November is here! Are you guys ready to write those novels? The great news is, you are reading this and I doubt you need much pep to get your fingers flying. Week 1 is always the “easiest” week in NaNoWriMo for those who come prepared with at least a plot, or character, or setting, or something. For those who are hyper organized and have outlines and infographics galore, the first week is also pretty straight forward. This year, I need all the pep I can get because I’m coming into this thing with absolutely nothing. I can’t seem to get the microscope of my author’s vision to zoom into the lives of my characters. I’m stuck. I have no clue as to what I’m doing.
Would you believe me if I said this is how every November begins for me? I have a vague sense of “something” happening in some world I created in my mind. I usually start my novels for NaNoWriMo by describing the world in excruciating detail. It’s really painful to read because the minutiae is minutiae. But by starting about a million miles away from the action I can hone in on the important things happening. I see the big picture and slowly the focus comes and I suddenly have a character, a conflict, a scene, a something to work with.
So, if you are like me, then you may have nothing. But if you have even one thing to start writing about, even if it isn’t very good, you have the makings of your novel. To give you a taste of what my NaNo first days are like, here are the beginnings of my past NaNos.
- 2008: Alison looked at her watch and sighed loudly. This was not the time nor the place. She was already running late for her doctor’s appointment and the bus was running even later.
- 2009: It was the most baffling thing that came ashore. The sun was setting and the sky was clouded over and there it was. I squinted my eyes, not really believing that something like that was on the shore, but there is was. As I approached it, it became clearer, the features more distinct. I bent over and scooped it up, sand slipping between my fingers. I wiped my hands on my pants and tossed the object from one had to the other, getting a sense of its weight.
- 2010: I remember everything about the day I left my home. My sister and brother each held a hand as my parents trailed behind us. We were headed to the convent where it seemed I was destined to spend my life. At least when I was seven it seemed like my destiny. Alisa was stoic. Her blue eyes looked straight forward and she almost seemed to tug at me, pulling me along faster then I really wanted to go. Alexander seemed to be a counterweight, dragging his feet as if to keep me from going away. And I just walked. Since the day I was born, I knew that just as Alisa was destined to inherit the family business and Alexander was destined for the military and, essentially politics, so I was destined for religion. It was the way things were done in Kyria.
- 2011: Margie looked at the man and tried not to laugh. He was wearing a giraffe costume and looked absolutely ridiculous. She had requested a clown, not a giraffe. Or any animal for that matter. She smiled politely at the man and shook her head a little bit, her short brown hair swaying against her neck.
- 2012: Taylor looked out at the ocean as her father’s ship flew away. He was only home for a few weeks at a time but Taylor loved the time she got to spend with him. He was a merchant by trade but was very well to do. He was one of the few individuals authorized to cross the border between Leylandia and Technologia. While considered a citizen of Technologia, he carried the precious steam technology through the sky and over to their rival nation. The two countries were as different as children from different parents. Technologia was a sprawling country that had mountains surrounding three sides and long coast that gave them port access. In the center of the country were forests. The country was not afflicted with deserts or tundra. The rich land lead Technologia to develop into a nation that was very technological. Their primary export was the steam technology that had come from all of the resources.
- 2013: The black, pearlescent sand clung to her milky, pale skin. She flexed her fingers and toes and looked at the world around her. It was vastly different yet very familiar and similar to the world she came from. Lush green trees rose high up in the distance and even farther beyond were hillocks and mountains. The sky above was navy blue with spots that glimmered in the distance. Two giant orbs floated in the sky – one seemed to sit right on the horizon, a blue disc that reflected light. The other was smaller and high in the sky. It also did not seem to emit any light of its own. It was reddish in color and seemed to be pockmarked where the blue orb was smooth.
Howdy, Fort Writerdale!
Just wanted to make sure I put a post up detailing what you missed out on by not attending the awesome party, part 1. Fortunately, there is a part 2 that you are all welcome to attend and I hope you will RSVP!
We had a wonderful guest speaker present. Barbara Levenson is a published author who writes fiction with a specific interest in mystery. She started by asking everyone their experiences with writing (specifically asking about our experiences with writing, publication, and workshops or critique groups). Here is a quick list of the things she spoke about:
- “If you want to write, get your butt in the chair, sit and write.”
