Soooo… Please excuse the ultra-descriptive title: I used up all of my words on NaNoWriMo.
Yesterday I said that I’ll talk more about my NaNoWriMo. Also, some people have asked me how I write. I have no idea why anyone would ask me, but I might as well reveal what I do during NaNoWriMo. If it can help anyone else, I’m happy!
Firstly, a few things about NaNoWriMo. I know that a lot of people criticize this endeavour. I know that a lot of people say that a good novel cannot be written in a month. And to those people I would say that you are absolutely right. A good novel can (probably) not be written in 30 days. However, this is not what NaNoWriMo is about. It is about sitting down and writing that first draft, while the experience of writing along with thousands of other like-minded people is your motivation to continue. NaNoWriMo gives you the freedom to write absolute crap and, believe me, a large part of my current novel is exactly that. For instance:
- The characterisation is extremely inconsistent. Yes, your people have to grow throughout the novel, but if they return after a chapter break with a completely different personality, I think there is a problem (though you might be able to argue that it is just the psychology of your character coming through :P).
- None of my characters have surnames, because I didn’t have time to think of any. I’ll have to add that later.
- I switched the words “hauberk” and “halberd” for a large part of the novel. I think you might have some trouble cutting someone’s head off with a hauberk, but that’s how I wrote it. I’m not sure, but maybe you’d have to sharpen it first, or something?
- I forgot the word for that thing you use to play the violin with, so I referred to it as “the stick-thing” several times, because I didn’t have time to stop and look it up. I still can’t remember that word.
- I forgot about several characters halfway through the novel. I got to the last scenes and suddenly realized that I’d lost a few people along the way. Not sure where they are stranded at the moment…
- One guy had a sudden sexuality change three-quarters of the way into the story. I do hope I haven’t given him an identity crisis! 😉
- There are inconsistencies over key points across several chapters. There are even some flashbacks to stuff that never happened.
Yeah, that’s all I can think of right now. So, except for the large part in the middle that I haven’t written yet, can you see how much work this thing still needs? Am I still proud of it? Yes, I am, because I managed to get this story that has been turning in my head for ages now down and I know that I would not even have started without NaNoWriMo.
My point is that NaNoWriMo allows you to write at top speed, to write without worrying about everything you say, because NaNoWriMo kills your inner editor. You are not allowed to go back and edit during NaNo. Your inner editor is not allowed to come interrupt you by telling you that everything you do is crap (and if she does, pack her off on a holiday to the South Pole). This gives you the freedom to get that first draft down – which you can then edit at your leisure – without agonizing over your concord use (something I’m always agonizing about).
In the Day 28 pep talk by Nick Hornby that the NaNo site sent out, Mr Hornby talks about that great question “Am I a good writer?” and the uncertainty that surrounds it. Here’s a bit of what he said in answer to the question:
I’m afraid you will never know the answer to that one. No writer does. (Some writers think they do, but they are usually wrong.)
By contrast, it is easy to tell whether you are a good high jumper. If you knock the bar down every time, then I regret to tell you that you are not. You cannot be an underrated high jumper, or an unlucky high jumper, or an overpraised high jumper, or a high jumper whose reputation relies entirely on his or her connections to the wealthy and influential. Your high-jumping work cannot be trashy or elitist or obscure or sentimental. If you work in the arts, however, life can get pretty confusing. There is no bar to knock down, and as a consequence, there is no sturdy judgment to be made. Shakespeare—he was good, right? Like, officially? Tolstoy didn’t think so, and neither did George Bernard Shaw.
I don’t know whether I am a good writer, but I do know that I have written one novel and parts of two more and that none of that would have happened without NaNoWriMo.
Sorry, I didn’t mean to make all of this about the worth of NaNoWriMo. So, on to the next bit! 🙂
I don’t think I could tell you how I write. I write. That’s it. That’s what you do to become a writer. To become a published author is a completely different hurdle, of course, and not one that I can talk about. I write every single day of my life. For the last year or so I haven’t written any fiction at all. I wrote about my own life and musings about stuff that I thought about, like why peaches have hair. It’s called freewriting and I think it’s awesome. For this, I use 750words.com. Also, if you want a creative writing book with exercises, try The Creative Writing Coursebook by Bell and Magrs. I read it and it basically changed my writing life. For writing during NaNoWriMo, I use writeordie.com, because I am a professional procrastinator and to write at my true capacity I need both a timer to race against and a punishment if I stop writing.
That’s it really. I use Scrivener as novel-writing program and I think it’s wonderful. yWriter is a good free alternative that I’ve also used. All that I can do further with this post is share some sites and links that help me in writing in the hope that they can also help other aspiring novelists out there. I found most of them via Pinterest.
Some great questions to answer about your characters to help you get to know them better. I did this before NaNo started and some great ideas came from it.
An exercise for stronger character relationships.
^^ By the way, if you’re interested in ever getting published, go follow Jane Friedman on Twitter. Right now. She tweets awesomely useful stuff about the industry and writing.
And for funnies:
My last day of NaNo was everything this was meant to be about. I had 2,300 words to go to the end. I knew that meant about an hour and a half’s writing. Some Wrimos prefer short sprints, but I prefer to write my whole quota in one go. So, that evening, I went for a shower and came back to my laptop, only to find that the internet had broken. The Wi-Fi wasn’t connecting. The modem had stopped working. What now? NaNoWriMo says zero excuses. I would just have to make do without writeordie for once. But with all the messing about I had only about an hour and 20 minutes to go to midnight. There was only one way I’d still manage to verify my novel without that modem and that was by connecting my phone to my laptop and using that as a modem, but it’s so slow, I had to reckon it in. So that meant I had an hour and a quarter left to write 2,300 words. Challenge accepted.
I can’t say I’ve never written that fast before, because I have, but I’d certainly never written that fast all week. Things suddenly started to come easier again and I enjoyed writing the final scene, cheese fest or not. I just typed. I forgot how much my leg ached (I had this sort of spasm in my calf muscle for two days straight and it hurt SO bad. My mother’s opinion: serve you right for always sitting on your feet, instead of like a proper person.). Ten to midnight I had enough words. Then I still had to compile the full manuscript from Scrivener which took another couple of minutes. In the mean time I’d set up the phone-modem connection and by the time it was ready, I was ready to upload the full text of my novel. It seemed like an hour before it uploaded because of the slow connection, but at 23:58 the verification went through and I got the winner’s confirmation. So that is the story of how I finished with exactly 24 hours to spare. Both previous NaNo’s I finished with half an hour to spare, so I’m very happy with the PR!
Full word count: 51430
Hours to get to 50K: just over 28
Any other Wrimos here: how did your month go?
Remember, always write, always read and never forget your writer’s manifesto!
And now this post is almost the length of a normal NaNoWriMo entry and I should stop. Now I’m going to go read my new A Game of Thrones book. Yep, I’m starting this series. I just hope this isn’t the start of another addiction, because I have too many already! 😉
Until the cartoons return!
PS: please note that no part of this post was in any way sponsored. This was genuinely the things that I use and enjoy.