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NaNoWriMo for Everyone

This is reblogged from, a truly wonderful site for writers and writing.

NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month, is a month-long extravaganza where writers push through as many words as possible toward a 50,000-word goal. Sounds simple, and yet there are thick, twisted layers of mystery surrounding NaNoWriMo, usually stemming from some consternation that the writing process will be attacked by zombies. No wait. Not zombies. By writer’s block. That’s it, yes. Fifty thousand words feel insurmountable, impossible to achieve in 30 days. NaNoWriMo asks us to take a deep breath and jump in to our stories, even when they stop and start in mad fits, or run into brick, comical walls, or flick off the lights and force us to quandry wander. NaNo is a challenge, it’s true, but it’s also an experiment of will, a daily game of chicken against our fluctuating sense of authenticity as writers, and it’s up to us to stand firm in the face of whatever literary metaphor for irresistible force comes our way.

Here it is, Day 1 of NaNoWriMo. Heck, half of planet Earth has been typing away in earnest while we Western Hemisphere people are just sitting down with a warm mug of something and a working keyboard. This brings me to my first piece of advice, having gone through NaNo some eight or nine times now. NO EXCUSES. The road to a poor NaNo experience–and thus, everlasting sadness–is paved with excuses. I don’t have enough time. I’ll catch up next week. It was a bad idea anyway. I’m not good at this. Excuses almost never motivate good writing and almost always destroy process. So the moment you feel an excuse bubbling to the surface, shut it down with that rule number one: NO EXCUSES. Or to pull from a well known narrative–The first rule of NaNoWriMo Club is no excuses. Read More…

Ending with a Whimper: 7 Thoughts for NaNoWriMo Failures

nanowrimo failureYes, the clock is ticking down to midnight. Slouching toward a glorious National Novel Writing Month win for many folks. Not all of us, certainly, not even most of us, even if we built up new callouses from our keyboards trying to craft the next great novel. And then there are the writers who caved in on Day 10, or as the smell of turkey wafted over from the kitchen, or ignobly in the first damn week of the contest. Those are the stories barely begun for those failures, mere vignettes and half-thoughts lost on so many creaky hard drives.

The road to success is paved with moments like these, thank Xena. So even if a few notes and 2,000 crappy words are all you eked out this November, take heart. I have ideas for life in December and beyond. Read More…

NaNoWriMo 2011: Day 10

nano logoOne third done, gone, finito, into the books, as it were, pun intended. That’s where we are with NaNoWriMo. If you’re behind, on pace, or ahead of the game, I have some ideas about what to do with today’s writing push.

Ahead of Day 10’s wordcount pace (16,666 words)—Congratulations, you’re on fire, writer person! Go back and look at your outline. If you didn’t start with an outline, write down all of the characters you’ve invented thus far and draw a relationship map for all of them. Is there anything that you notice that you missed previously? The deeper you can explore any patterns or histories between your characters, the more they’ll come alive as you get through your first draft. You may even spot a new plot point or two you haven’t considered. This is when outlines can really enhance your first pass through the manuscript. And since you’re already ahead of the word count, you have time for some back story work, and you’ll appreciate the help as soon as you feel stuck, should that happen later down the road.

On pace with the word count—So far you’ve been keeping up with with the pace of writing, and maybe it’s stressing you out, like treading water against a current. Spend some time today before you sit down to write, and just think about what you like in this story. If there’s a scene coming up you can’t wait to get to, identify what it is about that moment that is so appealing, and just enjoy it for a bit. Change up your writing music, or whatever beverage is at your side, get okay with shaking things up a little. It’s good to infuse new life into your work-in-progress, even when everything is going fairly well. And after taking a step back about your manuscript, dig in and for today, don’t worry about keeping up the pace. Just write.

Behind the word count pace—Sometimes for me during Nano, this is the best place to be in of these three possibilities. I’m a writer with nothing to lose. I’m not writing for a month-long contest, I’m writing for the love of this particular story. It’s a good way to detach from the franticness that I can feel during November, and get back to basics. What is the story, why this narrator, who is it for, why am I telling it? I’ve gone from 4,000 words behind pace to 2,000 ahead in a single day because I found a heck of a writing groove, or I simply got to the part of the tale that had been pressing upon me the whole time to be written. With one novel I realized only on day 12 that this was the real beginning of the book. Chucking out the first 6 chapters felt like tearing off my own arm, but it made the manuscript worlds better, and I wound up writing for 75,000 more words anyway (in December and January). It’s ultimately not about banging out 1,666 words per day, but about finishing the draft. Don’t tell Chris Baty I said that.

NaNoWriMo 2011 Day 6: Having Fun

Exposition is well underway, and the characters have made their initial appearances. The readers are hooked into the plot, aware of the struggle, and have identified who the antagonist is, even if they don’t yet know his or her motivation. This is the sweet spot, at least for me, of the first draft. Tell your imagination to run wild, let go of whatever doubts you have, be they overwhelming or annoying vestiges. Don’t even worry about sticking to your outline right now. Let the story go where it needs to, and you can take a look at your original plans later.

We’ve had nearly a week of writing now, so hopefully the novel is spending quality time in your thoughts. If you write scenes now that you’ll later cut out of the text, that’s okay, because anything you put on paper right now only gets you closer to the characters and the story. You’ll have edits to make later and you can use them to imbue your themes, meta-level messages, and so forth. But for now, today, just run with it and enjoy the act of writing itself.

Tomorrow’s post will focus on pacing, but this Sunday, dive into the narrative and write whatever comes out of your fingertips. And enjoy NaNo.

NaNoWriMo 2011: Day 2

Next week we’ll talk about what to do if you’re seriously behind on your NaNo word count, but for today, just feel the joy. That’s the joy of writing, not of falling behind on your word count. In case there was any confusion. Today, Day 2, is still in the throes of the beginning, when the vast majority of the writing still lies ahead, and all of the ideas that have been percolating in the writer’s head finally show up on the screen. It’s a day to relish that we’re in book-creation mode, worry-free. So stop worrying and write. It honestly doesn’t matter what comes out right now, because:

  1. We’ll change it later in edits
  2. Writing begets more writing
  3. The draft will get better as it goes

That’s right, I said better. If we’re paying any kind of attention as we write, we’ll notice turns of phrase we tend to overuse, and avoid them, for example. We’ll decide we don’t like the sidekick and begin to describe her differently, noting that in draft #2 we need to go back and revise her earlier scenes. We’ll change a premise of the plot and watch it reach a new level of believability. We’ll sell the characters more. On Day 2, we are simply writing—maybe well, maybe less than well—but every castle starts with the first few layers of brick and mortar. Just push through and build the story’s foundation, and sure, feel free to take a moment and reflect that hey, wow, I’m writing something.

And then dive back in and type away. Happy NaNoing!

NaNoWriMo 2011: Day 1

Speaking for myself, I am not a fan of the overenthusiastic pep talker. I’d prefer folks put down the pompoms and leave the marching bands alone, choosing instead for some quiet words of encouragement that sounds reasonable to my ear. So in that vein let me whisper in the first anti-rousing sentiment for NaNoWriMo 2011:

You can do this. People finish these 50,000-word projects all the time, and they’re not better than you. Get cracking. Read More…

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