Saturday, 30 November 2013

What You Can Learn from NaNoWriMo

It's 30 November.  That marks the end of the month of madness known as NaNoWriMo.  Yay!  I won.

I've spoken with a few other writers regarding their views on NaNoWriMo.  Some aren't terribly in favour of the idea, the methodology or some other cosmic reason.  That's okay. I understand what NaNoWriMo's about.

I think it's a good thing.  And this is why:


See this pretty illustration I just made?

These are the three phases of writing.

DREAMER:  First we dream of a story, or a character, or a plot, or something.  This is what stirs our soul.  This excites us and makes us want to be a writer.  But until we write it down, we're only daydreaming. Alas.

WRITER:  To qualify as a writer, you need to write your story down.  This is the hardest part, this transition from Dreamer to Writer.  Lots of people feel they have a novel in them (and they're pretty much correct).  But until they write it down, they're not a writer.

NaNoWriMo transitions the Dreamer to the Writer.  Never underestimate how powerful that transition is.

Writing is hard.  Ideas are nebulous, vague things. Writing demands specifics.  A lot of people get stuck on this.  Some might start, and get about 2000 words in.  Some will persist, but hit the wall at 20 or 30K.  NaNoWriMo forces you to push on, to get the words down.  Fifty Thousand of them.

Some people can do it, some can't.  Can you write 50K in a month?  Did you find it easy, or difficult?  If difficult, what were some of the things that stopped you? (Time, lack of routine, lack of outline/plot structure, slow typist, etc.)  You will learn a lot about yourself as a writer--not necessarily whether or not you can be one, but whether or not you're ready to be a writer. If you can't crank out 50K of draft in a month, figure out why not.  Professional authors crank out that much draft all the time. And they have the additional pressure of being under deadline (Upon Pain of Death and other nasty contractual clauses).

Can it be done?  Absolutely.  Are you up to the challenge?  You won't know that until you try.

Get the words down. That's the Most Important Part.  Once you've written the words down, congratulations. You're a Writer.  They don't have to be good words.  Just get 'em down. You can fix 'em later.

Some people get bogged down because they want the words to be the Right Words.  They think that unless the words are the Right Words, they aren't worth writing.  So they write nothing, because they don't know what the Right Words are.

Bunkum.  Who cares if they are the right words or not?  Just get them down.  You can fix them later.

So.  Anyone who has written down words (Right Words or the roughest of rough drafts, or vomit on a page) can call themselves a Writer. I'll call you a writer. You've done the hardest part, which is getting started.

You can stop here, if you wish.   Most don't.  Some have the dream of seeing their story in print. (I don't blame you. It is a most potent dream.)

If that's you, then you move on to the Author stage.

AUTHOR:  someone who takes the words they've written and edits them, polishes them, subjects them to cruelty critique, rewrites, redo-overs, subs to editors, subs to agents, is rejected by editors, is ignored by agents, signs with Dream Agent, spends a few years On Sub, gets a Nice Deal, gets a Very Nice multi-book deal, sells foreign rights, audio rights, movie rights, earns out their advance, fails to earn out their advance... writes another book.  Writes another book.  Writes an 80K book in a month.  Revises & Resubmits. Rewrites a book. Cries over bad reviews, smiles at good reviews, goes on book tour, blog tour, convention tour...   You get the idea.

You can't do this unless you've written something down. NaNoWriMo makes you do that.

Writers write.  NaNoWriMo makes you write and not quit until you hit a goal with a deadline.  This skill will be invaluable if you choose to pursue a professional writing career.

For that reason alone, NaNoWriMo is worth it.

Will I do NaNoWriMo again next year?  Probably.  You gonna join me?

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