Hello everyone! We’re spicing things up over here with some guests posts. Since November is upon us, that means for writers it’s NaNoWriMo a.k.a. National Novel Writing Month! If you are unfamiliar the goal is to write a 50,000 word novel in a month. I won’t be participating this year, since I have a mountain of revisions to work on, but some friends are! Here Matthew Finger gives us some tips on starting.
My main man Teddy Roosevelt said “It is hard to fail, but it is worse never to have tried to succeed.”
And oh my good god what a failure NaNoWriMo can feel like as a new writer. You mean I have to write 1667 words every day? You mean I’m not the glorious love child of Douglas Adams and Gertrude Stein? How, oh merciful gods of the written word, how will do pen such a tome in just 30 days?
That’s a really good question. But, like a shelf full of unread books, there really is no right or wrong answer. When I did NaNoWriMo for the first time, I finished with probably minutes to spare. The second time I did it, I didn’t get more than 5,000 words into it before I drowned in the morass of life.
This year, who knows what will happen? But, after reflection and months of therapy to help me cope with the horrific glorious experience of National Novel Writing Month, I am pleased offer a handful of humble observations and suggestions for those of you attempting this madness for the first time.
Start! It is true what everyone says. Just starting is the most important part. Much like a giant steaming bowl of Pho, there is no proper starting point. Dive in with your proverbial chopsticks and start nom noming your way through November.
Don’t Overthink It! I have a friend who’s French. She moved to the United States when she was seven and entered public school here. On her English tests, she’d always overthink the questions. “Is this arrow pointing to the oven, or the drawer below the over? I don’t know what that’s called!” As a result, her teachers were pretty sure she didn’t know what a window was until she was in high school.
The point is, sometimes a window is a window, and it’s best to just go with that. When you’re writing your story, don’t try to be so clever or be too self-conscious that you arrest your story’s development.
Experiment Thinking about your book as a long-term relationship is a useful metaphor. Much like that guy you’ve been dating for.ev.er, sometimes things get a little stale. Sometimes you need to dress up or roleplay read 50 Shades of Gray, or whatever. I’m not going to speculate on what you like to do. The point is that 50,000 words is LONG. Don’t’ feel confined to a certain style or technique. This is your chance to experiment, to play. Try different dialogue techniques. Mix in wordy descriptions or try adding insane character quirks. Dress up like fireman or Martha Stewart. Whatever you want!
There is no road less traveled There is no road! You are making the road. And not in a weird Cormac McCarthy kind of way (I hope). Don’t feel confined by your original plan. When I wrote as a n00b, I tried to let the characters take me where I thought they would go instead of ‘sticking to the plan.’ That may not work for your style, but it might. The bottom line is don’t feel limited to what your Carrie Matheson corkboard says.
And I suppose the last piece of advice is remember: all of your hopes and dreams are riding on this. JKLOLZ have fun!