NATIONAL NOVEL WRITING MONTH is barreling down on writers across America–that month where take pen in hand, keyboard to task and
press our collective noses to the digital grindstone, where head pounding increases, and the amount of chocolate and or alcohol consumed zooms to an all time high.
National Novel Writing Month, aka NaNoWriMo, challenges writers to complete a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. Sure, it sounds a little crazy–but we’re writers–we’re used to crazy, and some of us have an up close and personal relationship with wine, whining and a stash of emergency Xanex.
And while it can be crazy-making (for your family, friends, coworkers, and strangers on the street who stand in your way), you get to make some killer progress on your writing dreams, but it’s the absolute best way to network with other writers who are in the trenches with you on the NaNoWriMo website.
Can you write a novel in one month? Well, you can certainly write a rough draft–I wrote the first 60 pages of my first published novel, SCOOP, the first day I got the idea.
But how, oh how, do you get started? Before beginning, it’s helpful to set up a loose-leaf notebook with Post it notes in the pocket to help capture ideas when they first appear, and to help organize them as you go.
- Enlist the help of friends and family. You’re going to need time and space to write. Negotiate with loved ones–you want this one thing, and if they’re able to give you time, space and support, you’ll give them something in return–for kids, a trip to the mall is always popular–for your beleagured spouse, the promise of extra special bonus sex seems to get them motivated.
- Stock pile food and everything else you and your loved ones will need for this writing spree–including a stash of chocolate, wine, Red Bull and other caffeine products and industrial strength aspirin–all the things that will sustain you through the writing marathon.
- Tools. I bought a nifty little astronaught light pen, because some of my best ideas, phrases and character conversations come to me at night, when it is the most annoying for my family to have me get up, flip on every light in the house looking for a pen, pencil, crayon, and one desperate night, lipstick on my mirror.
- Brainstorm words or images about your story or theme. In a notebook dedicated to your idea or story, write down every name, word, idea or song that springs to mind or sketch every image or stream of thought you can think of about your idea. Just let the ideas flow.
- Don’t stop to evaluate their worth. Keep writing down ideas. When you can’t think of another thought, put it away awhile, but keep it handy. Often the most powerful or meaningful ideas will appear after you’ve put the idea away. You never know when that fickle Muse will show up . . .
- Don’t have a theme? Don’t worry. They often appear when and where you least expect them.
- Make a Three Act Outline of your story. This is not against the rules and in fact is encouraged by the creators of NaNoWriMo. To crank out 50,000 words in 30 days you need to maximize every minute of your writing time–you don’t have to stick to the outline–when the writing goes well, your characters tend to take on a life of their own.
- Break you book into manageable chunks. You’ve already got your goal–50,000 words in 30 days. Break it into day or week. making room for Thanksgiving, visiting inlaws and outlaws, pre-Christmas sales and other catastrophes that tend to pop up when you’re trying to get anything done.
- Don’t revise as you write. There will be plenty of time for that later.
- Don’t give your manuscript to your writing partners. Get the words on paper, and if you’re having trouble, you can bounce ideas with writing buddies, but a rough draft is not the time for a lot of outside influence.
- Wait on Research. When you run into a research-related dilemma, such as the most outrageous flavor of Ben & Jerry’s or the baroque music of the Middle Ages, insert XXX and keep writing. You can do a “Search/Find” on the XXX’s and research later. Extensive research in the middle of a writing streak can break your stride. Save it for later.
- Manage your expectations. NaNoWriMo is a rough draft, not a final product.
- Create your Writing Cave. Set off a special place to write–Stephen King wrote CARRIE on a lap desk in the laundry room of a single-wide trailer. Get in your designated writing space, try to find a comfortable chair, pens, pencils, your notebook, and make shure your computer is in good working condition.