That NaNo Thing: National Novel Writing Month

It's that time of year again. November. It's been a time of harvest and preservation, and a time of family (way too much family, and it's not even Thanksgiving around here...) and a time of writing. There is no need to go into the history of the wild band of pensmen and penswomen in San Francisco who started the NaNoWriMo movement. You can read about it on their website. "It" stands for "National Novel Writing Month," and the object of the game is to write 50,000 words between November 1st and 30th.

This will be my third year doing NaNoWriMo, and I've "won" the two previous years, writing over 50K both times. The first year my husband asked if you could write the same word "fifty-thousand times." Yes. I'm sure some do. Or they copy the dictionary. Or they write proprioceptively emptying the contents of their brains directly into their hard drives.

The inside of my brain would look something like this. So many things. So much going on. But is there a plot? (I do love to do a lot of things, not just writing and illustrating, and I worried about that. Maybe I was schizophrenic. My shrink assured me that was not the case; I was a polymath. I feel better now. I think.) 

I couldn't approach NaNoWriMo that way. I couldn't approach writing a novel that way. The word "novel" is the key to the whole exercise. You are writing a novel: that means it has characters, voice, setting and a plot. Some participants call themselves "pantsers," meaning that they write by the seat of their pants. I'm not one of them. I want to make the best use of this gift of a weird deadline. Under normal circumstances writing 50K words, which is close to 200 manuscript pages is insane to attempt in thirty days. But it is doable. And donable. (yeah, you can make up words, too.) But the real trick- or treat- is that it makes you turn off your inner editor, the little voice that says "you suck." When you have so little time, you have to tell that voice to "shut the heck up," and get back to your writing. They'll be plenty of time to edit over the next year.

So I began with an outline way before November 1st. This year I'm writing an upper Middle Grade novel. I had the idea for this book years ago, and in 2008 I wrote a 25 page outline for it. Then right before NaNo started, I did heavy research so it would be fresh in my mind- I love to mix facts and fiction. The research gives my story texture, richness and hopefully believability. Plus I get to learn all sorts of cool things. (For example: did you know that folk wisdom says that if you want a boy, when you are pregnant you should eat red meat and salty things, and the husband/father should drink coke? Who knew?)

Then the rest is up to you. Open that document. Put your fingers on the keyboard, and listen to the voices in your head. One of the best parts about this is that when you are in the flow, even though you may have outlined and thought you knew exactly what was going on, your characters will take on a life of their own and surprise and delight you. Keep typing and transcribing. If you write about 1700 words per day, you'll "win." You win way more than feeling the accomplishment of writing all those words- you also win a Work In Progress that is already a first draft. That's better than just talking about that novel you're going to write someday.

Okay. I'm wasting words. I'm on page 36 of my WIP now. Time to get back to it. My characters have things to tell me, and at this moment in time, my fictional life is much happier than what is going on at home.

Happy NaNoWriMo-ing!
With Love,

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