Kristen Lamb

Author, Blogger, Social Media Jedi

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Posts Tagged: benefits of NaNoWriMo

 

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Today we are going to talk about a GLORIOUS time of year—NANOWRIMO—which stands for National Novel Writing Month. It is meant to support creativity and encourage those who say they want to be authors to give it a go and write a novel (50,000 words) in a month. Notice the challenge is 50,000 words. No one said they had to be good words. Or publishable words. Or polished words. Or edited words.

This is actually why I believe Nanowrimo is very useful for all levels of writers. It trains out perfectionism. No half-finished novel ever made the NY Times best-seller list, but some crappy slightly-less-than-glorious novels have. The biggest threats to your finished novel (and mine) are Mr. It Must Be Perfect and his evil sister Editina.

Preparing for Nanowrimo

Have Fun and Fuel Up

Anyway, whoever chose November as National Novel Writing Month was seriously brilliant, because Halloween is like Mardi Gras for writers. If you are smart, use trick-or-treating to your advantage. After combing the neighborhoods for bags of gooey corn syrup and chocolate morsels of literary energy, be a diligent parent.

Search your kid’s candy for stuff like “illicit drugs”, “poison” and “razor blades” and “get rid of it” which of course is code for “hide it in your office.” You will need that fuel for Week Two of Nano. Tape the pixie sticks under your desk in case this goes into Week Four.

You see anything that looks like THIS? It’s drugs. Confiscate it!

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Because seriously, who’s giving their Adderall away for FREE to complete and total strangers? *rolls eyes*

No…really. I need an address.

Where were we?

Technically, taking half our kids’ candy under false pretenses is gas-lighting them, but reading and literature is vital for a civilized society. The world needs more writers and normal people make crappy writers. It’s science. So how are we going to create more literary geniuses if we don’t damage our kids just a little bit?

You’re welcome.

True, years later our kids might wonder why we continued to live in a neighborhood full of psychopaths who tried to murder them every time they trick-or-treated. And they may put two-and-two together that their lives were only “in danger” the years Mommy or Daddy did Nano. But, by then, we will be a filthy rich NYTBSA and we can buy them all the candy they want to take to therapy.

OR we can team up on our grandkids because the plan was successful and our kids grew up to become writers!

I am a freaking genius.

And if you don’t have kids? Well…yeah, sucks to be you. You’ll have to pay for your own sugar rush.

Some More Practical Tips (Other than Crockpots & Yoga Pants)

Often why writers fail to finish Nanowrimo is they don’t do the right prep work or enough prep work. They believe that they will make it through 50,000 words on creativity alone and that’s like thinking a Share-Size bag of Skittles is plenty of fuel for a double marathon.

Uh huh.

BS and glitter is good for about a day. Maybe three. After that? $#!t gets real and if we haven’t done some preparation it’s going to make finishing a lot tougher, if not impossible.

I highly recommend doing Nano. Nanowrimo gives a taste of the professional pace. It also gives a sample of the professional life of a writer (especially the weeping and drinking heavily part right around November 30th).

Most of the time we (pros) do not feel inspired. If we felt inspired all the time and were a limitless-cerebral-slushee-machine-of-cherry-flavored-rainbow-imagination-genius, no one would have ever needed to invent this thing called a deadline.

And then call it something super terrifying like DEADline.

Nano Makes it REAL

Nanowrimo gets us over our romanticized notions of “writing” and lets us fall in love with the real deal. A “WIP” (Work in Progress) does not send you dozens of roses, run you bubble baths or give you long massages.

Your WIP has no idea what a hamper is, eats the last slice of pizza and leaves the box in the fridge, farts under the covers and yells DUTCH OVEN! and shoves your head under the covers. You stick with it and love it through disease plot holes sickness adverb infestations, and infidelity revision until death—deadline—do you part.

THAT is reality. THAT is being a real writer 😉 .

You can do it!

What makes it easier is we learn how to rely on skills instead of just creativity because creativity will wear out pretty quickly.

Yes, many of you were star students in school. I was too. I made As on all my papers. But, unless you had a teacher that who you turn in a paper 50,000 words long? Trust me, this is a whole new world and some preparation is going to go a LONG way toward helping you finish.

Also, I want for you to do more than finish. I want to help you create something that can actually be shaped into something worthy of publishing.

If we are going to half-kill ourselves, why not?

To help you do this, I’ve linked to one of my most popular series:

Anatomy of a Best-Selling Novel

This series is a crash course in all you need to write a novel. I go over plotting on the micro and macro scale. We discuss three-act structure, etc. etc. No, it will not make your writing “formulaic.” Formulaic writing comes from execution. This series is valuable whether you are a plotter or a pantser or somewhere in between.

I call myself a plotter 😀 .

There is NO way I am ever going to outline, so I am not quite a plotter. I love the freedom of being a pantser (writing by the seat of my pants). But, pure pantsing is grossly ineffective (my opinion). It is a really good way to stall and it will be a nightmare to revise.

