Tips from a NaNoWriMo Evangelist

Al card from the tarot deck of Jean Dodal of Lyon, c.1701-1715. Source: Wikipedia
A card from the tarot deck of Jean Dodal of Lyon, c.1701-1715. Source: Wikipedia

Once again, I have embarked on the journey of invention and self-discovery that is NaNoWriMo.

This will be my third National Novel Writing Month attempt. It also marks my first year as a Municipal Liaison (for the Austin/Central Texas region), a position I volunteered for because I love NaNoWriMo so very much.

Here are a few of the lessons I learned from my first two “wins” (successful NaNoWriMo challenges):

  • Write every damn day, no matter what. Yes, you can. I don’t care if you’re traveling or hosting Thanksgiving dinner for a dozen of your relatives, you can find at least a few minutes to add to your novel. It might not be the best writing, and you might not get your 1667 words in for the day, but write something and log it on the site.
  • Count every stinkin’ word you write. Did you write a boneheaded sentence that you wouldn’t read aloud to your two-year-old? It doesn’t matter. Keep it. Make it grey, or strike-through, or comment so you can find it later, but keep it, and count it.
  • Writer’s block is an evil fairy tale. Really, it doesn’t exist. Don’t buy into it. Instead, if you sit down to write and honestly have no clue what you want to say, then write that. Start by writing something like:

I really don’t know what to write tonight. I thought everything was going great but now I’m frustrated. What I really wanted was to write about how my protagonist was this kick-ass woman but she seems really pathetic. Maybe I just need to kill someone so she has something to deal with, so I can show off how awesome she is.

When you start writing the first thing that comes to your mind, no matter what it is, you’re writing. On several occasions the last two years, I started off doing this, with no clue what to write about, and by the time I was done, I had written something really amazing. So give it a try.

  • Don’t let yourself (or your future readers) get bored. When you find a scene isn’t working, ask yourself, “what is the most unlikely thing that could happen next?” Sometimes a crazy shift in direction, the introduction of a new character, a collapsing building, or someone keeling over dead, is exactly what needed to happen to get things moving again.
  • Write what you love, not what you think others will like. The best novels, in my opinion, are the ones that are authentic to the author. Yes, you can tell. When someone’s passion comes across in their writing, that’s the book you will want to read over and over again. When they’re writing to appease their fans or to make money, it won’t have the same magic. That’s why books like the Harry Potter series, Outlander, and certain others are so popular and have rabid fanbases. People believe those authors’ stories, and feel like they know the characters. And that’s because the authors loved what they wrote and cared deeply for everything that happened.
  • Don’t give up. Writing is hard work, even for successful, published authors. In fact, I truly believe that it gets harder the better you become, because you keep setting your sights higher and higher. So just stick with it, learn from your mistakes, and don’t be afraid to experiment and try new things.
  • Be sure to sleep, eat and breathe. In moderation of course. As any NaNoWriMo veteran will tell you, coffee and NaNoWriMo go well together.

If you’d like to preview my forthcoming novel By Moonrise, I’m making it available for free on Wattpad in a series of installments (with a terrible DIY placeholder cover!). I would love to get feedback! You can view it here.

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