Since it’s now November, that means another National Novel Writing Month is upon us. Not to brag (okay, I’m bragging a little bit here) but since I have a five year winning streak going, I think that means I’m now officially required to keep participating in perpetuity lest I break my streak. Each success only makes it harder to consider quitting.
I did a presentation at my library today about NaNoWriMo, which was a decidedly fun experience. I have no idea if the seven adults who attended my little workshop will stick with it or not but getting to talk about writing in a professional setting like that was wonderful. Likewise, I felt great talking about writing and getting to be the voice of encouragement to a group of people who don’t have to listen to me. That’s always empowering.
Perhaps you’d like to join me in doing some writing? If so, head over to the NaNoWriMo site and sign up. We can even be writing buddies if you’d like. Writing with other people knowing that you’re writing is always more fun, which is why we blog and go to coffee shops.
It’s very likely that there will be a halo effect here and the time I’m spending writing will actually encourage me to blog more than I did in October. I needed to take October off, I think. After that Gamergate post, retreating from the Internet for a while felt like the intellectually healthy thing to do. Also, there was this fun two-day thing trying to unscramble a mess involving a hacker, my Xbox Live account, and EA Origins.
All I know right now is that I wrote 3,000 words today on a new story, which is great, and it smells like dinner is ready, which is honestly even greater!
5 thoughts on “NaNoWriMo 2014 Begins!”
Any advice for a new NaNoWriMo entrant?
Oh, yes, tons of advice; in fact, I can now say I have literally talked for an hour giving advice on NaNoWriMo. But since I don’t think you want to listen to me for an hour, I’ll share a few things I’ve learned that I don’t think get talked about too much on the main NaNo page.
1. I am an incredibly lazy person. When I come home from work and get comfortable, it is very difficult to rouse me to do anything of substance, including writing. So here’s my trick: when I get home from work, I give myself exactly five minutes to take my shoes off, get a beer, make a snack, whatever. But after those five minutes are up, I’m at my desk writing. I don’t check reddit or Facebook or “take 30 minutes to unwind,” because if I do, I won’t start. I try to keep myself in “work mode” for about an hour; the reward is that I can get to the relaxing part after the writing is out.
This does, of course, require having a job that means you leave the house each day. If you don’t have that, you’ll have to come up with something else, such as writing as soon as you wake up. Find what works best for you, no matter what that is.
2. If it’s your first time, I really recommend starting a fresh novel. If you have a project that you’ve been working on for a while, that work is probably your baby and you don’t want to take the flying leaps of “logic” and “story development” that are sometimes needed to get through NaNo. I am using scare quotes for a reason here; my default response when I’m stuck on a scene is to add a bear and keep moving. You’re less likely to do that with the piece you’ve been working on for five years.
If you feel that you absolutely must work with the characters and world for your long-standing project, here’s my secret: I had this problem a few years ago. I had my Big Novel that I wanted very much to publish and I was stuck, stuck, stuck. I didn’t want to try NaNo with a 70,000 word manuscript because I knew I wouldn’t be able to write so wildly with something I’d spent so much time in.
So what I did was write a prequel novel. I took one of the story’s supporting characters and wrote a book about her for NaNo. I tried to figure out how she’d gotten the way she was during the main novel’s work. It was tremendously helpful because it developed her character and made me realize that she’d been the true villain of my first novel all along! And that helped me get through my block and finished that book. It’s likely I’ll never use that prequel story for anything; maybe I’ll polish it and try to publish it someday. But it was nevertheless invaluable for what it did both for me (it was a NaNo victory and that was awesome) and for my other work (helped me get unstuck).
3. Don’t panic (but try to write every day). I look at NaNo as training for what I want my real job to be: being a full time author. And a full time author needs to write every day. The reason I’m not a full time author is because I still have long bouts of “oh, I don’t feel like writing today.” NaNo is a great way to kick that habit to the curb and show yourself that you can write every day (and write a lot!) which is good experience for your future as a writer.
4. Love it no matter what. I’ve succeeded at NaNo five times . . . but I’ve done it for six years. My first year I spun out after about 10,000 words, mainly because I was asking myself too many questions like “does this story make sense” or “do I know where I’m going with this?” Learning to turn that off is the most important thing you can do. Last year, I was writing a murder mystery and got bogged down halfway through. In order to keep going, I went meta with it, made the characters realize they were in a story, and began talking about what they would do now that they knew they were in a story. After NaNo was over, I went back and started rewriting all that stuff because it was honestly terrible. But it got me through to the end, so for NaNo it was a rousing success.
5. Something new I’m trying this year is to write in two increments each day rather than one big chunk. In previous years, I came home from work, sat down at the computer and didn’t leave until I had my 1667 daily word goal. This year, however, I’m bringing my laptop to work and writing during my lunch break. It’s not a great writing environment, but I figure if I can get 800 words during my lunch break (a much less intimidating goal) then I only need to get 800 more words when I get home. That seems far more manageable a task to me and so far has led to a very productive first day.
Some parting thoughts: no matter how it goes, NaNo is about you and your writing. Not succeeding at NaNo doesn’t make you a failed writer; more than one big name author has come out publicly and admitted they couldn’t make it work. So even if you don’t succeed, you still stretched yourself and worked at something that can only help you. You’ll learn a tremendous amount about yourself and your working style.
I look at it like climbing a mountain. Even if I only make it halfway up the mountain, the view is still going to be pretty impressive and the distance that I did make was time well spent.
And my last thought is this one: time spent writing a very long blog post is time spent not working on that novel. Yikes! Gotta go!
Thank you so much for writing all this out! I really appreciate all the advice here. I’ve been trying some of the stuff here a little bit already so I think I’m on the right track. I’m definitely starting with a new idea that I feel I can tamper with; I also am going to try writing from a male character’s perspective to test on my writing ability. Might not be the best idea to load another challenge on their, but it’ll get me out of my comfort zone which is good. Like you said, either way this will be a learning experience.
Good luck with NaNoWriMo! Though you sound like you don’t need it. 😉
I think that’s a great idea! NaNo is the perfect time to try something you otherwise might not do; you’re giving yourself a good challenge in an environment that encourages risk taking and experimentation. And that what’s it’s really all about. Write wildly and you can’t have a bad month, 50k or no 50k.
Best of luck!
Good luck, NaNoers! Just the thought of writing a complete story within one month fills me with awe!