Reasons to NOT do NaNoWriMo, and why those reasons are bogus!

It’s that time of year again when hundreds of thousands of writers and would-be writers converge on a global scale to unleash the novel within them. And every year there’s a new group of eye-rolling naysayers that complain that NaNoWriMo is the opposite of what any writer should do.

I’m here to dispel these arguments once and for all.

Argument #1: NaNoWriMo confuses discipline with motivation

Here the argument is that one should write every day in order to excel at something instead of getting excited and running right out of the gate. And, there’s some truth to that. You can’t expect to write for 30 days out of 365 and become a master storyteller.

That’s not what NaNoWriMo is. WriMo is about breaking through the barrier that is the blank page. It’s about having writing coaches and encouragement. It’s about learning that “waiting for your Muse” is no way for anyone to get better or even do ANYTHING.

NaNo takes the motivation and excitement, builds on it, and makes you keep going for 30 days. At the end of 30 days, I’ve met few who reach the 50k goal and DON’T keep writing. Why? Simply put, it creates discipline.

Argument #2: NaNoWriMo trivializes the writing process

This comes from “serious” writers and authors who have toiled and tormented over their work for decades and expects the same from you even when you first start out.

Their argument rests on the fact that they have long since forgotten how they started out as a writer. Sitting in their room at 14 and scratching away at their composition notebook. They didn’t toil and bleed then. It grew into a craft. NaNo says it’s time to up your game from the short scribblings and “plans” to write that novel.

Sure, some people write during NaNo and don’t write the rest of the year. Those people will never publish and probably have zero interest in publishing. They’re just having a little fun living in a world they created. The rest of us treat it and the craft with the utmost respect.

Argument #3: Writing a novel is a year-round process

So true. Nobody said that come December 1st you have a finished novel that is then ready for publication.

WriMo is for getting the words down on paper. It’s a first draft. It’s getting you over the biggest hurdles: the blank page and the Internal Editor. It lets you unabashedly try new things, new ideas, new plot points, that you wouldn’t allow yourself to consider otherwise. Heck, it pushes you to work out all the details so you can then go back (AFTER NOVEMBER OF COURSE) and edit and perfect the word choice and grammar.

There are a small percentage that write in November and then try to publish in December, but that’s not the majority and those people are off anyway. Then again, 1% of 400,000 + people is still WAY more than any agent or publisher wants to see in December.

Argument 4: Word count isn’t everything

This might be true. And in WriMo, we only care about word count. But the serious WriMos still consider the words in that count counts for something. Most don’t just drop gobbledygook.

But again, remember, NaNo is just as much about building discipline and building muscle (both imagination muscles and typing/writing muscles) as it about word count. It’s just that word count is a quantifiable goal. Just like Book In A Week which uses page numbers as the goal.

Conclusion

A lot of writers, myself included, need goals and deadlines. NaNo provides both and does so in a fun and entertaining way.

For me, I use NaNoWriMo to write the first draft of my new novel. I spend the rest of the year editing, writing short stories, rewriting, and submitting older novels and short stories. I need the kick in the pants to get past the dreaded Blank Page. And writing a full novel from nothing is daunting. November gets me over that hump in a way that’s fun for me. This is true of many many other WriMos.

There’s nothing damaging about WriMo and nothing bad about it. But like anything fun, misused it because a problem. If you ONLY write anything in November, you lose. If you submit your 1st draft of ANYTHING to any agent or publisher, you’re bonkers!

 

 

Charater Biographies: A NaNoWriMo How To

One of the quickest ways to get bogged down in “writer’s block” is to not know your characters. Not knowing your main characters leaves you (and your characters) speechless when push comes to shove. And there will be a lot of shoving in November. National Novel Writing Month is fun, but it can get…hectic.

How do you get through it?

I say character bios are the best way.

You probably know what a character bio is, but try and sit down and write one. Just try it. Go ahead I’ll wait…

See! What do you have? Birthplace? Age? Gender? Name? Occupation? Not much huh?

How about this:

Facebook Page: This might sound silly, but think about it. What do people put on their FB pages? Everything! And who doesn’t know FB already. I even had a friend of mine actually create a FB page for her main jerk character. She did it because everyone who read her story hated him and she wanted to play with us. It was a riot!

Plus, you get to know your character inside and out. Their desires, their “likes”, their friends, hometown, dislikes.

Conversations: Some of my writer friends actually have conversations with their characters in their head. Laugh as you will, it seems to work for them. Me, I recognize the borderline mental illness that comes with having lively conversations with imaginary friends. Then again, don’t all fiction writers do this to some extent?

Me? I actually write dialogs. I have my character talk to whoever or whatever I want. Just something, so I can get a sense of their voice. Without knowing your character’s voice, they will sound just like your narrator, and unless you’re writing first person, that’s a problem.

I also write long back stories. I don’t write actual back STORIES like friends of mine, but I take extensive notes that include everything from relatives to pets to regular irritations, loves, hates, and the like. Anything that comes to mind that builds my characters into living breathing individuals. See? I’m just as ill.

Note Cards and Separate Documents: Have all these bios surrounding you. Either on the way where you write most often or on your phone or on your computer so you can easily get to them when the going gets tough and the time gets going.

How do you write your Character Bios?

NaNoWriMo: How are you preparing?

Less than 4 weeks away before the official kick-off of the NaNoWriMo season. Of course, that doesn’t mean that NOTHING is happening between now and November 1st. OH NO! There’s prep!

So what do you do to prepare yourself for NaNoWriMo?

Here’s what I do:

1. Outlines: Whatever it is you want to call an outline. I don’t do the spider web or bubble designs for outlines. I write loads of notes.

My notes get written/typed out in a million different places and I still haven’t figured out the best means to my easy ends. I use Evernote for much of my phone note making. But I also use a small pocket notebook (the traditional paper kind), GTasks To-Do app that allows me to add reminder notifications, and Google Keep. I’ve attempted to use Scrivener on a large scale for my big products. It’s super handy for outlines and prepping for NaNoWriMo. Problem is, it has ZERO mobile component.

If I’m not at my computer and come up with a great idea, it CAN’T go into Scrivener. Period. So, as things get closer, I have to piece everything together. Not the best method. But it’s mostly because I’m still trying to find ways to get all my notes and writing in one place.

2. Friends and Writing Buddies: That’s right. Find others that can keep you motivated, help you along, and just generally provide pep talks when the times get…rocky. I already have 10 or so, which is twice as many as last year and the year before that I did it alone. Friendly competitions works well as a self-motivator.

3. NaNoWriMo Swag: Who can’t live with a little more stuff? Especially when that stuff is stickers, posters, t-shirts, and the like. I bought a friendly competition poster where all our names will go up and progress will be followed. Winner gets bragging writes. Since we’re all writers, bragging rights are hard to come by and well sought after.

4. Scheduling: This one might not seem obvious, but 1700 words a day for 30 days can take some effort. Now is the time to figure out when and how that’s going to happen. If you’ve got family (and most of us do), you’ll be spending time with them during the holiday weekend. That knocks several days off your list. Are you going to write late at night? Early in the morning? During breaks? In your sleep?

Since I’m a NaNoWriMo Municipal Liaison, I’ve already scheduled my time into a bunch of Write-ins I’m hosting. But that doesn’t I’m writing then. I’ll be hosting those events. I have to find time elsewhere. Which I haven’t yet. EEK!

5. Candy: I need an endless supply of sugar and other bad for me stimulants. I’ve got buckets stacked to the ceiling waiting for day one. I’ll figure out what I’m going to do the next 29 days later.