November 1, 2014

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Why write a novel?

National Novel Writing Month starts today.  This is where crazy people from all around the world write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days.  There’s something energizing about knowing other people are striving for the same, endurance straining goal.  It’s the reason why they have marathons instead of just individuals running around aimlessly.  It’s the reason they live-tweet the Oscars.

As I see it, people do NaNoWriMo for several reasons.

  1. To see if they can.  She always wanted to write a novel, but it seemed so ambitious, so beyond her reach.  She wants to unlock that achievement.
  2. To have fun!  She sees this event as a chance to write about SuperWhoLock, where the Doctor brings Sam, Dean and Sherlock into his TARDIS to save the universe from fairies.
  3. To get serious about writing.  She wants to have a solid first draft in her hands to help propel her writing to the next level, to bust through all her doubts and fears.
  4. To connect with others.  She feels a happy sense of belonging when she is doing the same activity as thousands of others, sharing woes and victories.

Of course, many do NaNoWriMo for a combination of these.  For my first time, I wanted to see if I could.  I had already written a novel, but it had taken me years.  Could I write one that fast?  I could!  It was an amazing experience, an addictive one.  I find submersing myself in writing frees my imagination.  It’s not something I can sustain all year, but knowing that there is a clear deadline, with progress tracking, encouragement and support, it works.  I’ve completed the challenge five times.  I’ve tried and just petered out twice.  Thinking back on what the difference was, I think I didn’t have the enthusiasm needed those times I failed, I didn’t care enough.

Here’s my advice from my experience:

  • Don’t make lyrics or anything else copyright protected a part of a novel you plan to seek publishing for.  Especially do not make those lyrics an essential, non-removable part of the plot.
  • guard your time wisely, and don’t let family, friends or the internet waste it.
  • know what your planned ending is
  • feel free to jump around
  • write every day, and try to “front-load” your writing quota in the first few days so that you have a head start.
  • gather inspiration all day long, and think about your project all day
  • allow ludicrous things to happen in your story.  Sometimes it is when an author “gets silly” that the best ideas come along
  • ask yourself “what’s the worse thing that could happen to my character right now?”  Then do it.  Lather, rinse, repeat.
  • don’t edit and don’t erase- those things come later
  • Don’t worry that it’s not good enough for anyone else to see, just write
  • collaborate with other writers on the forums- share ideas, get feedback and encourage each other

Why are YOU doing NaNoWriMo?  Or, why aren’t you doing it?

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