You simply keep putting down one damn word after the other, as you hear them, as they come to you. You can either set brick as a laborer or as an artist. You can make the work a chore, or you can have a good time. You can do it the way you used to clear the dinner dishes when you were thirteen, or you can do it as a Japanese person would perform a tea ceremony, with a level of concentration and care in which you can lose yourself, and so in which you can find yourself.
– Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird
Week one NaNoWriMo check-in! Well, sort of. It’s only been five days at this point. Week one is fun because everyone’s energy is high, the community is strong, and the enthusiasm is boundless. Watching everyone hit the goals and cheer each other on is so great. Affirms that good things can still happen in internet communities. I’m involved in a few Discord servers for people who are participating, and the advice and encouragement being so easily and freely given is gratifying (and if I’m going to be sentimental about it, heart-warming) to see.
The biggest tips I’ve seen floating around about week one are basically thus:
This is how you do it: you sit down at the keyboard and you put one word after another until it’s done. It’s that easy, and that hard.
– Neil Gaiman
Tomorrow is NaNoWriMo! I don’t really have any specific words of wisdom or anything. I’m in this as much as anyone else. But I am super pumped that there’s such a good crew of people doing this with me. The clacking of mechanical keyboards will be furious and deafening.
Remember, there is no trying. Just doing.
“Use this month to make words that you would not have made otherwise.”
– Howard Tayler, Writing Excuses 12.44
Here’s the novelist agreement from No Plot, No Problem and Chris Baty himself. Read it, take it to heart, sign it. And then tomorrow, we write!
There’s more than one way to outline a story.
(TL;DR Story outline template at the end of this post!)
You’ll see a myriad of methods published all over the place about the best way to do it, but ultimately, the best method is just the one that you’ll use. That is, if you plan to outline at all – many people don’t and discovery write their way to success.
I haven’t done too much research into all the different methods, because I just latched on to the first one that I learned about (from Writing Excuses, natch), which is the Seven Point Story Structure a la Dan Wells (he originally got it from a role-playing book, but it’s now widely associated with him). The idea is that every story goes sequentially through the following seven points:
- Turn 1
- Pinch 1
- Pinch 2
- Turn 2
Guys, it’s less than 10 days until the routine-wrecking madness of NaNoWriMo begins. It’ll be a time of what Chris Baty, founder of NaNoWriMo, calls exuberant imperfection. Packs of industrious writers will descend on coffee shops and libraries, furiously banging out words and more words in social silence. In less than 10 days, we’ll begin the slog towards 50,000 words. This last week or so is a good time to go and find your writing tribe – meet kindred spirits on the NaNo forums, join servers on Discord – the people who can keep you accountable and hopefully motivated throughout the month. People to commiserate with and vent to and bounce ideas off of. It can help if they share your NaNo approach, but it’s not necessary.
As I’ve touched on previously, people who participate in NaNoWriMo fall into two main camps.
As part of NaNoPrep, I’ve been reading a few books on writing to refresh my conceptualizations of the essential elements of stories: structure, character, style, etc. It’s been highly gratifying so far to remind myself of the mechanics of writing, and it’s rebooted my brain a bit to read more critically as well. I generally find it rewarding to get into the nuts/bolts, nitty/gritty, guts of things, although sometimes I’ll do it to distraction as a way to procrastinate the actual doing of things. (Constant vigilance in the War of Art and all that.)
In addition to reading and brainstorming, I’ve also been working my way through season 10 of Writing Excuses. Writing Excuses is a bite-sized podcast (~15 minutes per ep, tagline: “Fifteen minutes long, because you’re in a hurry, and we’re not that smart”) that contains a lot of depth and a lot of insight.
November is coming up, and you know what that means. Turkey, holiday travel, obligatory family gatherings, and the flu (get your flu shot – they are available now! /end PSA). But also, NATIONAL NOVEL WRITING MONTH! Generally and affectionately called NaNoWriMo (which I pronounce nah-no-ree-mo, but have been informed that it’s pronounced nah-no-rye-mo).
NaNoWriMo is a huge writing event that lasts the entire month of November. The goal? To write 50,000 words, roughly 200 pages, in one month. That breaks down to 1,667 words daily for thirty days. Originally, the words were supposed to make up a novel, but now people use the event more loosely to just mean writing. The point is to inspire creation and creativity and to provide a supportive community to help people accomplish that word count goal, building good habits along the way. After all, the hardest part of anything is just the starting of it, and this way, the internet can hold you accountable. There are robust online forums, weekly pep talks by famous published authors, and physical regional events. So if you see a group of people intensely clacking away on laptops in a silent group in your library or local coffee shop, you might be able to guess what’s going on. Many NaNoWriMo winners go on to publish, including authors like Erin Morgenstern (The Night Circus), Hugh Howey (Wool), and Marissa Meyer (Cinder) [affiliate links].