 15

Well, hidey ho, we’re at the halfway mark of the NaNoWriMo challenge. I am going to suggest something that I promise is not wacky, although some people may think it’s clear out of left field.

Stop writing this afternoon, and pick up a book. A book that you can make a case is somehow related to whatever you’ve been working on for this month. Are you writing about zombies? Check out one of the several “defense guides” on the market that give illustrations and strategies. Maybe you can find ways to tweak these, or use them, or play against them.

A historical novel? Read something written from that time period that has, among other things, quotes from people, and get a sense for how language was used then (bearing in mind things like class differences and so forth).

A coming of age story from the 1970s or 80s? Even if you lived then, go explore books from those decades—even if they’re not set then—because those were some of the ideas that were at play in the culture then.

Read something, anything, that is caddycorner in the genre that you’re writing in. If you’re working on military science fiction, read magical realism. If it’s a cozy mystery, take in some forensic investigation thriller material.

Why do I recommend this silliness? Because a well read writer is a better writer. Certainly one afternoon of perusing other books in or near your genre, setting, time period, or story arc doesn’t make one an expert in anything, but the point is to take a moment, after getting halfway to end of the NaNoWriMo challenge, to reflect on what other writers have put out into the literary atmosphere. See what doesn’t work, and think about how to avoid it. Write down a particularly good sentence and keep it at your desk, because when you need inspiration, you can turn to it. Look at how characters are differentiated in the text, when and how they’re introduced, how writers show emotion without using the words that designate them. Few things are as boring as “I was angry.”

Make it a scenic tour, jot down the pieces that made the most intense expressions, and then sit back down at the keyboard. Tomorrow’s the day that writing everyday becomes a habit for most people (the magical day 16), so don’t fail yourself now! But a fantastic habit to get started on next is reading. As an added bonus, it supports your fellow writers.

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3 Comments on “NaNoWriMo: Days 14 and 15”

  1. laradunning
    November 15, 2010 at 9:23 pm #

    I totally agree with you! Great suggestion. I always have a stack of books to read that are not all the same genre.

    • evmaroon
      November 15, 2010 at 9:34 pm #

      Thanks—although sometimes I see other books and stories in my own writing, I aim not to be derivative, and I think it’s a good idea to know what’s out there, because sooner or later someone will point out a connection to someone else’s work. And I’d rather know that those stories are out there and be able to position my work on its own terms than be sidelined because I didn’t know my story read “just like” Stranger in a Strange Land. There are only 7 kinds of stories, after all…right?

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