November 6, 2011


Is everyone posting about this? It seems like it. It's a pretty big event. If you are one of those who don't know what Na(tional)No(vel)Wri(ting)Mo(nth) is, try reading between the lines. This challenge has been going for several years (can't seem to find a start date on the website). I participated last year, writing the bulk of Thickness of Blood (around 58 000 words) in the month of November. This year, I'm taking up the challenge again.

If you've ever wondered if you could write a book, check out the webpage. You might not finish the goal of 50 000 words this year. You might decide that writing really isn't your thing. Or, you might find the contacts and support to help you develop a kernel of an idea over three weeks (all that's left now) and be eager to come back November of 2012 with the intention of making that mark, of completing a novel (first draft).

I have heard some established authors use NaNoWriMo as a time to pull one of their closet ideas out and dust it off. It's a good time to really hash out an unfleshed idea and see if it has weight. If you get to the end of the month and it's still not a novel, well, you only wasted a month instead of many months or years slowly adding a couple hundred words at a time. You immerse in the idea for those thirty days instead of slow perking over months to find enough pieces to stitch together into a story.

There aren't any real rules to NaNoWriMo. My husband claimed last night that I can write sh*t 49998 times and finish with 'the end.' Don't listen to him, but do feel free to write ANYTHING. Stream of Conscious 50 000 words about a character who has been invading your dreams. Don't worry about a unifying theme, don't worry about protagonists and antagonists, don't worry about developing tension. The point here isn't to make a pretty novel. You aren't going to come out at the end of November with something you can pitch (unless you're really good, of course), but you should come out with a number of scenes, a cast of characters and the threads of a plot line. Now you're ready for draft two!

The 'point' of NaNoWriMo, in my opinion, is to find all those pieces. To take your nugget of an idea and build it into something bigger. It might be a tower of blocks leaning precariously to one side, but there's a structure there, there are pieces. Hopefully there's a beginning, middle and end. Now you can hit all those diagnostics. Who is the antagonist and why? Who is the antagonist? Do you have a companion character, more than one? Are there enough obstacles in the protagonist's way? Can you add more tension between and within characters. Don't ask these questions in November — get the words on the page. December is when the work begins.

But, if you're new to NaNoWriMo, and joining a bit late, don't feel intimidated. Set yourself a shorter goal, 30 000 words. Find those contacts, the other writers and editors and beta readers and contacts you will need if you find this is something you want to pursue. Give it a go. What's the worst that happens? You spend some of your free time writing instead of watching TV. Sounds like a good trade to me.

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