Tuesday, November 1, 2011

NaNoWriMo: A Month of Writing Dangerously

Let's be honest, I had thought about signing up for NaNoWriMo for many years...me and probably thousands of other people. After all...who doesn't want to be novelist? Somewhere deep in the subconscious lurks a desire to become the famous writer who sets his own schedules and writes whatever pleases him. Maybe one day that will be you...or maybe it will be me. Who knows? One thing is for sure though, we'll never know without trying.

So when I finally got the nerve to sign-up in 2009, I thought it would be a piece of cake. I mean, I had been a columnist, and I had already completed my master's thesis. All I had to do was fire up the laptop and pound away at the keys every night for 30 nights until I reached 50,000 words or more. What could be easier?

Little did I know what I was getting myself into. I kind of had a plot, so I thought I was ready to go. That first year in 2009, I had signed up a few days late, which is perfectly fine and since I was highly motivated I thought I could very quickly make up for lost time. Unfortunately, I just as quickly found out that "No plot? No problem!" was indeed a problem for me. I'm embarrassed to say that I got stuck after only about 400 words. It was writer's block at its finest.

You, dear reader, might be laughing at this point or maybe you are sympathizing. I take full responsibility for my failure. Either way you can learn from my mistakes. Here are a few simple things you can do to make the NaNoWriMo experience a success:

  • Sign up early. Get to know the site and how it works.

  • Have an outline. It doesn't need to be detailed, but obviously the more detail the better.

  • Designate a time and a place to write every day. Keep to a schedule if possible.

  • Stock your writing place with everything you need: paper, pens, pencils, snacks, music, etc.

  • Go ahead and put up that "Do Not Disturb" sign; it's OK...really.

  • When in doubt write about scenery or fill in details about your characters.

  • There is no rule that says you have to write your scenes in order. Pick which ever scene strikes your fancy that day and write to your heart's content.

  • Resist the temptation to check your email or play with your smartphone.

  • Give yourself permission to take breaks.

  • Try writing in short bursts like 30 minutes at a time or 750 words at a time.

  • Write with a group; find a write-in near you.

  • Ignore those typos.

  • Remember...there's no editing. You will have time for that after the holidays.

  • And finally...don't procrastinate. Just do it!
So what happened in 2010, you might ask? Well, I followed my own advice from above. All through the summer of 2010, I worked on creating a story outline for a project I called Dance Hall Days. I also got to know my characters and made a list of potential scenes. Not all of the characters or scenes made it into the raw draft, but I did complete 50,000+ words. I let my raw draft "rest" over the holidays, and I pulled it out again in the Spring. I spent the next 6 months turning the raw draft into the first "real" draft. And you know what? It's starting to look pretty good, if I do say so myself. With any luck, one day soon you'll see Dance Hall Days in print. In the mean time, I have a whole new story outline complete with a new cast of characters. This year I'm focusing on a cozy mystery for my 2011 NaNoWriMo project; it's called Murder Mystery Mayhem.

Good Luck to all participants in NaNoWriMo 2011 !!!

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