Saturday, August 23, 2008

No Plot? No Problem!

As the end of August nears, a very important month looms in the distance. It is a month of tribulation, trials, and tears, where patience will be tested and carpel tunnel syndrome intensified. Thirty fitful, sleepless nights, and thirty bleary-eyed, exhaustive days.

It's not the holiday shopping that will ultimately do me in, it's the writing. And I'm looking forward to it.

Last November, I participated for the first time in the world-wide writing challenge National Novel Writing Month (affectionately abbreviated as NaNoWriMo). I met the NaNo goal of 50,000 words but didn't fully understand what I did - and didn't - do right until I ingested (figuratively, not literally) the book No Plot? No Problem! by NaNo creator Chris Baty.

So, Mistake #1 was buying the book from Amazon in mid-October. Turns out there's a rush on the NaNo books in the weeks immediately preceding the novel writing month, and the book ends up out of stock and on back order. No Plot? No Problem! finally made it to my door a month later, but by that point I was too deeply entrenched in writing a book to bother reading one.

Mistake #2 was assuming that stringing together 50,000 random, more-or-less coherent words in one Word document was enough to declare myself a NaNo winner. Turns out that shoddily written or not, your book is supposed to have a beginning, a middle, and that thing that comes after the middle and, like, wraps it all up.

Well, two out of three ain't bad for a first timer, I suppose. I'll do better this November, and I'll be sure to keep Baty's (paraphrased) advice in mind:

  • A deadline is all you need to write a book, and the 30-day deadline, while obscene, is not a bad place to start. Inevitably, along with a deadline, a writing utensil of some kind comes in handy.
  • If you can sucker them into it, include others in your writing adventures. If you can't find someone to write with you, find someone who cheer you on, bet against you, or ridicule you mercilessly if you fail. Apparently, all forms of encouragement are helpful.
  • 50,000 words/ month = approximately 1,667 words/day or 1.158 words/minute. Doesn't sound so hard, right?
  • Write ceaselessly in 15- or 20-minute blocks of time and then reward yourself with chocolates. Mmmm.
  • Make a list of all the things you like reading in good books and make another list of all of the things you don't like reading in bad books. Try to include the first list in your novel while ceremoniously burning the second list. It's as simple as that.
  • Week two is the most painful and demoralizing week when most NaNoers throw in the towel if they don't have the incentive of looming failure and disappointed significant others to spur them on. It gets easier after 30,000 words. Week four is where you're supposed to, like, plan out how you will wrap everything up in the last 5,000 words or so. Damnit.
With No Plot? to back me up (or to rip to shreds in the throes of a NaNo-inspired fit of madness), 2008 is going to be a winner! Like, for real this time.

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