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Thursday, November 25, 2010

More things I've learned from NaNo

I am really glad I decided to do NaNoWriMo this year. Even if this novel never hits the shelves, I've learned a lot while writing it.

#1:  Writing time is sacred. Your word count goal is BEYOND sacred. You do have a word count goal, right? If not, get one. Then set aside some writing time, every day. If you can, make it non-negotiable (aside from fire or broken bones or parent-teacher conferences). If something else takes up your set writing time, re-set it. I usually write in the mornings, but when life throws something else in the morning, then I write in the evening. I don’t care if it means the family has to eat TV dinners, I’M GOING TO FIT MY WRITING IN somewhere. Very soon, your family will start doing everything they can to make sure you get your writing time, just so they don’t have to eat another can of tuna fish. And don’t go to bed until you’ve met your word count goal. Repeat to yourself: I’m not going to let this day get away from me without writing! Note: during this early part of the training process (training yourself AND your family), it’s important to set small goals: 100 or 200 words a day to start. Baby steps, you know.

#2:  Don’t revise or change anything while writing your first draft. Pretend it’s NaNo every day, and just get the words down, as many as you can. Stick firm to the rule that no words can be cut. Your backspace and delete keys are broken until you’re done with the first draft.

#3:  Turn off your inner critic. This doesn’t mean just about the editing and proofreading stuff, this means EVERYTHING! If you’re tapping away and you come up with an idea, and right away you’re inner critic says, “That’s lame,” or “That’s cliche,” IGNORE IT! Your inner critic is an idiot. Write the scene anyway. Who knows where it will take you. What started out as a lame idea may lead you in a new, fabulous direction. And once you are done with the first draft, if you go back and read that scene and say, “Okay. Critic was right. This scene is lame.” THEN you can cut the scene. Sure, it means more work in the editing phase, but it’s easier to edit when there is stuff on the page TO edit than it is to edit a blank page. It gives you more scene options. Options are good.

#4:  Periodically while you’re writing (and most definitely if you get stuck), ask yourself these questions about the current scene:

What is the exact opposite of the next logical thing to happen? What if that exact opposite happened right now?
What is the most outrageous thing that could happen right now?
What is the worst thing that could happen right now?
How could I shock or surprise the reader right now?

#5:  If you are running out of ideas of where to go next in your novel, maybe your characters are lonely and sick of talking to each other. Think up another character to throw in to the mix and see what happens. Even better: throw in a character who is the exact opposite of your protagonist. Your protagonist is a bored housewife who hates her life? Have her--inadvertently or purposely--cross paths with a jet-setting rocker chick; maybe they’ll strike up a friendship. Wonder how that will work out? In my case, I gave my (originally) bachelor protagonist a judgmental girlfriend (so now she's an obstacle standing in the way of his dream).

After all this, what's the number one advice I'd give to someone who wants to be a writer:?


Even if you don't end up with a salable novel, you'll learn a lot while doing it.

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