NaNoWriMo

October is prep time for National Novel Writing Month in November.  I’ll be racing for 50,000 words next month, just like thousands of others around the world.  One of the best books I’ve read about writing is No Plot? No Problem!, by Chris Baty, who is the founder of NaNoWriMo.  At the risk of taking all the fun out of it (it’s a really enjoyable read), here are the notes I took from this book last October while I was prepping for NaNo 2019.  Think of this as a matted tangle of good advice that probably makes very little sense out of context.  I highly recommend you read the book instead.

  • “Writing for its own sake has surprising rewards.” Seek to achieve the zone where the writer becomes a passive conduit for the story. 
  • The deadline is the essential motivator.  Low expectations, high yield, exuberant imperfection. 
  • Find time by analyzing your own daily schedule.  Set aside the internet, non-writing friends, and television.  Approach scheduling with light heart and open mind. 
  • In writing at home, isolate yourself, use uninterrupted blocks of time, limit your writing to those times, don’t write in view of a bed, be comfortable, keep the writing area neat. 
  • Listen to the voice of the universe giving you material; use a notebook to write it down. 
  • Benefits of limited planning: you might stumble across something brilliant; planning becomes an excuse to put off writing; prewriting takes the fun out of writing. 
  • What, to you, makes a good novel?  What is the novel you want to read?
  • What are the things that bore or depress you in novels?  Make these two lists.  If you won’t enjoy reading it, you won’t enjoy writing it. 
  • Pitch the plot to yourself, from start to finish, repeatedly. 
  • What would happen if we added an orangutan to the mix?
  •  The story suggests its own setting.  Model your settings on real-life locations you know. 
  • During week one: Confiscate the inner editor. 
  • Take the challenge seriously.  But do not take the work too seriously.  Ride the momentum.  Don’t delete, but mark sections to be deleted. 
  • Keep a novel notes file. Don’t tell anybody your story. 
  • Write about something that scares you.  Ask somebody to tell you about their strange uncle. 
  • Watch a good TV show with analysis in mind. 
  • Don’t feel like each chapter has to be right before moving on to the next one. 
  • Split up writing sessions, two a day, and write every day during week one. Wake up 30 minutes early. 
  • Week two: Still having no plot is not uncommon.  Characters may rise and fall in importance.  “Don’t get it right, get it written.” 
  • When you’re not writing, be open to “plot flashes.” 
  • Create notes within the story to indicate idea changes, don’t go back and change earlier chapters. 
  • Push yourself to exhaustion because you know you’ve got the potential. 
  • Switch to writing on paper sometimes. 
  • End your writing sessions in mid-sentence. 
  • Week three: Catch up on any word debt.  Feel gravity taking effect as the trail turns downhill.  Let the momentum fly.  Break things, break a character’s arc.  Add more conflict. 
  • Week four: Finish.  Write the ending, regardless of how far away you think you are. Come-from behind victories are a time-honored part of NaNoWriMo.

Good luck to anybody who is participating this November.  God bless NaNoWriMo and Chris Baty.

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