Friday 21 October 2011

NaNoWriMo: Hopeful or hopeless?

Start on November 1st and finish on November 30th. 30 days. 50,000 words. On average 1,667 words per day. Some say that represents 1 to 2 hours worth of work each day. Doable? Crazy?

Started in 1999 in San Francisco by one Chris Baty and a group of his friends, 21 people participated and six people "won", that is, they managed to write 50,000 words. In 2010, 200,530 people signed up and 37,479 people "won". (see my blog: NaNoWriMo: Write a novel in 1 month?)

NaNoWriMo - Crash Course for Writing a Novel in 30 Days
Some helpful points about this epic challenge including the rules, ideas about what to do, pep talks and the following video.

NaNoWriMo Success: How to Write a Novel in 30 Days
A How To guide with resources from 2007 but still applicable today. Under the section "Planning Methods", I see "Seat of Your Pants":

Start with a nugget of an idea and just start writing. Many people write this way. Some even find success in this method. This keeps things interesting for the author. On the other hand writers often find frustration with this method because of the need to go back and rewrite large passages when the story line needs to change halfway through the book. Planning doesn’t eliminate this problem completely, but it certainly happens less when you do some planning.

Is it too late to do at least a little planning? As of this writing, there is just a little over a week to go.

How to Write a Novel: The Snowflake Method
Writing a novel is easy. Writing a good novel is hard. That's just life. If it were easy, we'd all be writing best-selling, prize-winning fiction.

Frankly, there are a thousand different people out there who can tell you how to write a novel. There are a thousand different methods. The best one for you is the one that works for you.

In this article, I'd like to share with you what works for me. I've published six novels and won about a dozen awards for my writing. I teach the craft of writing fiction at writing conferences all the time. One of my most popular lectures is this one: How to write a novel using what I call the "Snowflake Method."

Uploaded by hayleyghoover on Oct 28, 2009
5 Reasons-o to NaNoWriMo

Writing: Dean Wesley Smith: Dean of Star Trek
Smith brings out a little math to point out how slow and steady wins the race. His simple example is writing 250 words or one page a day. At the end of a year, you would have slightly over 90,000 words, about a normal paperback book. Of course, this doesn't take into account rewrites, but I think the point is made. Setting the goal of writing a book seems daunting, but setting the goal of writing 250 words seems quite doable. Slow and steady indeed. Especially steady.

In a blog elsewhere, Smith gave a further example of breaking the process down using math. Starting with the idea that a professional writer can do a thousand words in an hour or 4 pages, a 90,000 word novel represents 90 hours worth of work. Divide by 3 weeks to give 30 hours per week then divide by 7 days to give four and a half hours per day or 4,500 words per day. Is it at this point I slap my forehead saying, "Gee, it's that simple?" I have to point out not just the discipline but the ability to continuously "create". Repetitive work can sometimes be just shutting the brain off and letting the body repeat what it's doing. Sitting there trying to punch out something new? Thinking for the purposes of creating something can be tough.

I distinctly remember Stephen King's admission about this in his book On Writing. He apparently sets himself the goal of doing 2,000 words per day. This is less than Smith's last example but I remember King saying it takes him months to do a book, never mind the rewrites. But whatever the pace, both authors seem to underline the importance of steady. Slow and steady or fast and steady; the common word is steady. National Novel Writing Month (see NaNoWritMo: Write a novel in 1 month?) sets out the personal challenge of writing a 50,000 word novel in November, a period of 30 days. That works out to be 1,667 words per day for 30 days in a row. Maybe that isn't quite so intimidating.

Uploaded by thecreativepenn on Oct 28, 2010
New World of Publishing and Making Money as a Fiction Author with Dean Wesley Smith
In this interview excerpt, bestselling author of over 90 novels, Dean Wesley Smith explains the new world of publishing, a different way for authors to submit to publishing houses, and how fiction authors can make a lot of money with "the magic bakery". The full interview is available as a podcast from

"In skating over thin ice, safety is in our speed."
-Ralph Waldo Emerson

TerribleMinds - Oct 4/2011
25 Things You Should Know About NaNoWriMo
Among the many nuggets of wisedom presented sometimes with a comedic slant, the author points out two other important months of the year. October is NaStoPlaMo, National Story Planning Month and December is NaEdYoShiMo, National Edit Your Shit Month.