- Many people will start to write, but will get stuck and quit and never go back. It is better to put the writing away for a few days when you are stuck and go back to it.
- The more your write, the better you write.
- Her experiences started when she was young and she would tell stories and write plays for her friends to act out. Into adulthood, she started writing more technical writing because of her career but after taking a class she realized she also really wanted to write fiction.
- She said that any experience or course is very beneficial and will get you writing.
- She encouraged everyone to join a writing group and attend seminars. Seminars are great because you can pitch ideas, but even better you can talk about writing with people who are also writers.
- She talked about her experiences with publishing and said that no matter what, to make sure you protect your rights. The Author’s Guild has lawyers on retainer who can help with your contracts if you are member.
- She actually bought back the rights to her novels because she was unhappy with what the publishers were doing (or not doing!).
- Barbara also said that stories can be character-driven or plot-driven. She said that with NaNoWriMo it is likely the stories we write will be plot-driven since 50k words is not a good amount to really develop the characters.
- She personally doesn’t outline because generally speaking she knows what major things have to happen (even if the how is vague) and knows the final outcome.
- She knows these things because she spends a lot of time thinking (mostly when ironing and baking).
- She said a complete work that is 50k words long is more like a novella than a novel.
- There are no rules to writing. However, you still need to establish your point of view (POV).
- Your POV should not change from one paragraph to another or even in the middle of a chapter.
- She strongly encouraged we avoid the use of adjectives and adverbs.
- We did a short writing activity. We wrote a paragraph without using adjectives or adverbs. The prompt was “He looked at the river and saw something he couldn’t explain.”
- My paragraph: Juan looked at the river. A breeze caressed the river; ripples crossed the service as Juan stared. A fish leaped from the water and landed on the river bank. While he watched, another fish floundered out. And another. Juan looked to the sky filled with sunshine and clouds. A comet hung high beside the moon. Today was going to be something special.
- She spent some time talking about showing and telling. It is better to show and you can use dialogue to show things. If you want to show with a scene, then use action words.
- Dialogue makes your characters real.
Those of us who have ventured into the stormy seas of NaNoWriMo before know this familiar feeling. Whether you are a pant-ser or a plotter, with seven days to go you are itching to get started.
You could start writing now, stop reading this post and pull out your notebook or journal, or open up a new word document and begin putting down the words you’re aching to write. Nothing is stopping you. NaNoWriMo works on an honor system and you’re the only one who will ever know that you didn’t follow the rules. Winning though won’t feel quite as sweet, knowing that you reached the finish line because you started early. So what do you do with yourself for the next seven days? How do you avoid temptation? Having done NaNoWriMo for more years than I can count now and having won and lost I have a few suggestions; seven in fact, one for each day until November 1st.
1) Housework. Ugh, I know but if the hamper is empty and all the dishes washed you’ll have more guilt-free time to write and less complaints from those who live with you. So NaNo clean. Trust me your house will fall apart over the next thirty days, so consider this a preemptive strike.
2) Go shopping. Make a list. What do you need to make it through these intensive days of writing? Get yourself a crock pot. Stock up on K-Cups or buy yourself a couple of Starbucks cards. Buy some Halloween candy and make yourself a stash. Look for deals on frozen pizzas or frozen dinners. Do you have enough pens, a flash drive? Stock up now. Don’t forget a new DVD for the kids. Frozen, anyone?
The days leading up to NaNoWriMo are often filled with anticipation, excitement, and the undeniable desire to start typing. You brainstorm, you talk to your NaNo buddies, and may even secretly squee a little bit.
You know you do this.
Then November 1st arrives and you’re a writing machine.
The muse is strong within you. The words pour from your fingers like syrup onto pancakes. It’s so smooth, sweet, and delectable. At three in the morning you’re loathe to stop, but know in four hours you have to get up for the dreaded day job.
The eloquent words that fall from your lips may be something like: “Stupid day job is stupid.” At three in the morning, who can blame you?
This is the pattern for the first few days. You keep up, or even surpass your word count goal. Everything is going according to the plan–or the pantser is enjoying winging it. Whichever.