credit to: Debbie Ridpath Ohi, InkyGirl.com
National Novel Writing Month begins! I have participated in four Nano’s, and I love the idea and the process. Forever more, now, I can say that I can write 2300 words every two days. My preferred schedule was to write every other day, 2300, for a month. It sounds like a lot- about 200 words per page, so maybe 10 or so pages typed. I treated it like a sitcom or episodic that I really wanted to watch on TV. Before I went to bed the day before, I’d think: what do I want to happen to these characters? Write it down, and then the next day, after work, working out, a quick dinner, I’d sit down in Starbucks- I was in Seattle at the time- and dive into the next chapter. I also had a “no back edit rule”- which was, I can change typos and obvious grammar things, but no rewriting. That led to some interesting situations where I wrote myself into a corner.
Nano is great in that it made me finish things, and it made me work on having a more disciplined approach to writing. I realized that writing every day is about half the battle. I needed to create a structure for writing and stick to it. Inspiration and nice turns of phrase are great, but they don’t shoot down on you like some creative beam of light. You have to work on it. I also noticed in Nanowrimo, and the novels I wrote from Nanowrimo, that once in a while things rocked. And once in a while they sucked. And I was getting a lot better at distinguishing the suckiness from the rockingness.
About the community: I heard one professional (technical-copy) writer say that Nanos wanted ” a group hug over their writing, even though it sucks.” I think she was bitter, and perhaps a little scared, at the growing popularity of amateurs writing novels. I was never scared, I had a job unrelated to writing, I guess, so it was never a competitive fear. I have never liked writing workshops though, perhaps because I feel so keenly good and bad writing and really personally hate writers who have different styles that I don’t like. But, with Nanowrimo, the writer community is so unabashedly unpretentious, it doesn’t have the common pitfalls of other writer groups. I have been so pleasantly surprised by Nano writers. At the final party people put up a page or so of their writing on a big clothesline and you walk around reading the samples. I’ve talked to people at cafes and in the nano-write-ins (cafes, around the city, where you can drop in with your laptop or pad of paper and write) and knew the plot or project, but when I read the sample I was incredibly impressed: a Hawaiian guy’s story of racing cars, a woman’s sci-fi story about molecules (hard to explain, but was amazing), and such. Really fun. Unfortunately can’t write this year as I’m finishing up iMurder- and I’ve been writing steadily all year, which means I don’t have to power through Nanowrimo. But I recommend it for anyone who thinks they have a novel in them- and I would LOVE to go to the parties!