Tag Archives: NaNoWriMo

Game on! Making writing fun 

It’s NaNoWriMo time.

As I said last month, I’m not really a NaNoWriMo participant. I do watch from the sidelines though. It’s interesting to watch writers push themselves to achieve word count goals. I do believe that the hardest part of writing is finishing a story, and anything that gets people to complete a project is probably a good thing.

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But I do worry about people putting ridiculous amounts of pressure on themselves to complete a project. Creating an artificial pressure-packed environment can make writing a chore, and that can give writers a bad taste in their mouths which can lead to less motivation, not more.

So how do you keep writing fun when the pressure is on?

Honestly, that’s a very hard question to answer. Sometimes writing really can be a chore. And if you’re trying to make a living at it, then it’s a chore that you have to do, just as much as if you were a pastry chef getting up at 4am for the umpteenth time and dragging yourself into work.

Here are a few things that might take the drudgery out of your writing as you try to maintain that 1,500 words per day goal that will get you close to a NaNoWriMo success.

  • Remove a significant character, and replace them with a completely different one. You don’t have to go all George R. R. Martin here, you don’t have to kill them. Maybe they just had to move away. Maybe your protagonist got into an argument with them, and they decided it was time to move on. Whatever the cause, this will force you to think about your characters’ personalities and give you a chance to explore how your protagonist deals with adversity.
  • Introduce some weather into your narrative. I can’t even think of the number of books I’ve read where it apparently never even rains, much less storms. Let nature become an obstacle to your characters’ goals. This is a great opportunity to paint a memorable scene.
  • It is apparently very difficult in a novel to get sick. Nobody ever seems to. I’ve read eight book series and the main characters never even get the sniffles. Your macho he-man hero type may be able to stare down a raging fire-breathing dragon, but how well does he handle a migraine?
  • Throw a party. In real life people go to parties all the time. Unless a party is part of the plot, characters in novels never seem to be invited to do anything. I’m writing this the day after Halloween. Maybe your main characters get invited to a costume party. What would they dress as? What would that reveal about their personalities that might not come out otherwise?

These are all things that can reveal new and interesting things about your character, while giving you something interesting and new to write. That’s when your mind is open to new ideas, and when your story can take interesting twists and turns that you didn’t anticipate. And if you didn’t anticipate them, it’s a good bet that your readers won’t either.

Defense Against the Dark Arts – Writer’s Block Edition

Help! I’m Stuck at 10K Words!

First of all, don’t panic. Ten thousand words is nothing to sneeze at and you’re well on your way towards a complete novel. In fact, congratulations are in order.

Normally when my brain stops sending typing instructions to my fingertips it’s because there is something it’s still working on. Some piece of information is missing like what comes next or what should the main character do now that she’s up to her neck in quicksand.

Here are some techniques I use to get through “writer’s block”:

Time Travel

Pick a different chapter of your novel and start writing. If your protagonist is in quicksand now, you know she’ll get out somehow and get to the town of Quadloon because she has to confront Prince Evilson. Feel free to leave her hanging (don’t worry, she won’t mind) and just jump to where she walks into Quadloon. Continue the story from that point. Eventually your brain will come up with some fantastic bridge between the two points and you can go back and fill that section in.

Dimension Travel

Can’t figure out anything that is supposed to happen to your hapless characters without getting her out of that quicksand? Are you a dedicated pantser and have to let the characters dictate what happens next? That’s certainly one of the perils of not planning anything out at all.

There’s nothing in the rules that says you have to work on one novel at a time. If you had another idea for a novel in your head, go ahead and start writing that one. It would be best if it was a different genre, but work with what your brain hands you. Even if you get stuck at ten thousand words with the second novel, you can start three more and hit your 50K goal. Perfectly legal and valid to do so! The idea is to get you in the habit of writing.

Form Travel

You can always switch out to writing short stories during NaNoWriMo. Indeed, ending up with ten 5K stories should up your odds to getting one or more published after a bit of polish. Even getting half a novel and five or six short stories should add up to your goal.

If you’re a student and you’re going to have a research paper due in December, get to work on it now and kill two birds with one stone. Turn something in early and shock your instructor and have it count for your output. That’s a win-win!

 


 

About the Author:DeMarco_Web-5963

Guy Anthony De Marco is a disabled US Navy veteran speculative fiction author; a Graphic Novel Bram Stoker Award® nominee; winner of the HWA Silver Hammer Award; a prolific short story and flash fiction crafter; a novelist; an invisible man with superhero powers; a game writer (Sojourner Tales modules, Interface Zero 2.0 core team, third-party D&D modules); and a coffee addict. One of these is false.
A writer since 1977, Guy is a member of the following organizations: SFWA, WWA, SFPA, IAMTW, ASCAP, RMFW, NCW, HWA. He hopes to collect the rest of the letters of the alphabet one day. Additional information can be found at Wikipedia and GuyAnthonyDeMarco.com.

The Case Against NaNoWriMo

I started off this month intending to talk about ways to help your writing by shutting out the world, a thing that seems increasingly difficult to do these days. Instead: heresy! You writers of delicate constitution, turn away now! For I am about to reveal to you the case against participating in National Novel Writing Month.

Sure, NaNo’s intentions are pure: provide a structured and semi-competitive environment to get writers writing. What could be wrong with that? Well, frequent readers of my posts at Fictorians will know that I set a lot of store by each writer figuring out what works for them and following that.

And the thing is, for some writers, cranking out 50,000 words in a month is either not doable, or, more likely, not recommended.

