National Novel Writing Month is one of my most favorite events to participate in. Not only is a platform to jump start my novels, but every time I participate I learn something new about my writing process. I’ve attempted NaNoWriMo for four years now (and won 3 years) and these five things are just a handful of what I’ve learned.
1.You Don’t Need a Plot, Just an Idea.
I’ve never outlined a novel, its not my style, but NaNoWriMo has sparked another event: NaPloYoNoMo (National Plot Your Novel Month). It’s not for me. All I really need is an idea and the determination to sit down at my computer and tell you about it. I prefer my stories to evolve naturally, rather than try to force them to fit an outline I think would work well. Oh, I will admit that I do want to see certain events take place between characters or with the plot, but I’m not going to force my characters to do something outside their nature.
2. There’s a Time and a Place for your Inner Editor.
Shutting up my inner editor took awhile. I couldn’t do it my first year trying out NaNoWriMo. I would have to go back to fix that certain something that pulled at me. A misspelled word underlined in red would scream ‘HELP ME’ until I fixed it. Or I’d write a paragraph and later on think “I really didn’t need to do that” and go back and delete it all.
Later on, I discovered my inner editor was just another obstacle to writing my story. Once I figured that out I could tell him it wasn’t time for him to be here just yet, the story wasn’t ready, come back later. It wasn’t easy to get him to go on vacation but I did it.
3. There’s Always Time to Write.
One of the first things I asked myself when I was deciding to do NaNoWriMo was: When was I going to find the time to write 52,000 words?
I didn’t have an answer, not right away at least. But, when I finally decided to just try it anyway I found all this time I had never thought I had. Instead of watching TV I’d write. I’d write instead of surfing the internet or playing games. I’d be thinking about the story while at work or in the shower, trying to figure out what was next so I could get to writing as soon as I had a free minute.
If I had a good idea about the story I could write a mile a minute and rack up the word count numbers. Other days I’d struggle to find something to write about. Either way I added to the number, and gave my inner editor something to look forward to.
4. Writer’s Block is a Myth.
I’m not saying writer’s block doesn’t exist, we all have those times where we just can’t figure out what the heck our characters are supposed to be doing or where the flip the plot is heading. What I am saying is the only way out of a writer’s block is to write. Even if the writing is crap just keep writing until you get to a point where you do know what the characters are doing and the plot is back on track. That’s what works for me.
Sometimes writer’s block is just a way of your brain telling you you need a break. Your eyes are going square from staring at the computer too long. You’re mentally and/or physically exhausted. You haven’t had a shower in three days. Get up, walk around, shower, eat, grab a cup of coffee, socialize, whatever it takes to clear your head for awhile. Maybe take a nap. Then come back to the computer reread your last few paragraphs or lines and carry on.
5. Keep Writing.
No matter what happens, keep writing your story until it’s finished. Then start a new one. That’s what I hear Sir Terry Pratchett did. He had a set amount of words he’d write each day. If he finished one novel before that number was up, he’d start a new novel and keep going.
Now that’s what I’m telling myself and you. Just Keep Writing.