Friday, November 20, 2009

Winning NANO

I wasn't really going to do a blog topic on this, but it occurred to me when I saw grieving comments from people who began NANO with high hopes and then never got going. It also may expand on my viewpoint that the last thing you want to do is write cwap just because it adds to the word counts and you have lost control of the plot anyway.

See, my thought is that NANO is one of those affairs where nobody is watching over your shoulder. I know people who are pasting in sections they wrote months earlier for different projects - just so they keep making up the word counts per day. It's all for show, and in the end they won't have anything really to show for it.

There's nothing wrong with this, but it just... I dunno. It belittles the efforts of people who really are writing fresh material every single day and have a mostly finished novel by the end of the month. Then again, those people get the last word, because at least two that I know of have polished and cleaned up their novels in less than a year and have tentatively hooked agents. Compare that with people who deleted their nano novels directly after the Dec. 1 deadline, because it was such a mishmash of junk.

Speaking for myself - I have been in the in-the-middle camp. I am highly guilty of writing all my favorite scenes first and getting my word counts that way, while err... getting stranded in the end because all the dull drab annoying parts are left over waiting for me to get my bum into a seat and write them. :)

I'm also guilty of blocking a LOT of stuff out and pasting it at the bottom of my document while I continued to write and replace scenes I didn't like the day after I wrote them. That's why my 50,000 word WIP gets chopped down to 20-30,000 words after Dec.1. Gladly so.

That is completely different from continuing to write the novels in a steady line, even though you know a bad scene has led you in the wrong direction and you are wasting time writing stuff that you don't want to keep. That's probably about the time that some people get silly and start spoofing their work, just so the word counts grow. <- I could never do that. My brain doesn't work that way. I imagine if I had a novel like that, I'd wind up deleting the entire novel and going back to square one. Something that a LOT of people do.

W/regards to the people who ran into a wall and can't meet the first milestone (10,000 words), my advice is that maybe they just need to organize their thoughts a bit.

1. If they want to just be able to have 50,000 words in the win column, they can do the spoof route. While I look at that as a waste of time that could be better spent on something that WOULD sell (even if I stop doing nano and go back to my old novels), other people see it differently. As long as you are writing and playing around with characters and worldbuilding, you can look at it as practice for that moment when you are READY to write that novel.

2. Don't compete with people who are better writers than you are. Do what you know you are capable of - especially if you are like me and have a dayjob. I know a lot of people get burnt out and stressed during NANO, because OMG! I'M SO FAR BEHIND THE BFF AND LOOK LIKE A BAD POKY WRITER! GADS! MY BRAINS ARE FRIED AND MY BURNING EYES ARE FALLING OUT OF MY HEAD AND I'M STILL BEHIND. I REALLY AM A CWAPPY WRITER!!!!!

Stop it. Just remember 1667 words a day wins NANO. If you really have a hard time nicking out 1667 in one sitting, then break it up. Write a little at different points of the day.

Poky or pokey? Pokie...?

3. Do what I do. When you get stuck trying to explain how characters know each other, even though one just appeared out of nowhere and gives off mafia vibes, jump ahead and write the scene you enjoy writing. I know somebody who wrote 20,000 words in her last week of NANO simply by writing all of the love scenes in her book. Made me laugh at her, but she was just happy she scrapped out a win.

4. Write or Die - I mentioned this in another post, but it really does help if you sit there and have to write 1000 words in a half hour, or DIE! It's all mental, but it helps. Do a couple of sessions of WOD a day, and you will stay ahead of the game.

5. Another trick when you are completely stuck and don't want to go the 'write anything' route - go back to the beginning and start expanding. This does two things. While you expand out in scenes, describing surroundings and developing your characters just a tiny bit more, you are also going back and finding the threads and intrigues which will hopefully guide you out of your blue funk and make you remember where you are going next with the novel. I've used this trick often, not just with this year's nano, but with other stuff in the past. It works.

6. Add action, throw in turns - thought I'd add this one, because it serves more than one purpose. By giving your character PROBLEMS to deal with, you are giving yourself plenty of material to constantly work with. Because, if you cause a problem, you have to show the character getting out of the problem. It also trains you to think outside the box and get away from cliches and similarities to novels already on the bookshelf.

The other purpose is that agents and them who know want to see more action and nonpredictable (as opposed to the 'blah predictable') turns. If you spend huge portions of the novel with characters talking and looking at each other (something I'm so guilty of doing in WIP), then you got more problems than your characters.

7. Indulge in all of your bad habits. This is not the same as writing scenes and whole chapters you do not intend to keep. This means, write as many adverbs as you want, because you can always edit them out. Start every chapter with your character waking up in bed, if it gets the ball rolling fast. You can always figure out a different way to begin each and every one of those chapters later. If you want to throw in sparkly vampires, do it. Just remember to change the vampires to something less Twilightesque when you edit. If you want to make your main character a Mary Sue or Gary Stu - DO IT and relish the moment. You will have plenty of editing to do later, but it isn't like you will have to scrap the entire novel. You will have something to work with.

8. Always remember that you don't have to be perfect. Agents request that people do not send their NANO novels in directly after finishing them. You are expected to edit and revise over and over until you have a polished product. So, see point # 7 and have at it.

9. Write up a quicky summary of what you want to accomplish in the novel. This could be an in depth synopsis like I wrote, including various notes and info I copied from around the web to help. I did this and sometimes consult those notes at different points. It keeps me from going too far off the beaten path.

10. Talk out your problems with your friends, even if you don't really want to show and tell re/your plot just yet. If you are stuck on something, then go forth and ask people questions. Don't expect anyone to write your novel for you. Gather inspiration.


********* Speaking of NANO *************

I've officially notched the 45,000 mark. This means I could be done with NANO - TONIGHT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! <- Yes, all of those exclamation points are necessary, because this would be the earliest I've ever finished.

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