A Round of Words in 80 Days
"ROW80" is a different kind of challenge. There 4 rounds per year of days. You set yourself a goal and stick to it. The goal can be anything but you have to stick to it. You post on this site. You check in twice a week and update your status. The important point? You stick to your goal. Hmmm, isn't that the problem for anyone? You either don't set a goal so there's nothing to shoot for or you set a goal then don't bother to stick to it.

Write Something, You Miserable Fuck
This alternative to NaNoWriMo sets a more modest goal. Never mind whether it works or not, you have to admit the title of the site is hilarious. Take that, you procrastinator!

The following is taken from their About page:

Write Something, You Miserable Fuck is a writing group for underachievers who enjoy the company of same. To join, all you need to do is commit to writing (original fic, fanfic, to do lists, your thesis, your memoirs - anything!) for at least ten minutes each day for the entire month of November. And you are permitted - encouraged even! - to complain bitterly about every single word.

Writing is easy. All you do is stare at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead.
-Gene Fowler

You must learn to overcome your very natural and appropriate revulsion for your own work.
-William Gibson

When I write, I feel like an armless legless man with a crayon in his mouth.
-Kurt Vonnegut

Writing is like having about twenty boxes of Christmas decorations. But no tree. You're going, Where do I put this? Then they go, Okay, you can have a tree, but we'll blindfold you and you gotta cut it down with a spoon.
Carolyn Chute

It's 2011 and [info]wrisomifu is coming back! the comm will be opening for new members from 28-31 october. sign-up links will be posted here, so check back.

Final Word
As flippant as it sounds, I'm getting the idea that success is tied up in the slogan from Nike: Just do it! No quibbling, no discussion, no angst about your inner struggle. Just do it. Or maybe in some cases, it needs a little emphasis: Just f**king do it.

I am reading the book "No Plot? No Problem!" by Chris Baty. (A low-stress, high-velocity guide to writing a novel in 30 days) It is both funny and inspirational. If you haven't read it, get it immediately if not sooner and devour it. You still have time. (see below for link to Amazon)

I have also downloaded a free ebook "NaNo for the New and the Insane" by Lazette Gifford (link below) containing posting from her blog about her experiences with this annual challenge. This person is a professional author so it's an interesting perspective on something you normally associate with the neophyte.

Do or do not... there is no try.
-Yoda from Star Wars


NaNoWriMo on Twitter

NaNoWriMo on Facebook

NaNoWriMo: Facebook group

Wikipedia: Gene Fowler
Gene Fowler (born Eugene Devlan) (March 8, 1890 – July 2, 1960) was an American journalist, author and dramatist.

Gene Fowler: Memorable Quotes
"Writing is easy. All you do is stare at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead."

"The best way to become a successful writer is to read good writing, remember it, and then forget where you remember it from."

No Plot? No Problem! by Chris Baty
Chris Baty, motivator extraordinaire and instigator of a wildly successful writing revolution, spells out the secrets of writing and finishing a novel. ... Baty puts pen to paper himself to share the secrets of success. With week-specific overviews, pep "talks," and essential survival tips for today's word warriors, this results-oriented, quick-fix strategy is perfect for people who want to nurture their inner artist and then hit print! Anecdotes and success stories from NaNoWriMo winners will inspire writers from the heralding you-can-do-it trumpet blasts of day one to the champagne toasts of day thirty.

NaNo for the New and the Insane: (free) Ebook By Lazette Gifford
NaNo for the New and the Insane is a short work dedicated to helping people stay on track for the month long NaNoWriMo event in November of each year. Originally written in 2006, this updated version has several new sections plus edited material on self-publishing and more.


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