As part of my participation in My 500 words, I am posting what I write each day.
National Novel Writing Month begins in less than a week. It began years ago with a group of friends and a dare. Who could write a novel in a month? They defined a novel from book they pulled off the shelf, a short, but good book, that they estimated to be about 50,000 words. So the challenge is to write 50,000 words in one month. This year, tens of thousands will participate.
I attended a kick-off event yesterday in San Bernardino for our local chapter of NaNoWriMo where our local representative explained what it was about. Most of the room had never done it before. People asked good questions and I enjoyed actually being in the same room with other writers.
She gave helpful advice. Most important: quantity, not quality. NaNoWriMo is not about producing a flawless manuscript worthy of publication. It’s about hammering out 50,000 words in 30 days, 1,667 words a day. Those words need to create a story. It’s all about producing those words.
Don’t edit, she said, which I knew. Then she said something I hadn’t considered, don’t delete. You may write a big section, she said, and then decide you don’t want it. Keep it as part of your word count. You wrote those words as part of the challenge, you should keep them.
I think that’s good advice for writers just starting out. I’m not sure how I feel about some the ways to pad word counts, avoiding hyphens and contractions. But NaNoWriMo allows for writers to do what works for them. I can choose not to do some things if I feel it’s wrong. I may make it harder for myself, but if that’s how I have fun writing, then so be it.
She asked who was a planner and who was a pantser. A few people knew what that meant. Planners plan their novels, pantsers write by the seat of their pants, making it up as they go. There are all kinds of planners and many lengths a writer can go to plan.
I answered that I’m a planner for November. I have written some things making them up as I go. It is a fun way to write, but it can be frustrating trying to stick to the storyline. While I don’t believe in writer’s block, I know that a writer might not always be able to stick to the subject for a particular time goal or deadline. Sometimes, what needs to be written will call loudly away from what the writer wants to work on.
I plan my November novels. I might think about ideas all year and as November approaches, I narrow it all down to one idea. In October I take the time to write outlines and lists of scenes. I have written autobiographies of characters in their own voice, getting to know who they are as well as their story. Last year I drove out to the desert, hours away from civilization, to camp. I sat with my notebook and pen and wrote story outlines for Sidewinder, the best story I’ve produced so far.
The first year I did NaNoWriMo I didn’t plan much. I knew what I wanted the story to be about and I knew what the main characters wanted. I didn’t finish the novel when my laptop crashed. I saved my data, but I was derailed by not having my little laptop that I had relied on for so long. Even though the family had a computer, I didn’t finish the novel that year and I know the main reason. I’ll share that tomorrow.