Tuesday, August 22, 2006


I've been telling myself I'm going to do it for the past two years, but this November I have marked NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month, on my calendar. It's a 30-day fiction writing marathon/contest where you pound out a 175-page (50,000-word) novel between November 1 and November 30, which will be perfectly awful and in serious need of editing:

Valuing enthusiasm and perseverance over painstaking craft, NaNoWriMo is a novel-writing program for everyone who has thought fleetingly about writing a novel but has been scared away by the time and effort involved.

Because of the limited writing window, the ONLY thing that matters in NaNoWriMo is output. It's all about quantity, not quality. The kamikaze approach forces you to lower your expectations, take risks, and write on the fly.

Make no mistake: You will be writing a lot of crap. And that's a good thing. By forcing yourself to write so intensely, you are giving yourself permission to make mistakes. To forgo the endless tweaking and editing and just create. To build without tearing

Hey, what the heck, you can always sculpt something decent out of the crap once it's out.

I checked out the NaNoWriMo book, No Plot? No Problem! and I'll get it out of the library rather than buying another book right now, because I've declared this month to be Get Rid of Half the Crap in Your Bookcase Month.

P.S. It has to be a novel that you start from scratch for the contest, although you can bring notes. You can always go back to those half-finished previous novels afterward, when you're full of the momentum of Novelwritingness, or NaNoWritingness.

Are you a planner or an improviser? If you're a planner can't you basically cheat the whole thing by working out a scene-by-scene? Tougher maybe for improvisors.

Anyway, for what it's worth, having written many books on a deadline, here's my advice:

1) Pace yourself. Do ten pages a day without stop for 18 days. 12 days to fix it. (10 pages a day isn't that tough over a fairly short haul like that.) Don't take days off, run on momentum.

2) Don't obsess. Write and move on. If you have a systemic problem fix it, but if it's character development, for example, or description, you can handle that on the rewrite.

3) Find your time -- morning, afternoon, whatever -- and your space, your office, a coffee shop etc... Get your pages done in that place, in the allotted time. It's not about inspiration, it's about words on paper.

4) While writing you will be an asshole to everyone around you. Not meaning to be, but because the book is running like a computer program in the back of your head, using up memory. It's inevitable, so don't sweat it.

I wrote a 240 page book in 25 days and nailed a starred review from PW, and I'm practically illiterate. No sweat.

M. Takhallus
Sideways Mencken

Actually, I'm a planner who's taken a lot of improv workshops, but that was for acting and comedy performing, not writing.

Actually, #3 is where I get bogged down, and when I'm deeply into a project I've experienced #4 on a repeated basis, and then just hope that I haven't alienated everyone I know by the time I'm through.
Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

nyc bloggers map