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NaNoWriMo 2014: Preparing, Week 1: Curiosity and Confidence

Back in 2010 was the first time I heard about NaNoWriMo. I had a friend who told me about all of what it was, and, mystified by the concept of writing 50,000 words in a month, I found myself wanting to do it. I wanted to tackle all of those words, but it was too daunting a task. I don’t think I even really tried to do anything until 2012 rolled around.

That same friend who told me about the month of November’s challenge still has yet to do it himself, let alone complete it. This month, I found out why.

Confidence. It’s the first time I’ve heard that reason said out loud, but I could see it in myself before, and in other friends who have tried. When you think about it, and how much you write every day, or every week, 50,000 words can be incredibly daunting, and daily writing even more so, if you’re not used to it.

So let’s look at November. When you take away the 50k goal, it’s a daily writing challenge. Don’t worry about the goal every day if you can’t reach it. The real reason for National Novel Writing Month is to work on an idea that’s been in your head, and to get it out, and to put any effort toward it. Work, no matter how small or big it is, will make a difference, and daily writing will take you where you need to go.

Any bit helps. 100 words to 1700. Only do what your pace can handle. There is always next year. And you have another 11 months before it happens again to improve.

Personally, my first NaNo attempt flopped in the middle. I didn’t have proper planning or work done, I started writing on November 1st and floundered until I just stopped completely. As much as I was determined to do all I could that year, as much as I wanted to finish and do something, I had very little done to help me get there, or so I thought, and I lost confidence, got self conscious, fell behind, stressed myself out, and let it fall.

Even if that happens, the most important thing is that you tried. You went for it instead of letting it intimidate you the entire time.

As far as preparation goes, what you need to run into the month with, at least have a basic outline of the plot. Know where you want it to go. Nothing’s wrong with going in without a huge, built structure, but, at least for me, knowing where the novel will take you is all you really need to keep writing.

Don’t be afraid to jump a few scenes ahead and write something else, either, as long as you know it can fit in later. Whatever gets you going.

Those who have been doing this for some time have their own rituals of how to crack down. As from last year, I like to know early what I’m going to do, and do as much character building as possible, plot building, put together something and then make a break down of what will happen. Unfortunately, this year, that little ritual has stalled out. Doesn’t mean I won’t try to do it this month, though it’s not as much time. Others take October to hash it all out and put things in their places. They write on post-its and have a dry-erase board at their disposal.

During the month, as Dominika had pointed out not long ago, having meals planned and set helps with being able to go about the day and get back into writing. I thought that was clever. Mostly, I just amble around aimlessly finding something to chew on while I reset my head, but for those frenzied writing days, it seems perfect.

For those of you who want to do it this year, you can sign up on the official website (Which reboots soon!) to keep your wordcount updated daily, and connect with others in your region, as well as finding kickoff parties and meetups with your fellow writers, doing word wars in the forums or the IRC chat (I think that’s what they have), and any number of outreach and community things. They also have merchandise available, and you can help but donating!

So if you’re still on the fence about whether or not to participate this year, I hope you come over to the writing side, not matter how scarce or how prolific you are in November. We’ll be glad to have you with us.

-The Novice Wordsmith

Disclaimer: Not a part of the NaNoWriMo team personally, I claim no credit, this is all theirs. Again, website here.

Prompt/Dare/Challenge: Meeting the Main Character

In a stroke of genius, I’ve sort of forgotten entirely about posting all day, but I need to share with you what happened yesterday, because I can’t let it rest, and I’m still buzzing from it.

So yesterday, Friend gives me an interesting prompt, after we had a conversation about ‘what do your characters say about you?’ Then he said, here, use this as a prompt. When he said, “No, seriously,” I paid attention, and it clicked and it would not let go. Like I said, still buzzing.

The prompt is this:  “If your characters could have lunch/dinner/breakfast/tea with you, what would they pick, and what would you talk about, and what would they think of you afterwards?”

Think about that. Really. Take one character at a time, and go out to meet them. How would they react, what would they say? Would you even get along? Try it with old characters, try it with brand new characters, fit yourself into a point in time of their life where you want to see them. Are they young, is it the latest moment you’ve put them in, or is it something in the distant past?

I’m still not done writing. I’ve had so many ideas and one today just pulled me under and wouldn’t let me breathe until I finished. When I step back and blink and have to remind myself to breathe after looking it all over, I think I did a pretty decent job.

Let your characters surprise you. I had one that switched in a direction I never expected, and I had so many other things I wanted to say, but that didn’t happen. The other was as complex as the character herself, and had so much dynamic and different elements implemented that wasn’t even intentional at first. Some will be simpler. There was one yesterday that had turned out to be a dud, but because I’d fallen out of sync with that character.

Go out to them, let them come to you, or have them contact you somehow. Are you strangers? Do they know you? Have you seen each other before? How much do they like or dislike you, and why, what do they have to say about what you’ve done to and for them? Do they know what kind of being you are, or have they never seen a human before?

As one of my favorite prompts of this month, let alone probably of this year, I hope you give it a chance, and I really hope you like it at least half as much as I did.

-The Novice Wordsmith