Today we are going to talk about a GLORIOUS time of year—NANOWRIMO—which stands for National Novel Writing Month. It is meant to support creativity and encourage those who say they want to be authors to give it a go and write a novel (50,000 words) in a month. Notice the challenge is 50,000 words. No one said they had to be good words. Or publishable words. Or polished words. Or edited words.
This is actually why I believe Nanowrimo is very useful for all levels of writers. It trains out perfectionism. No half-finished novel ever made the NY Times best-seller list, but some
crappy slightly-less-than-glorious novels have. The biggest threats to your finished novel (and mine) are Mr. It Must Be Perfect and his evil sister Editina.
Preparing for Nanowrimo
Have Fun and Fuel Up
Anyway, whoever chose November as National Novel Writing Month was seriously brilliant, because Halloween is like Mardi Gras for writers. If you are smart, use trick-or-treating to your advantage. After combing the neighborhoods for bags of gooey corn syrup and chocolate morsels of literary energy, be a diligent parent.
Search your kid’s candy for stuff like “illicit drugs”, “poison” and “razor blades” and “get rid of it” which of course is code for “hide it in your office.” You will need that fuel for Week Two of Nano. Tape the pixie sticks under your desk in case this goes into Week Four.
You see anything that looks like THIS? It’s drugs. Confiscate it!
Because seriously, who’s giving their Adderall away for FREE to complete and total strangers? *rolls eyes*
No…really. I need an address.
Where were we?
Technically, taking half our kids’ candy under false pretenses is gas-lighting them, but reading and literature is vital for a civilized society. The world needs more writers and normal people make crappy writers. It’s science. So how are we going to create more literary geniuses if we don’t damage our kids just a little bit?
True, years later our kids might wonder why we continued to live in a neighborhood full of psychopaths who tried to murder them every time they trick-or-treated. And they may put two-and-two together that their lives were only “in danger” the years Mommy or Daddy did Nano. But, by then, we will be a filthy rich NYTBSA and we can buy them all the candy they want to take to therapy.
OR we can team up on our grandkids because the plan was successful and our kids grew up to become writers!
I am a freaking genius.
And if you don’t have kids? Well…yeah, sucks to be you. You’ll have to pay for your own sugar rush.
Some More Practical Tips (Other than Crockpots & Yoga Pants)
Often why writers fail to finish Nanowrimo is they don’t do the right prep work or enough prep work. They believe that they will make it through 50,000 words on creativity alone and that’s like thinking a Share-Size bag of Skittles is plenty of fuel for a double marathon.
BS and glitter is good for about a day. Maybe three. After that? $#!t gets real and if we haven’t done some preparation it’s going to make finishing a lot tougher, if not impossible.
I highly recommend doing Nano. Nanowrimo gives a taste of the professional pace. It also gives a sample of the professional life of a writer (especially the weeping and drinking heavily part right around November 30th).
Most of the time we (pros) do not feel inspired. If we felt inspired all the time and were a limitless-cerebral-slushee-machine-of-cherry-flavored-rainbow-imagination-genius, no one would have ever needed to invent this thing called a deadline.
And then call it something super terrifying like DEADline.
Nano Makes it REAL
Nanowrimo gets us over our romanticized notions of “writing” and lets us fall in love with the real deal. A “WIP” (Work in Progress) does not send you dozens of roses, run you bubble baths or give you long massages.
Your WIP has no idea what a hamper is, eats the last slice of pizza and leaves the box in the fridge, farts under the covers and yells DUTCH OVEN! and shoves your head under the covers. You stick with it and love it through
disease plot holes sickness adverb infestations, and infidelity revision until death—deadline—do you part.
THAT is reality. THAT is being a real writer 😉 .
You can do it!
What makes it easier is we learn how to rely on skills instead of just creativity because creativity will wear out pretty quickly.
Yes, many of you were star students in school. I was too. I made As on all my papers. But, unless you had a teacher that who you turn in a paper 50,000 words long? Trust me, this is a whole new world and some preparation is going to go a LONG way toward helping you finish.
Also, I want for you to do more than finish. I want to help you create something that can actually be shaped into something worthy of publishing.
If we are going to half-kill ourselves, why not?
To help you do this, I’ve linked to one of my most popular series:
Anatomy of a Best-Selling Novel
This series is a crash course in all you need to write a novel. I go over plotting on the micro and macro scale. We discuss three-act structure, etc. etc. No, it will not make your writing “formulaic.” Formulaic writing comes from execution. This series is valuable whether you are a plotter or a pantser or somewhere in between.
I call myself a plotter 😀 .
There is NO way I am ever going to outline, so I am not quite a plotter. I love the freedom of being a pantser (writing by the seat of my pants). But, pure pantsing is grossly ineffective (my opinion). It is a really good way to stall and it will be a nightmare to revise.
Even if you feel you are a pantser, I recommend checking out the series. Give some plotting a try. The reason. Creativity is ignited with boundaries. We love to believe that boundaries stifle our creativity, but I strongly disagree and I will prove it.
Visit Alcatraz. People incarcerated in supermax prisons are SERIOUSLY creative.
Okay, a better example…FINE.
If I said right now, “Write me a 1000 word short story.” Most of you would either blank or would stall.
BUT, if I said, “Write me a 1000 word short story about a freak show.” POOF! Ideas would abound. With just a little bit of boundaries your imagination sparks to life.
We can still write freely, but a handful of guideposts can keep us on track and can help maintain momentum.
The Series in Order:
Of course I recommend reading all of these, but if you do have to choose one, Part Four is a good one. A major reason many people do not complete Nano is they select far too weak of a story idea. The idea might work for a short story, but it simply is not robust enough for something as long as a novel. Thus it fizzles.
If you pick two to read? Go for Part Three as well. The single largest problem most new writers have is they DO NOT properly understand the antagonist. No antagonist? No story. Waxing rhapsodic for 50,000 words is not a novel. Navel-gazing is not a novel. Bouncing back and forth in time is not a novel. Novels are about one thing and one thing only—trouble. Without an antagonist your story will collapse in on itself.
Well, there you have it. Enjoy the rest of your October. Live it up kiddies while you can. You can sign up for Nanowrimo HERE.
I am still undecided if I’m going to do it. I usually do. I will be fast-drafting a NF I have due to my publisher, but I don’t know if I want to do a fiction at the same time, though I’ve done it before. AND, I have bombed Nano (multiple times), so I’m not perfect. When I blew it it’s because I failed to prepare. Fail to plan plan to fail. When I did prepare, however, I finished in 12 days. So it DOES make a difference.
So, you going to Nano? Were you going to pass but now the peer pressure is getting to you? Have you ever completed Nano? What helped you finish? What was your best time? Or did you sneak in at 11:59 P.M. November 30? Do you think plotters have an advantage in Nano? Are you a plotter or a pantser? Or a plotser?
Planning on confiscating “drugs” from your kids trick-or-treat bags?
I LOVE hearing from you!
To prove it and show my love, for the month of OCTOBER, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel.
For those who need help building a platform and keeping it SIMPLE, pick up a copy of my latest social media/branding book Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World on AMAZON, iBooks, or Nook.