Oh blog, how I do neglect thee. I apologize humbly for this month of silence. As you may or may not know, I do some music blogging on the side, paid only in MP3s and tickets and the satisfaction of a job well done, except during CMJ when I also get paid in free drinks. So there was a lot of reviewing to be done, and those beers/vodka tonics/whatevers weren’t gonna drink themselves. And then I wound up at an Ed Sheeran afterparty for more free drinks. And then I went to LA to see one of my favorite bands. No regrets, just adventures!
But this brings us to the worst possible time to blog: NaNoWriMo. To writers, this name is like kryptonite. To others, it probably sounds like some arbitrary anime title. For those of you who are curious, or who can’t stand an acronym and can’t be bothered to Google, NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month. It’s actually an international project, so I don’t know why it’s not InNoWriMo. Nobody tells me nuffin’. Anyway, November (another “No”) is when writers across the globe decide to alienate their loved ones even more than usual to write 50,000 words in one month. This binge writing is supposed to swat away the cobwebs, blast away excuses and make it easier to get a very, very rough first draft out. In case that word count seems obscure to you, Wikiwrimo.org offers this list of novels roughly that length:
- The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams (46,333 words)
- The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks (52,000 words)
- The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane (50,776 words)
- The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (50,061 words)
- Lost Horizon by James Hilton
- Shattered by Dean Koontz
- Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk
- Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
- Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
- The Invisible Man by H. G. Wells
- Gadsby: A Story of Over 50,000 Words Without Using the Letter “E” by Ernest Vincent Wright
- As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner (56,695 words)
As repetitive as Chuck Palahniuk is, that word count probably drops to 40,000, but I digress. It’s long enough to tell a full story, and writing roughly 1,667 words a day to stay on task is not hard. Unless of course you fly to LA for a long weekend away from the computer, finding yourself four days behind around the first week. Which I did. But I caught up, and you can too! So, my writerly friends, if you have time to read (and since I took time out of my busy novel writing to share this), here are my ten tips to make it to the finish line.
1. Write every day. Duh, right? But sometimes you will not feel like it. You will hate every word you put down. It’s a rough draft, and everything accumulates. You’d much rather be ahead than behind come November 29th, trust me.
2. Don’t outline. I know some people who are meticulous planners. I am not one of them. I have no fucking clue what’s happening in my novel, and it’s already surprised me several times. Brainstorming all month is so much better than once at the beginning. Give your novel space to grow.
3. Binge when you can, but know your limits. Sometimes you’re inspired and want to write five thousand words in a day, which is awesome! Go team you! But sometimes you’re just really far behind and want to knock it out. Resist the urge to spend the whole day with an adult diaper and Dunkin’ Donuts as your only friends. If you hate it, it’s not worth doing. Pace yourself. There’s time yet.
4. Accept imperfections. Some things in my novel make little sense. I just haven’t had the time to research them fully. This month is about imagination. Let reality creep in after you’ve built your own world. One day, you will be able to breathe again and reread your novel. That is the time to get critical. Do not line edit, or you will never make it.
5. Stop with the frou-frou names. Something that can take me out of a novel immediately is the character names. If your story is set in Kansas, then your lead is probably not a girl named Katniss Palladium, unless of course you’re writing something dystopian, in which case I want a footnote crediting this blog entry. If your names are overly complicated, everything else is in peril.
6. Don’t be afraid of a little drama. If you’re writing something deeply intellectual but have the urge to do something terrible to a character (a cancer diagnosis, the death of a pet, alien abduction), explore that. This month is for you and what you want to write. Enjoy it, you horrible, sadistic shit.
7. Have a buddy/bully. I used to try NaNoWriMo every year only to crash and burn. It was too close to finals, I was busy with college, blah blah blah. Now that I’m a real adult without a life, I have time! But more importantly, I have a friend also writing. She yells at me to get my writing done, and I yell back. We share plot points and drafts, then yell at each other for our “this sucks but…” disclaimers.
8. Talk about it. Often. People often don’t understand what the NaNoWriMo process is like because they’ve never forced themselves to sit in front of their computers living on carbs, coffee and the occasional booze for a whole month. After all, it doesn’t take that long to binge watch “Breaking Bad.” Remind them of your hobby. If you go out, mention your progress. Get some ideas, or at least be so obnoxious that nobody will invite you anywhere until December.
9. Keep your plot in mind. Don’t just fall back on dialogue because it’s quick and easy to write, as tempting as that may be. Every bit of action should go toward building your story in some minor or major way. This really is a short novel, barely more than a novella, so your scenes should have purpose. If you listened to me say not to outline, this will be no problem whatsoever since you may have no clue what you’re writing.
10. When in doubt, kill off a character. Look, this approach has always worked for me. That’s something, right? Right?!