Even if you feel you are a pantser, I recommend checking out the series. Give some plotting a try. The reason. Creativity is ignited with boundaries. We love to believe that boundaries stifle our creativity, but I strongly disagree and I will prove it.

Visit Alcatraz. People incarcerated in supermax prisons are SERIOUSLY creative.

Okay, a better example…FINE.

If I said right now, “Write me a 1000 word short story.” Most of you would either blank or would stall.

BUT, if I said, “Write me a 1000 word short story about a freak show.” POOF! Ideas would abound. With just a little bit of boundaries your imagination sparks to life.

We can still write freely, but a handful of guideposts can keep us on track and can help maintain momentum.

The Series in Order:

Anatomy of a Best-Selling Story-Structure Part One

Anatomy of a Best-Selling Story-Structure Part Two

Introducing the Opposition-Structure Part Three

Is Your Story Idea STRONG Enough? Part Four

Your Story in a Sentence-Part Five

Is Your Story Primal? Part Six

Choosing a Genre-Part Seven

How to Manage Scenes in a Novel-Part Eight

Which is the Best POV for YOUR Story? Part Nine

Of course I recommend reading all of these, but if you do have to choose one, Part Four is a good one. A major reason many people do not complete Nano is they select far too weak of a story idea. The idea might work for a short story, but it simply is not robust enough for something as long as a novel. Thus it fizzles.

If you pick two to read? Go for Part Three as well. The single largest problem most new writers have is they DO NOT properly understand the antagonist. No antagonist? No story. Waxing rhapsodic for 50,000 words is not a novel. Navel-gazing is not a novel. Bouncing back and forth in time is not a novel. Novels are about one thing and one thing only—trouble. Without an antagonist your story will collapse in on itself.

Well, there you have it. Enjoy the rest of your October. Live it up kiddies while you can. You can sign up for Nanowrimo HERE.

I am still undecided if I’m going to do it. I usually do. I will be fast-drafting a NF I have due to my publisher, but I don’t know if I want to do a fiction at the same time, though I’ve done it before. AND, I have bombed Nano (multiple times), so I’m not perfect. When I blew it it’s because I failed to prepare. Fail to plan plan to fail. When I did prepare, however, I finished in 12 days. So it DOES make a difference.

So, you going to Nano? Were you going to pass but now the peer pressure is getting to you? Have you ever completed Nano? What helped you finish? What was your best time? Or did you sneak in at 11:59 P.M. November 30? Do you think plotters have an advantage in Nano? Are you a plotter or a pantser? Or a plotser?

Planning on confiscating “drugs” from your kids trick-or-treat bags?

I LOVE hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of OCTOBER, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel.

For those who need help building a platform and keeping it SIMPLE, pick up a copy of my latest social media/branding book Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World on AMAZON, iBooks, or Nook

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NaNoWriMo. There are a lot of opinions floating around about NaNo and I can’t tell you guys what to do. Wait, I do that all the time. Hmmm. Okay, I can’t MAKE you try NaNo, but I am the friend who will gently and lovingly shove you off a cliff because it’s good for you.

WHAT!!??? You SAID you wanted to go BASE jumping be a professional author.

In my 20s, I lived life like a Mountain Dew commercial. You name X Dumb Thing? Sign me up! One of my favorite suicidal activities was skydiving. If I was having a really bad time, nothing to perk me up like free falling from 15,000 feet. But I’m a natural idiot adventurer.

My little brother? Was probably the more cautious/sane one, but I could tell from this spark in his eyes that he’d one day like to just go for it and jump out of a perfectly good airplane.

One day, I was headed out to jump and invited my brother. “Hey, you can just watch. Check it out. See if it might be something you’d like to try one day.” He rides out there with me and, to his horror, I’d signed BOTH of us up and paid for his tandem.

He should have known from our history together that Big Sisters are pathological liars. Also, I was the one who convinced him to jump off our roof with an umbrella when he was five, so, in fairness, he should have TOTALLY seen that coming.

Hey, Penguin does it all the time. You’ll just float down.

*CRASH*

Oops.

Little Bro was “fine.” But I didn’t make him do anything I hadn’t already done. Trust me when I say he was a changed person after that experience (and for the better).

Back to NaNo…

To NaNo or Not to NaNo

Original image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Stoere Schrijfster.
Original image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Stoere Schrijfster.

For those who have not tried NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), at least consider it. Even if you only partially finish (land on your knees and then get dragged through stickers by your chute that caught a sudden updraft) you are now part of a percentage of very few people who TRIED.

And, unlike skydiving, I’ve yet to encounter any NaNo fatalities.

The trick to NaNo is to appreciate it’s PURPOSE. It’s to propel us out of the comfort zone and show us what we are truly capable of if we put our minds to something and refuse to give up. It’s training for the pace of professional author. Pros have a VERY different operational tempo.

We don’t play to win, we play for keeps.

