I had the privilege of attending a National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) kick-off event yesterday, along with Kay Honeyman, author of THE FIRE HORSE GIRL. We chatted with aspiring writers about how each of us had tackled the month-long writing challenge. It was a fun, encouraging way to spend a rainy Sunday afternoon.
I’ve participated in NaNoWriMo three times. One of my NaNo novels has since been published. I worked on polishing and revising that draft for about a year and half. It would ultimately grow into my first middle-grade novel, SURE SIGNS OF CRAZY. I'm not formally participating this year, but I will be using this month as a motivator to finish writing the first draft of my work-in-progress.
So what advice can I offer to this year’s NaNo participants?
Well, the main thing is to use this time to really experiment. Try to turn off your inner editor and use the blank page to over describe every single thing in your story world. That is actually a fun exercise. For my first NaNo effort, I gave all my characters four names. And yes, each time they appeared, I typed out that extra-long name. I described trees and nature and used all the senses much more than I normally would have. You also have permission to write notes to yourself in between paragraphs. Something like, “I will come back to this part later and write a better transition because I don’t know how they will get to Idaho, just that they will.” Don’t be afraid to write scenes out of order. If you are really pumped up about the story’s ending, go ahead and write that down. If you get stuck, you can also write journal entries from your characters. This is a great way to learn their voice and their manners and opinions. To achieve word count, it’s a good idea to write 500 words, take a break and come back two hours later to write another 500 words. When all else fails, introduce bad weather into your story. All people – fictional or actual - get up and get moving when dangerous weather threatens. And finally, watch the film FINDING FORRESTER at some point during the month. Once you watch it, you’ll know why it’s great for NaNo writers.