I thought this bit of nano advice was intersting and could really help novices and seasoned alike. In order to put this method into practice though I will have to expand my index cards from 13 to 30. Therefore I am off, and I leave you in the hands of my guest – Lazette Gifford!
Welcome to the madness.
In my part of the world, November used to be a quiet month known for holidays, family and the onset of winter in the northern hemisphere. That’s no longer true for a lot of people. Some people have been preparing for months and still aren’t ready for the fated 12:01 AM on November 1, 2014; the closer we get to that time, the more crazy they (okay, we) become. The shoppers of Black Friday have nothing on the rush of writers to their computers, tablets or paper as NaNo begins.
I am about to enter my fourteenth run at the November NaNoWriMo fun. What makes a person leap into this insanity for so many years in a row? It’s fun. No really, it is. Once you get over the idea that there is a ‘fail’ component, then you can join in without the unnecessary angst. There is absolutely nothing like the joy of knowing you are taking part in an intellectual marathon, and that there are thousands of others, all around the world, are leaping into the creative chaos with you.
But what if you don’t reach 50K?
If you reached a word count higher than you would normally get, then good for you — you win. If you didn’t reach that fabled 50,000 word mark, it is not the end of the world, the end of your writing career or anything else dire and unforgiveable. Not reaching the goal might mean this kind of ‘fun’ is not the nudge you need, or it might mean you aren’t ready for it this year. Just remember that these are only words and this is only one month out of the year.
Me? I’ve reached 50k and more every year, but that’s because I write every day (even outside of NaNo) and I love the creation of stories. I’m also not afraid to make mistakes in the writing since I know I’ll be editing later. I’ve done some novels as a panster, some with short outlines and some with every long, complicated outlines. The trick is to find what works for you and what works for this particular book. The approach often changes with different novels. I will say, though, that writing is not easy — not for me or anyone else. Some aspects may come easier for some people, but in the end, writing is about hard work, editing, facing your creativity and you shortcomings and pushing on through.
During NaNo, there are two things that can help even a pantser. One is to write down thirty events that happen in your story. This gives you one subject to write about every day. These have to be fairly big events in order to get the 1667 words a day you will need. ‘Jane has a party’ will work while ‘Jane decides to wear the blue dress to the party’ is going to have a far harder time. There are a lot of possibilities with ‘has a party’ that you can expand on. Choosing the dress is a much smaller field to work from and might be harder to expand.
Once you get your words for the day, look at your next 30 day entry and try writing out a list of five smaller steps that will happen for the next day’s writing. If you write 350 words for each of those steps, you’ll easily make your word count. Some will go over and some under that number of words, but it will give you a little nudge so that you aren’t stuck with the dreaded ‘What happens next?’ problem. These are kind of like little cue cards to keep you going.
How long it takes you to write those words is going to vary from day-to-day, depending on how much time you have and how ready you are to write. There are days when I have several hours free and write like a madman — but mostly because it’s fun. There are other days when I have to fit the words between work and other obligations. Being freelance and working from home is a bonus because if I am waiting for a work-related email I can sneak a few paragraphs in. Generally, I do better in long stretches, though. I love the feel of dropping into a story world and living there for a while.
You must remember one important fact, though: This is a first draft marathon. The story will need editing later. Even if you edit as you go (a bad habit for NaNo), you will still have to go over it at least one more time before you consider submission or publication. The best thing you can do is plan to put the novel aside for weeks, even months, before you look at it again. This will allow you to stop seeing what you expect to be there. You can also try your luck at finding beta readers to go over the work, but the more you learn to do for yourself, the better your first drafts will become.
That work is for the future, though. In November all you need do is throw yourself into your story and have fun. Go write the story you want to tell. You may not get it right the first time, but that doesn’t matter. We have the joy of first drafts. Nothing has to be perfect the first time we write it.
Lazette is an avid writer as well as the owner of Forward Motion for Writers (www.fmwriters.com) and the owner/editor of Vision: A Resource for Writers (www.visionforwriters.com).
It’s possible she spends too much time with writers.
You can connect with her on:
Joyously Prolific Blog: http://zette.blogspot.com/
And if you are interested in the books written in previous NaNo’s and now published, they are on a special page at Smashwords:
Lazette Gifford, Author – www.lazette.net
Editor, Vision: A Resource for Writers – www.visionforwriters.com
Owner, Forward Motion for Writers – www.fmwriters.com
Science fiction, fantasy, young adult mystery novels and more!