I’ve finished NaNo quite a few times (and fast-draft everything I write), but every day is NaNo for me. I have a thousand words written before most people wake up. Was it ALWAYS that way? Sure!  😀 *thunder rumbles*

OKAY, I totally just lied. I used to be thrilled if I had three sentences by the end of the day. OMG, if I could like, write FIVE HUNDRED words a day, THEN I will be EPIC.

There were a LOT of roadblocks to me being a “real writer,” roadblocks that NaNo can help us face and overcome.

No Such Thing as Schrodinger’s Writer

Original image via Flickr Commons, courtesy of Casey Konstantin
Original image via Flickr Commons, courtesy of Casey Konstantin

Want to be a writer? Write. That simple. Lose the existentialism. People who have time to discuss what makes a “real” writer have too much free time. The rest of us are busy writing. The single greatest thing NaNo makes us do is it propels us to sit our tails down and get to WORK.

Ditch Perfectionism

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Want a surefire way to NEVER finish NaNo, or any book for that matter? Edit Frenzy. NaNo is NOT for the perfect book ready for sale on December 1st. Sure there are some pros out there who can whip out a perfect book in 30 days…I think. I’ve never met one, but like Sasquatch, we like to believe they could exist.

The world does not reward perfection, it rewards finishers.

Learn to SHIP. No unfinished idea ever became a NY Times best-selling book.

Word Count

One of the complaints I hear about NaNo is there is too much focus on word count. Oh-KAY. Get a three-book deal and see how important word count becomes. Word count IS critical, because without words? We don’t have a BOOK.

The Muse

Kill it with FIRE.
Kill it with FIRE.

A lot of new writers wait until inspiration strikes. The rest of us go to work (paraphrased Stephen King). Inspiration is for amateurs and hobbyists. If we look to some of the most successful authors in history, a large percentage shifted over from journalism. Reporters who wish to remain employed can’t wait for the muse to report about the four-alarm fire. Learn from that and SHIP.

NaNo is NOT the Time for REVISION

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NaNo is for getting as many words on the page as possible in 30 days. Revise LATER. It’s NaNoWRIMo, not NaNoWriReviseAngstDrinkMoWineMo.

Humans have two sides to the brain—the creative side and the logical side. The reason NaNo is fabulous is it trains us to remain in the creative hemisphere of the brain. Stay in the fictive dream and play your guts out. Logic brain will have its turn…LATER.

Ignore typos, misspellings, run-on sentences and WRITE.

NaNo Pushes Boundaries

Most of us are capable of a lot more than we believe we are, but we dig the Comfort Zone. It has WiFi and lattes. Excellence is born in a fiery crucible. Anyone who says otherwise is lying.

NaNo Strips Excuses

Original image via Lucy Downey from Flickr Creative Commons
Original image via Lucy Downey from Flickr Creative Commons

Life will not change one you are a published or successful author. Today is my Dad’s birthday and the 15th anniversary of his death. Hey, he was Scottish and we are known for efficiency. My SIL went in this morning for serious and painful eye surgery to prevent her from going totally blind. I have Shingles, my house is a WRECK and I have a cat I love who’s teetering on death that I have to syringe feed every other hour. Our family business was half-flattened by squall lines last week and…blech.

But I write. Doesn’t mean I don’t CARE about those other things. But if I were in any other job, I might be able to justify a couple days away, but other than that? I’d have to show UP and do my JOB.

I know Mr. Smith has a tumor I was supposed to remove today, but my cat is sick and I am still tired from Shingles, have storm damage to clear and no clean SOCKS to perform surgery in and….

Uh huh.

Writer UP

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You guys don’t have to do NaNo or like NaNo. It isn’t for everyone, but neither is this profession. I participate in NaNo, support it and recommend it.

Just for the LOVE of all that is chocolate, DO NOT believe you are finished after 50,000 or more words. You WILL need revisions and edits, so hold off on the CreateSpace or the query. You might probably will have a literary train wreck. But you have a FINISHED train wreck. EXPERIENCE will teach you what to do and even what NOT to do.

There are ways to have less of a mess at the end, but we’ll talk about that next time.

NaNo trains speed and discipline. Style comes with preparation, time and practice, not nit-picking.

So *beats shield* come back with your first draft or ON it ;).

THIS…IS…SPARTA NANO!

Haters: We will darken the skies with our criticism.

Real Writers: Then we will WRITE in the SHADE.

What are your thoughts? Are you afraid of NaNo? Good. Now suck it up. Have you tried before and failed to finish? Why? Have you revisited the “footage” to see what you could change to improve odds of finishing? Do you over-edit? STOP IT. Do you have friends, family or activities that interfere? Hint: They aren’t going away.

Share your successes, monsters, defeats and we will raise our goblets coffee mugs and spears red pens to the Elysian Fields! We will forever be Brothers and Sisters at Arms. Sign up HERE for NaNoWriMo.

I LOVE hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of OCTOBER, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

For those who need help building a platform and keeping it SIMPLE, pick up a copy of my latest social media/branding book Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World on AMAZON, iBooks, or Nook