YOUR NANOWRIMO QUESTIONS ANSWERED
It’s NaNoWriMo again! And since many of you have QUESTIONS, I decided to take an hour away from THESE REVISIONS I AM DOING to answer them.
aryanaazari asks: what is NaNoWriMo? Everyone talks about it and I don’t get it.
NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month. It takes place every November. The challenge is to complete a draft of 50,000 words during the space of one month. The good folks at NaNoWriMo HQ very helpfully explain what they are and how it all works here. Last year, I wrote an official pep talk for NaNoWriMo which you can read IF YOU SO DESIRE. They have lots of good pep talks. You should read them all WHEN YOU ARE DONE WRITING FOR THE DAY.
That’s the official stuff! Everything from this point on is JUST MY TAKE on things.
everybody asks: Are you doing NaNoWriMo this year?
I’ve gotten this question 5-10 times a day for the last few weeks, as have most writers I know. Here’s my answer. No. I don’t do NaNoWriMo. I write all the time as my job. Every month is NaNoWriMo for me. I might not write exactly 50,000 words in any given month, but I certainly write that many along the way.
Some people then say, “But you should do it anyway!” To which I will not reply in words, but simply by pointing at the very large manuscript that I need to revise completely by November 19th. To which some very determined people say, “You should just count the number of words you revise!” At which point, I just start crying and banging my head on the wall.
HOWEVER, even though I don’t do NaNoWriMo, there are SOME authors that do or have. Also, just because I’m not doing it doesn’t mean I don’t think it’s awesome. I do. I think it is WAY AWESOME.
MalfoyIsOurKing asks: How important are titles? They have always been the hardest part for me.
This is NaNoWriMo, so I’m going to say that your title is THE LEAST IMPORTANT THING IN THE WORLD at the moment. NaNoWriMo is about writing the draft of a book, a draft which is likely to be hugely craptastic, not because you are a bad writer, but because it is the nature of first drafts to be hugely craptastic. The first draft is where you just WRITE SOMETHING, get some ideas out there, finish the work in some way. Go nuts! Just write! I know a lot of people are really into titles, and it’s true that a title can be a binding or thematic agent, it can help you focus on what the book is about. It can also just be the thing that pile of paper you created is called. In any case, titles are nothing to worry about in the first draft stage. Dismiss it from your mind.
sundust asks: My first 5,000 words is all INFO and not enough about my characters. I want people to feel connected to them right away HELP
Ah, infobarf. I know it well. Don’t worry about that right now. This is NaNoWriMo so just press on. Edit later.
juliajorge asks: what do you do when your computer crashes and you can’t access anything you’ve written?
Whenever you are creating any kind of an important document, save, save, save and save again. Don’t just save it to your hard drive. Save it to an external drive, an online drive, whatever. I save to three different drives: an external drive, an online drive, and another small drive I carry on a keychain for when I am on the go. Also, email it to yourself.
Brie_32 asks: how do you stop using the same word repetitively?
Everybody does that. Mine seems to be “just.” Be aware of it, that’s all. You can yoink them out when you revise. If you want, put a post it on your computer with the naughty word on it and a big X through it.
fgg23 asks: How private do you think one should be about their plot idea? Is it bad to be open about your ideas when people ask?
Well, this depends. You never have to talk about your work if you don’t want to. If you feel like chatting about your project, I don’t see why this is a problem. But if you are asking if you should workshop it, then I would say no, because in NaNoWriMo you have no time for that. And if you are asking if it is safe to do this, as in, “Should I keep my idea private because other people might steal it?” . . . well, don’t worry about that. No one is going to steal your book idea. Book ideas are a dime a dozen—even good ones.
shopaholic3100 asks: how do i tell my inner editor to take a hike? I need the most words not the best words!
This is the genius of NaNoWriMo and the critical part of the exercise. Keep your eyes on the prize, and in the case of NaNo, the prize is that daily word count. I find it handy to give myself prizes for meeting my word counts, prizes like food or showers.
tweak3 asks: Is it okay if my characters keep looking, glancing, walking and finding each other’s eyes? If not, what else can they do?
Looking, glancing . . . these are fine things for eyes to do, in general. (Well, except for walking. The eyes should not be walking, unless they have been given legs by a mad scientist.) And it’s not necessarily bad, unless the characters are having patently ridiculous eye nookie. As to whether or not there is too much of this, or if it hasn’t been handled to the desired effect . . . well, that’s kind of line edit stuff, which again, you can deal with after NaNoWriMo.
But okay, just to answer the question in some way . . . I’d say that you should ask yourself what that looking is really supposed to convey. Can you convey it in a line of dialogue or an action? And if you can’t, does that line really need to be there at all? Because a lot of that looking is understood. Hold on to the eye nookie for when you really need it.
Make the most of your eye nookie.
(The only thing like this that I would suggest bearing in mind in the first draft is making up words for “said” or “replied.” (These are otherwise known as dialogue tags.) You can’t take any verb and make it into a speech verb, though people will try.)
mkmurray7 asks: How do I make characters come to life? How can I make dialogue real?
Read good books and find out how the authors accomplished these things. That’s the only way I know of to learn. To do it yourself, it takes many years of practice. NaNoWriMo is a good place to get some of that.
throw_away_user asks: which publishers/editors should I spam incessantly to read my novel after I’m done with it?
I think maybe you are making a funny at me, to which I say, in my most stentorian voice, lol. But many people do have this exact idea. Many agents and editors tell me that as soon as NaNoWriMo ends, they develop a quivering feeling and a deep unease whenever they approach their inboxes, because they know that floods of not-ready-for-prime-time drafts wait for them. DON’T DO THIS. It UPSETS them. I’ve seen it. My agent, Daphne Unfeasible (a.k.a. Kate Schafer-Testerman of kt literary) has written a post on this very subject, highlighting this very problem and explaining why you should not submit a book right after NaNoWriMo.
“I’ve just finished NaNoWriMo,” they say. “Perhaps you’d like to take a look?”
Still, even after reading that, I’m guessing that some people will say, “But my book is good! It’s ready!” And I don’t want to tell you are wrong, but you are probably wrong. I’m, like, 99.7% certain you’re wrong. Maybe you are that one person in a gillion who actually coughs up a perfectly formed novel during NaNoWriMo. But the chances are that you have produced a draft, which is a fine and wonderful thing, and exactly what you are SUPPOSED to produce from NaNoWriMo. So what you should do is KEEP WORKING ON THAT BOOK and revise it and give it time to grow and blossom. Because I can more or less guarantee that if you write to an agent on December 1st saying, “Hey! I JUST FINISHED my NaNoWriMo novel! Read it!” they will almost certainly wince. Because agents aren’t there to read drafts—they are there to read completed and revised works.
Sejael asks: can i still make it if im already 8 days behind?
Sure. Why not? Just write a little more each day.
Ms_Awkward asks: What do we do if we get stuck?
Getting stuck is all part of the fun! And when I say fun, I don’t mean the kind of fun you are used to. It’s not fun fun, but rather all part of the sport of writing. There are lots of ways to get over stalls. Maybe you take a short break and listen to music or do this dishes or go to the gym or have a little walk. Then you come back and you keep going. Yes, even when you don’t know what you are doing. The physical act of sitting back down and continuing is critical.
Posted: Monday, November 8th, 2010 @ 12:21 pm
Categories: Daphne Unfeasible, advice, ask mj, nanowrimo, services to literature, temporary insanity, to the max.
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