Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Now that NaNoWriMo’s over...

November was an intense month. Not only did I participate in NaNoWriMo, I managed to achieve the goal and complete revisions on two other stories, too. Now it’s midway into December, and what have I accomplished? Well, I did go back to a novel I’d completed in September, and reread it with fresh eyes and made some revisions, although I’m still not completely satisfied with it. And I’m going to revisit the 50k+ I wrote for the NaNoWriMo story, because it needs it. Badly.
But these past few weeks feel wasted, especially after having proved to myself that I could achieve a good head start on a novel. Organization was never my strong suit, but now it’s painfully obvious that if I can become more disciplined, the discipline will translate into productivity. Participating in NaNoWriMo was a good experience, but the fact is, any month can be as productive. Perhaps moreso, because November, frankly, has Thanksgiving and too many other distractions. I suppose one can make excuses for any month.
So the subhead of this post is: No more excuses. Stop the mental whining and just do it. Slam those words onto the page. Rework them later.
First, though, set some ground rules.
1. Do some prep work. Think about the story you want to write. Whether you’re a plotter or pantser, have at least a basic idea of the entire story. If possible, write an outline (you don’t necessarily have to stick to it – stories will veer off into interesting tangents, if you’re lucky).
2. Set a goal. If you want to complete a novel in one month, set the deadline. Mark it on your calendar. Stick to it.
3. Get organized. Complete as much research as possible before you begin writing. If you find you need to revisit a certain section, insert a marker in that section of text so you can easily find it later. For my NaNoWriMo story, I used brackets and placed questions inside. And yes, I counted that toward my word count, since later, the count will only go up from there after I write the real text.
4. Get to know your characters – and not just their physical attributes, but their personalities. What do they want? What motivates them? What are their obstacles? Assemble your cast of characters as completely as you can.
5. Set your own personal goal. November may have come and gone, but that doesn’t mean you can’t go for 50k on your own schedule. Make your goal realistic. If 75k is doable, go for it. Just slam those words on the page, and edit later.
6. Once you reached your goal, set the manuscript aside for a few weeks. Work on something else. Then, like me, you can go back to your story with a fresh perspective. A little distance is a good thing. While writing, authors can get a little too immersed in their stories, or their characters, and not see flaws or gaps that might be obvious to a first-time reader.
7. When you get a good first draft, hand it off to a critique partner. I have three critique partners, and each one finds something different within my stories, just as each reader will bring his/her own frame of reference to each story.
Because really, I didn’t participate in NaNoWriMo for the little blog sticker (though it does make me proud to be able to post it, I admit). My real goal was to finally commit to a story that I’d had in mind for five years – yes, five long years. Why did it take me so long to get it on paper, finally? I wasn’t organized.
I’m spending the rest of December revising my NaNoWriMo story. Hopefully I can complete that by the new year, and then – come January, I begin a new novel. A new adventure. A new journey. As Rudyard Kipling said, Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind.
I intend to be plenty high next year.

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