Friday, October 31, 2008

It Begins...

“The biggest thing separating people from their artistic ambitions is not a lack of talent. It’s the lack of a deadline.” – Chris Baty, founder of NaNoWriMo

So, with the big day starting tomorrow, I’d thought I’d let you in on a few things I learned from participating in NaNoWriMo last year.

First, understand that your novel is going to be bad. Really bad. I mean, really, really bad! This is not to say that there won’t be some good parts—because there will be—but most of it will stink.

Now, you might think that going in to something knowing ahead of time that you’re going to suck at it, might be a bad thing. But, you’d be wrong. It’s freeing!! You don’t have to worry about writing the next GREAT AMERICAN NOVEL. It’s not going to happen, so don’t stress about it.

Just write.

Who cares if your plot has more holes in it than something with a lot of holes, and that half-way through you decide to kill off your main character because she’s boring or somehow morphed into a space alien. The point is that you sat down, and wrote your little, trite, poorly-crafted heart out!

Second, and this directly relates to the first point, don’t worry about the research. If you don’t know it, make it up, and use as many words as you can think of to do so!

Just put the made up parts in caps, italics, or something, so you know where to go back later and find out the facts. And frankly, you probably know more than you think!

For example, I know that my main character is going to have dealings with police detectives. In fact, a police detective is going to become an important character with the first few chapters (somehow). Now, am I a police detective? No. I’ve I ever dealt with police detectives? No. But, I’ve watched tons of police-detective-type shows! So, for now, I’ll just rack my brain for any tidbits it can come up with and worry about the “facts” of how a “real” police investigation would go, later.

Last year, my book took place in Ohio. Have I ever been to Ohio? Nope. But I didn’t let that stop me! So, use your imagination, and don’t let the fact that you don’t know that “facts” be an excuse for not finishing your book.

Third, you might start out strong, but you’ll soon waiver on your commitment. (This happens to everyone around the 2nd / 3rd week.)

Trust me.

You’re going to be too busy.

You’re going to be too tired.

You’re going to be too bored.

You’re going to be too untalented.

You’re going to be too far behind.

You’re going to be too…something!

But don’t be tricked by your mental gymnastics! It’s just your inner self-doubt coming to the forefront. All you need to do is remember that you’ve given yourself the permission to write the WORST NOVEL ON THE PLANET!

So, pick yourself up, put yourself back at the computer, and keep typing! It will get better! I promise.

Besides, never forget that you have 11 months to fix it. No matter how bad it is, you can change it!

Now, just a few more little things.

If you can, and are on a roll, write more than the required 1667 words per day. Give yourself a buffer. It will help you on those days where you think your creativity has gone on strike and you can’t put a sentence together.

Also, if you’re like me, you want your first paragraph to be awesome. And waiting for the awesomeness to arrive will soak up valuable writing time. So, do what I do: if I really can’t think of a great first paragraph (which I never can), I just write “The super best, most witty and awesome paragraph ever written that tells us about…” and then I just give the facts of what I’d like it to say using the most words as possible.

Later, when the month is over, I’ll go back and make sure that my prose sings like a canary! (But using some other analogy that is far more creative.)

Lastly, don’t use contractions*. You want every word count you can get. Write out any numbers you use (even if it looks stupid)*. And use LOTS of adjectives.

The point is quantity, not quality. So, write your story, and don’t worry about it!

* This post contains 791 words. But, if I write out all the contractions and numbers, I would have 61 more words! For a total of 852 words. And that would mean that I was more than half-way to my 1667 word per day goal. See! Every word counts!!