Another 15 Thoughts on NaNoWriMo

Posted: September 19, 2016 in inspiration, On Writing
Tags: , , , , , ,

(Yes, I had more thoughts on NaNoWriMo. This list is related to the post below.)

  1. Do your research now. If you’re having to spend time looking things up while you are writing, you are wasting precious, precious writing time.
  2. Be excited about what you want to write. If you hate everything about your story, what makes you think readers are going to like it any more than you do? Related: what do you not see enough of in fiction that you would like to see? Now is your chance even if the only one that ever sees (or hears) the final product is your cat. Or dog. You get the idea.
  3. Related to number one: organize your research. Index cards, word doc files, scrivener notes, post-it notes, pencil scribbles on bar napkins. It doesn’t matter what it is, but if you can’t access your research while you are writing, it doesn’t matter how much research you did. Time spent finding your notes is time you could have been writing.
  4. Speaking of time: you will never “find” enough time. You have to carve out time for yourself with a butcher blade and a chainsaw.
  5. You should know what’s going to happen in the story. I can’t stress this enough. Approaching the story as a magical mystery tour where you are writing to find out what happens is a good way to get yourself trapped by plot holes or needing to save everything with a Deus Ex Machina. Plan. Outline. You’ll thank me later.
  6. NaNoWriMo isn’t the time to be looking for the perfect word. If you are struggling to find the medical term for bruise, know you could have written bruise and the next four sentences in the time it took you look up ecchymosis.
  7. Don’t be afraid to steal. Steal from other books. Steal from movies. Steal from TV. Steal from life. Steal from lots of different places and everyone will think you are original.
  8. Break it down into manageable chunks. I get it, 50k words seems like a lot of words. It is a lot words. So what about 2,000 words? Write 2,000 words a day for 25 days and you won’t only be done, but ahead of schedule.
  9. I mentioned characters in the last post. Antagonists are characters. What’s making the bad guy do what they do? What’s in it for them? How do their goals run counter to the protagonist?
  10. Think in terms of scenes. We don’t need to see the entire journey from Point A to Point written out. Is that trip uneventful? Great. SKIP TO THEM ARRIVING.
  11. The only person you are really competing against is yourself. Comparing yourself to how other people are doing is good way to get discouraged, especially if this is your first attempt. Think of it this way- the only who can tell this story in this particular way is you.
  12. No one is going to judge you if you don’t get to 50,000 words, except maybe you. No matter how many words you get down, it’ll be that many more than where you started November 1.
  13. Finish. Your. Shit. You got to 50k…buuuuut your story isn’t finished. So sit down on December 1 and work to finish it. Even if you aren’t planning on it ever seeing the cold light of day, it’s important to finish what you are working on. (And just ignore that drawer full of half-finished stories I just slammed close- this is Do As I Say not As I Do time, and we’ve all got our flaws). This is about finishing a draft you can then polish, not, “Yay! I wrote a story I don’t ever have to look at it again!”
  14. Don’t let anyone tell you NaNoWriMo is for people who aren’t “real” writers. A lot of people who write can get pretentious about what constitutes a “real” writer. Do you write? Good, you’re a writer then. We all gotta start somewhere.
  15. NaNoWriMo isn’t actually the end. What happens next is you let it sit until January 1. Get through the holidays. Get some distance and perspective. On January 2nd (because, let’s face it no one does much of anything on January 1), you get to phase two – editing. That’s where you get to take your word slurry and try to make it into something coherent. That’s where the real work starts.

Extra special bonus tip: Get rest. Be sure to eat and drink. You’ll write better rested and cared for than exhausted and distracted by being hungry or thirsty.

Feel free to comment, like, and share!

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Comments
  1. Just a side thought about #2- Stephen King did not like Carrie when he wrote it but he knew it was good. Sometimes pushing through can work out because, writing can be and is work, but stepping back and being brutally honest about your premise is a good idea if you’re not excited about it. Be sure it’s a good story in the first place. Stephen King even threw away his first couple pages of Carrie. It was his wife who pulled the pages out of the trash and told him he had something to work with.

    On that note, #4 is really good! We find/carve out time for the things that matter the most to us. If you’re attempting NaNoWriMo, hopefully writing’s important to you. Guess NaNoWriMo can be a test by fire.

    • Yep, you can definitely push through on a good story. That said, for NaNoWriMo I’d encourage people to go for what might be low hanging fruit for them, especially if they’ve never attempted anything long-form before. There’s going to be enough challenges along the way even if you are in love with your subject.

      #4 is a constant struggle for me, and it only gets harder I feel.

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