Get It Done!

It’s the last few days of the National Novel Writing Month challenge. Many of you have already gotten to 50,000 words already (or blown right past it). But I haven’t. I’m still chipping away word by word. Yesterday I filled my belly with turkey and in my current state of post-food bliss I’m thinking about throwing in the towel. Who was the crazy person who decided NaNoWriMo should be in November?

But I shouldn’t give up. The fact that Thanksgiving is part of NaNoWriMo month is a lesson. I should write every day, even with a turkey coma, even when it’s a holiday.

I’m almost there. If you’re in the same boat as me and pushing these last few days to get your word count — let’s do it together! Let’s keep writing.

Here are some words of encouragement for you (and me!).

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You’re almost there! Let’s do it together. I’ll see you on the other side of the finish line!

Five Quick Tips for NaNoWriMo

Fast-Typing1As you know I’ve decided to participate in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) this year! In preparation, I asked for some tips from fellow VCFA grad (and Dystropian) Shayda Bakhshi. Shayda is a long time veteran (and winner) of NaNoWriMo, and she also gave her graduate lecture on how to succeed at writing waaaaay faster than is probably advisable!

Here are five of her tips on how to succeed at NaNoWriMo:

1) Focus on Something Happening

The best way to get a story moving is to have something happen. The age-old rule is to find the conflict, but sometimes that’s not as easy to come by as you want it to be. Instead, simply try to  focus on action. Ask yourself if the “action” of a scene is physical or emotional? Is the underlying conflict introspective or external? Push yourself to identify it and see how it plays out.

2) Give your Character Agency

What does your character want? Underneath everything, what is it that your character yearns for? Dream for? Desire?  How will that desire lead them forward through the story? Giving your character agency to act is essential in moving the narrative forward. Without it, you’ll find your character wandering about or running around in circles.

3) Emotional Contouring

Ask yourself what the emotional change of every scene is. Does the scene begin happy and then end in disaster? Are your characters angry at each other, but then end up in a kiss? You want an emotional direction for each scene. Identify what it is so you know where your headed before you write it.

4) Time Management

Keep track of your work habits during NaNoWriMo. At the end of each day catalog how many words you wrote. But also, calculate how many hours and minutes you spent writing them. And what time of day you wrote them. At the end of your first week look for hot spots of productivity, as well as areas where you may have slacked. See if you can organize your next week for optimum time efficiency. Plus, this is useful information for how you manage time outside of NaNo as well.

5) Enthusiasum

If your bored writing a scene, your reader will be bored reading it. But even worse, you won’t want to write the next scene because you’re sick of the first one! Cut it. If you’re not liking it – jump to another scene that you can get behind and enjoy. Half of your success comes from your enjoyment of the process. The only rule is word-count. You can write out of order. Cut scenes or head in a new direction. Always write a scene that you’re excited about!

Have you completed NaNoWriMo in the past? Do you have some helpful tips to share? Put ’em in the comments!

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The NaNoWriMo Challenge

nanowrimo2I’ve always been one of those people who’s turned up her nose at NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month).

The thought of pumping out 50,000 words in one month seems like an exercise in typing, in quantity, in well … producing crap!

Sure, Hemingway said that “the first draft of anything is crap,” and Anne Lamott gave us all permission to write shitty first drafts. But, in my snobbery, I’ve always wondered if there’s more at stake. Doesn’t this type of exercise teach us to put quantity over quality? Doesn’t it train us to glaze over emotion and insert stock experiences? Isn’t it an excuse to skip the difficult parts of a novel?

Of course … I’ve never done NaNoWriMo.

Which is the problem with my snobbery. I’ve decided NaNoWriMo isn’t valuable before ever giving it a shot.

It’s natural for me to be wary, NaNoWriMo goes against all the rules of my process. Yes, I’m one of those people who revises while she writes the first draft. I spend hours on a paragraph finding the right words. I spend a week on a single scene looking for the hot-white emotional center of it before I can move forward. I never write the dang thing and don’t look back.

But could there be value in NaNoWriMo? Could it help me to teach my editor brain to shut up and unlock unknown creativity? Might it force me to create stronger time management skills? Is it possible that trying a new process might unveil writing techniques I’d never allowed myself to consider.

Possibly.

I won’t know unless I try it.

Hands-inThus, I’ve decided to lower my nose and give the NaNoWriMo challenge a whirl! I’ve also enlisted a few of my writer friends to participate in the challenge as well. (It’s always good to have a support group as we race to complete 1667 words a day).

That means this blog is going to be a little NaNo-centric in the next few months. I’ll share preparation tips this month before we get started (which should be helpful to any of you also doing NaNo!). And I’ll give you my opinion of the experience after the fact.

It’s always good to try new things? Right?

Let’s all drink to shitty first drafts!