Monday, October 17, 2016

From the Writing Desk -- NaNoWriMo

It's that time of year again.  The leaves are changing colors, at least in the northern half of the US, I can safely assume Canada and Alaska too, the days are shorter, and there is some sort of weird battle going on between Pumpkins and Apples.  It's harvest season, indulge in both. It's almost Halloween, so there are costumes, candy, and spooky decorations everywhere.  That also means that NaNoWriMo is around the corner.   

What is NaNo, aka NaNoWriMo?

It's National Novel Writing Month.  Started in San Fransisco, CA in 1999 by Chris Baty and a group of friends, it's a month long writing challenge meant to temporarily silence inner editors and focus on the story.  For a lot of people it's the kick in the pants they need to either start writing, something they've always wanted to do, or to start writing again, something they stopped doing for any number of reasons.  For others, the energy of taking on the challenge, of racing time, and being around writers - and the sheer amount of writing energy is intoxicating and a reminder of why they do what they do.  Take the time to read the History of NaNo  on the NaNoWriMo website.

There are checklists available, blogs and videos on prepping for NaNo or what the correct way to write is.  There is an official prep page on the NaNo site.  There is no correct way, no right way to write a story.  How each person writes, is the best way THEY write.  I have friends who must complete a 50-page outline with 13 page character biographies before they start writing, and others that start writing with a fully formed idea running around their head, but change title names and character names a dozen times before the end of the first draft. Me, I have an idea about the story, or at least the opening scene and who my main characters are.  Before I start writing, I need to know what they look like and a title, which means I kind of know what the story is going to be about.  Sometimes. 

I spotted a post from a writer friend, BG Thomas, that listed 20 Rules of Writing as stated by Stephen King, in his book On Writing.  Fabulous book, every writer should read.

Of the 20 rules listed, not a single one of them states  you have to write this way or do that, you have to plot, you have to...fill in the blank.  None.  Does your book need a plot -- yes, it's helpful to those reading the story.  Do you need to know it before you start? No. As long as you know it at the end of your first draft.  Should you keep track of the details  -- yes.  That way you have one place to look and remind yourself that your lead character has blue eyes or the scar/tattoo/distinguishing mark is on the left side. 

While I'm a firm believer in 'there are no minor details' - ask fans of books or long running TV shows - they know all of those details -- the first draft is just that a first draft.  This is where you figure out what those details will be.  Three different eye colors for the same character -- make the decision and when you go back to re-write it, make the changes then. 

That brings us to editing and writing, first drafts, editing as you go, and vomit drafts.  Some people edit as they go.  Their inner editor stops and fixes everything before moving on.  Spending days, weeks, or months on the first chapter or opening scene.  What NaNo does is give people permission to send their inner editor on vacation -- I assume mine join all of the other inner editors, who have also been given a 30 day all expense paid vacation to Tahiti. Instead of agonizing over every word or scene, you get it out.  If it's on paper, it can be fixed.  If it stays in your head it can't be.

Confession, there are times, many of them in fact, where I was having problems with a scene because something wasn't lining up, so I'd write as far as I could then type in huge bold letters "insert fight/sex/whatever scene here." I like to have names for everybody, but sometimes there is a placeholder reading 'sidekick a' or 'minion x'.  I can fix those later. When I re-read it before I start revising it, or the right information hits me before that.  I like King's advice to put your manuscript away for 6 weeks before opening it again.  Work on something else or if it's your NaNo novel, there are winter holidays to be enjoyed (or endured, depending on your point of view) before opening it back up at the beginning of the year.

One of the things that NaNo has, and I haven't taken advantage of until recently, is local meet-ups and write-ins.  Another new thing I'm doing this year, and not just for my NaNo project, but for all of my projects is keeping individual journals for each project.  I have my writer's journal that goes pretty much everywhere with me, if I have ideas it goes in there, so do random thoughts, inspiration, and anything else I can think of.  Once home, I can transfer any project notes into the appropriate journal, it also gives me a chance to see if what I'm adding makes sense with what's already there. 

NaNo is meant to be a challenge.  The goal is to write 50,000 words in 30 days, which works out to be 1,667 words a day.  If you can write 45 words in a minute, you can 2,700 words in an hour. 

Me, I write in 15 minute spurts and shoot for 250 words a pop, which is 1,000 words.  The word count for my NaNo project is closer 100,000 words.  It's a fantasy, those require more world building.  In which case, my word count goal should be 3,337 words a day. If I make the 1,667 I'll be thrilled. 

You can find ideas for word trackers on Pinterest, Instagram, and the NaNo site.  Using Google, Pinterest, or Instagram you can find ideas for different worksheets for character development, plot development, and settings.

Pull up a notebook or laptop and join the fun.


Sadly, I didn't make any of my goals, I was side-lined by an upper respiratory infection.

My goals this week...

Research/Story Development/Character Development: 4 hours
Writing - 3 Times at 500 words each
WIP: Behind the Masque

Non-Writing Goals:
Create Organization and De-clutter Plan
Read at least 30 minutes a day (I really got away from reading)
Walk around block/neighborhood 3 times this week

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