Yes, there is Thanksgiving and my birthday (feel free to send cash and gifts), but November has become my most
dreaded favorite frightening exhilarating exhausting longed-for month of the year for a whole other reason. November is National Novel Writing Month, affectionately referred to by lunatics everywhere as NaNoWriMo, or simply Nano.
If you truly commit to it, Nano will change you. It will show you that you are capable of more than you ever dreamed. It will stretch your imagination and test your limits. It will lead you into fabulous uncharted waters of creativity and it will wrap you in community.
It is hard.
It is wonderful.
If you even think you might have a story that needs to be told (and, trust me, you do) you need to participate in Nano.
Here’s the gist: You have the month of November to write a novel of 50,000+ words. If you hit 50k, you win.
There are prizes – mostly in the form of discounts and assistance for moving forward in editing and publishing what you wrote.
Really, it’s not about that.
You have a story (or several) in you that no one else in the history of the human race can tell. It might be a fable or a romance or an epic space opera. It’s your story. If you don’t tell it, it will die with you and be lost forever.
This year will be my third year with Nano. My first and second projects got merged in editing and that book will be released by Nuff Said Publishing in September, 2016. This year I’m planning to write the sequel. There will be kissing and brown eyed vampires. I’m pretty excited about it. I’ll share my Nano info in a bit so we can travel this road together but, for now, I’d like to share a few things I’ve learned in the past couple of years.
Take my advice with a grain of salt. My best friend is on the verge of publishing her third book (Click here to learn about all three. They are awesome). She doesn’t really follow any of my “rules.” Writing is a creative process. No two people do it exactly the same. Stephen King and Dean Koontz are both wildly successful authors. They’ve both offered advice to writers. Their advice conflicts at pretty much every point.
That said, I hope this helps you on your journey:
#1 – First and foremost: The Most Important Rule. The mother of them all. The Big Daddy…
Start writing and run for the end. If you change character names in the middle, or your world starts as an ice world and then you decide it’s a jungle, if you spell every word wrong, or never use quotation marks, don’t worry about it. Just get the story out. Word vomit. It’s OK. You can clean it up later.
If you write one page and then you go back and edit it, you will keep editing it until you die. You will never write the second page. Your story will never be perfect. NEVER. You will NEVER be done editing. You will reach a place where you are reasonably confident in what you have but there is always some little detail that needs just one more moment of attention. Deal with that later.
You have thirty days to get your story on paper (or flash drive). It doesn’t have to be ready for publication in thirty days. It just needs to get out of your brain.
#2 – Don’t be afraid to skip around.
So your supernaturally clever purple octopus is swimming in the Atlantic ocean looking for a mate when, all of a sudden you have THE BEST IDEA EVER about how his great grandchild will figure out that he’s able to walk on land.
Come back to the purple octopus later. He’ll still be there, waiting for you.
#3 – Know the end.
This one is controversial.
For years I wrote as a “pantser.” I had a concept or a character I loved and I would put it on paper and see where it would lead me. A lot of writers work that way and do it well. For the most part, it led me around in circles.
Nano 2013 was the first time I wrote with an outline. My outline is the only reason I finished. It gave me freedom to move about within the context of the plan.
See “purple octopus,” above.
If you know the end of the story you may take all sorts of crazy detours but you’ll never be utterly lost. You’ve always got a true north to head toward. It will save you when you get stuck.
#4 – Don’t be afraid of really lame sentences.
Every book has transitions. Your character has been in a castle for the first three chapters and now she needs to go out into the forest.
Perhaps you know what life is like in the castle and you know what is happening in the forest but you’re not really sure how or why she leaves one place and goes to the other.
Don’t worry about it.
Write, “She left the castle and went to the forest.” Then tell about the forest. You can fill in the details later. Or not. Figure it out next month. Remember, right now your whole goal is to get to those magical words:
#5 – Participate in the write-ins.
The Nano hosts will have live and virtual write-ins. They are exactly what they sound like – a bunch of people sitting around writing. Sometimes there are prompts. The prompts are weird. For example, “Tell what happens to your character when they suddenly find a red bicycle.”
Go with it. Thinking about the way your character would react to that situation will give you amazing insight into who they are and why they do what they do. You may never use the few hundred words you write during the write in, but the experience will improve your story more than you can imagine.
#6 – Keep easy to eat, low-calorie food in the house.
I’m not even kidding about how important that is. If you have a bunch of chips and cookies lying around and you sit at a desk and write for thirty days you’ll gain a pound a day. I strongly suggest lots of gum and carrot sticks.
#7 – Do not prematurely publish.
So, it’s November 25 and you are at 50,005 words. You did it! You won! You got your story out!
You’re book is not done.
Trust me. It’s not. There is NO WAY.
Put it in a drawer. Pop open a bottle of champagne. Spend the weekend giving thanks and eating turkey. Be proud of what you’ve accomplished! Brag at the dinner table. You’ve earned that right.
DO NOT LET ANYONE READ YOUR BOOK.
Sometime later – maybe in December, maybe not until the new year – go back to your baby. Give it several months of loving attention and adoration. Then let some people read it and, when you have their advice in hand, write it again. And maybe one more time after that, just for good measure.
My book is on it’s fifth incarnation right now. I’m fairly confident that my editor is going to demand one more before it goes off to the printer. It’s still the same story I started with, but so, so, so much better. You may not need that many tries to get your story right, but you will need more than one month.
#8 – Find joy in it.
Joy is not always happiness.
There is one scene I wrote that left me literally sobbing at my dining room table. I actually felt like vomiting because it was so hard to think about. It is still hard for me to read that chapter. For me, writing that scene was facing my single greatest fear in the whole entire universe.
It was not fun to write that, but there was immense joy in the feeling of overcoming. If I can face that, I can face anything.
Sometimes my joy came in being incredibly silly. In one chapter I made an Archangel wash dishes just because the idea amused me.
If you find joy in sharing your story, your readers will find joy in discovering it.
I sincerely hope that you will join me on this journey. I would love to read your story! Please find me at Nanowrimo.org under “Lazy Hippie Mama.” Let’s create together.
Have you participated in Nano before? Do you have tips I didn’t mention? Share them in the comments.
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