Once upon a time, shortly after my very first trip to Superstars Writing Seminar, I wrote the first draft of a 100,000 word novel in under three months. I left the seminar more inspired than I’d every felt about my writing, and was determined to prove that I could write a novel faster than my first, which took … well, it took a long time. For this second book, I averaged 10,000 words a week, more than a thousand a day. That’s not quite NaNo speed, but it’s close, and it continued well past one month.

I wound up with a completed first draft, a feat I was immensely proud of. The problem? It was utter trash, and even worse, I was so burned out I didn’t plop down in front of the keyboard again for several months. When I did, rather than cleaning up the draft, which I frankly couldn’t bear to look at again, I started work on my actual second novel, which I still plan to show the world someday. I don’t know if I’ll ever go back to fix up that three-month draft. In the end, I’d done what I set out to do, but I’d cranked it out so fast and with so little consideration I ended up with something I had no motivation left to finish. I’d burned too bright, Blade Runner-style.

Flash forward a couple of years to the only time I’ve ever truly done NaNo as it was meant to be done, with a new book and all fresh writing. That time, I worked on the first draft of a book that would that would never see the light of day. Starting to notice a pattern? I certainly did. Apparently, when I force myself to write too fast, I end up with books I hate.

As with all good rules, there’s an exception. When I was working on Ungrateful God, I had an editing deadline I had to hit, and I burned myself out doing it. I was pleased with the result this time, but it required a lot of edits once I got it back, edits I wasn’t able to get going with for several months. The pattern again.

I’ve finally learned my lesson. So long as I have a day job (hint-hint, potential fans!), I can only write so fast without burning out. Push it too much past that for too long, and my creative river dries up whether I like it or not.

NaNo is a great motivator for a great many writers. I’ve even participated since that first time, but I relax the rules for myself. Edited words count. Working on a different project (or, say, a blog post for Fictorians) counts. Even if all I do in a given day is some mental planning out of scenes or chapters or arcs, that counts. Because the point of NaNo isn’t to rigidly adhere to an arbitrary set of rules. It’s to provide you a little motivation to get writing in the form of your friends who are doing the same thing. Whether that’s 50,000 works, 500,000 words, or 500 words, the point is the same. Remember: even one word is better than zero.

So take a seat behind the keyboard and, without worrying about how many, see if you can crank out some words this month. C’mon, everybody’s doing it!

 

 

About the Author: Gregory D. Littleheadshot

Rocket scientist by day, fantasy and science fiction author by night, Gregory D. Little began his writing career in high school when he and his friend wrote Star Wars fanfic before it was cool, passing a notebook around between (all right, during) classes. His novels Unwilling Souls and Ungrateful God are available now from ebook retailers and trade paperback through Amazon.com. His short fiction can be found in The Colored Lens, A Game of Horns: A Red Unicorn Anthology, Dragon Writers: An Anthology, and the upcoming Undercurrents: An Anthology of What Lies Beneath. He lives with his wife and their yellow lab.

You can reach him at his website (www.gregorydlittle.com), his Twitter handle (@litgreg) or at his Author Page on Facebook.

 

Money Where Your Mouth Is

Anthology with story from Mary Pletsch

Many writers benefit from the camaraderie of National Novel Writing Month. Writing is often a solitary pursuit, whether as occupation or as hobby. Knowing that there is a vast network of people out there going through the same things you are creates common ground.

Whether on formal NaNoWriMo boards and hashtags, or just on your own social media with people you know who are also doing NaNoWriMo, you can find people to vent to, people to talk to, people who understand.

But beware…

If you’ve been reaching out to a writing community–taking part in a writer’s group, going to cons, networking, attending launch parties, anywhere writers tend to gather–you will already know the people who like “the writer lifestyle” more than the actual writing.

These are the people who love to talk all about the plot and characters for their novel, even though they’ve been talking about the same story for years and still haven’t finished their first draft. These are the people whose book is on its 39th draft, but they’re considering changing the main character in a heavy rewrite. These are the people who say they want to be pros, but act like hobbyists.

If you’re taking part in NaNoWriMo, will you be spending most of your NaNo time writing a novel, or will you be spending it on social media or at in-person gatherings talking about your story, writing in general, how your day is going, what coffee to order…instead of actually writing?

If this has been you in the past, ask yourself what you really want. Do you want to complete a novel? Or do you want to hang out with people you think are cool and talk about your ideas?

There’s nothing wrong with writing as a hobby, and there’s nothing wrong with finding friends to share your hobbies. But if completing a novel is a secondary goal, be honest with yourself. Spend time with like-minded people and support your friends who are working hard to finish their books.

Conversely, if completing a novel is your primary goal, be wary of how you spend your time. The bulk of your NaNo time should be spent accomplishing that goal. In-person gatherings can be fun, but if you’re more productive on your own, make a choice that supports your goal. Online updates can be motivating and online venting can provide you with support, but social media posts do not count towards your word limit.

Finally, you may have a challenge if you are serious but your friends are hobbyists. If they are true friends, they will understand how important your goal is and support you as you work to reach it. However, you may have issues with acquaintances who resented the time you spend on writing, as it takes time away from mutual brainstorming, character-building, plot-creation “hobby” time. If your friends are angry because you are working on your book instead of proofreading the 39th draft of their novel, drawing art of the new character they’ve created for their story that they’ve been writing for the past five years, or just hanging out with them in the coffee shop, then your “friends” are more interested in what you can do for them than in your success.

Fortunately, NaNoWriMo events can help you connect with new people who are as serious about their writing as you are, so even when you are putting the bulk of your time into writing, you can know that you’re not alone.

Happy writing!