NaNoWriMo Newbie Jitters

In less than two weeks time begins 30 days of literary abandon. A month where writers come together in mass insanity to churn out 50,000 words before midnight, November 30th.

Insanity I tell you.

And yet, I feel obligated to inform you that I have decided to participate in said bedlam and join the others at the loony bin. This year I’m going to pop my NaNoWriMo cherry and attempt the (seemingly) impossible.

For those of you unfamiliar with this annual phenomenon, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month, and every November writers are challenged to writing 50,000 words before the end of the month.

What do you win? You win a 50,000 word first draft is what! Along with what I’m guessing would be a new found love for time spent not writing, an envy of eight-handed aliens (think how much quicker you could type!), and of course the pride and absolute joy at having achieved the unachievable.

Being my first NaNo I have to admit to some nerves. Never have I ever written anything so monstously long in my life. Do I even know 50,000 words? What if I get writers’ block after day two? Will my fingers fall off if I type so much? God forbid, what if I FAIL?

All valid concerns, in my opinion. But none of them compare to the biggest issue of all; What if my story is rubbish and I realise that I’m not, in fact, a writer at all?

Cue teary break down. Pass the tissues will you?

I’ve been reading a lot about how people prepare for the challenge. Plotters and Pantsters, chapter outlines, character profiles, synopses, writing prompts, calendars, word counters, daily goals. The list goes on and yet what is resoundingly clear is that, like with any type of writing, no one way will work for everyone. You’ve got to find what works for you.

So, what am I going into this challenge with? How have I prepared for the ultimate writer’s test? Well, my plot goes something like this:

Chosen one.

Imminent evil.

Kingdom in peril.

It doesn’t look like much, huh? That’s because it isn’t. Whilst I’ve got a few ideas lulling around my bizarre little brain, I’m going to take the ‘pantster’ approach, eg, write by the seat of my pants. I suppose you could say this is an experiment of sorts, seeing as those of you who have been here a while will know that I like to plot. I NEED to plot. But I’m not going to.

Mostly, it’s out of fear that I might realise it’s rubbish before I even get to November 1st and give up before I give myself a chance. But it’s also because the idea of NaNoWriMo is not to write the next best-seller or to start December with a polished piece of high literature ready too submit to publishers and competitions around the world. It’s to overcome inertia, to not over think it, to just WRITE and have something to work with once the month is over. The website explains that:

Because of the limited writing window, the ONLY thing that matters in NaNoWriMo is output. It’s all about quantity, not quality. This 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 down.

To build without tearing down. What a great strategy, who would’ve thought?

I’m going to have a decent go at ‘winning’, but if I finish November with just one page, one paragraph, one sentence even, of perfected prose, the root of an idea that will lead to a better one, or even 50,000 words showing how not to write a novel, then I will have gained something.

It’s certainly not for everyone, but I’m willing to give it a try.

Any other newbies out there giving it a crack? Want to hold hands and weep at the insanity of it all together? Please tell me I’m not alone here!

For anyone wanting advice on how to get through November with some semblance of sanity, head over to Terrible Minds where Chuck Wendig gives some writing advice to help you stay on target during NaNoWriMo.

Happy writing!

~storytelling nomad~

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30 Day Book Challenge – Day 4

Book that makes you cry

As a rule, I like to read books that make me feel good, not sad or unhappy.  It’s partly why I love fantasy fiction so much, in that it allows me to escape the harsh truths of reality and enter worlds where magic happens.  It’s also the great thing about fiction, where the author has the creative license to make sure that everything turns out okay in the end, and generally speaking, it does.

In any case, every now and then I hear so many good reviews about a book not of the fantasy genre that I decide I simply must read it and see what all the fuss is about.  Sometimes this results in me being glad I spread my literary wings as I discover something amazing outside of fantasy.  Sometimes it doesn’t.  A great deal of the time it sends me running to my bookshelf, grasping desperately for a Harry Potter book or The Lord of the Rings, ready to re-immerse myself into lands where “stupefy!” will render my enemy temporarily immobile, or where I have a guardian wizard by the name of Gandalf who makes cool fireworks to brighten the night sky.  Happy days.

One such time that sent me running to my bookshelf, but not before I cradled my knees in the corner, rocking back and forth and weeping with sorrow, was Water For Elephants by Sara Gruen.  I have great respect for this woman after discovering that she wrote the book during NaNoWriMo, something I’m looking forward to participating in this year.  It really is a beautifully written story, but honestly, I just couldn’t get past the cruelty to animals part of it.  If there’s one thing I can’t stand in this world, it’s the abuse and/or neglect of animals, and I find reading/watching/hearing about it very difficult.  I can’t even watch animated movies about animals because I know there’s always one that will be trapped or hurt or die and will have me blubbering like a baby.

The cruelty to the elephant in this book was just too much for my weak, animal spirited heart to bear.  And it was one of those things where I just knew that even if everything turned out okay in the end, the damage was already done.  *Cue more weeping*

So yes, this book made me cry, a lot.  And by the end I didn’t feel much better about it either.  *Spoiler Alert* The old man got to go back to the circus, but ultimately he was still rejected and abandoned by his family! Too sad…too sad I tell you!

~storytelling nomad~

On non-existent plots and an ill-fated writing goal

Day 8 of National Young Writers’ Month and I thought one week in is as good as any for an update.  My 3 goals, as detailed in my earlier post, Go Go Gadget, Write!, were to: Blog every day, join a writers’ group and outline the plot for my novel in preparation for this year’s NaNoWriMo.  Blogging every day: Check.  Join a writers’ group: First meeting tonight – Check.  Outline plot: Big fat FAIL.  I’m struggling something chronic with this goal, and although I’ve made ‘progress’, in a sense, it’s just not turning out how I’d like, which is ultimately discouraging and therefore counter-productive.

My problem is this.  I have an idea.  I think it’s a pretty good idea. I have my character, a special ‘ability’ and a world to create around her.  But I have no plot.  No rising action.  No climax.  No falling action.  No conflict.  I can see my character in this world and the things around her, I know she’s special, but I don’t know what she’s fighting for.  Is this a sign I should give up now? Let it go? Start afresh with something new?

I understand the conventions of a good fantasy – characters going from ordinary to extraordinary, good vs evil, the anti hero, destinies, prophecies, isolation.  And the fantasies I love most are the ones with multi layered plots, a universal theme, an underlying task to achieve as well as smaller tasks to carry the protagonist through, individual character agendas, secrets and surprises.  I love endings, god how I love good endings.  So, naturally, this is what I want my book to read like too.   Did J.K. Rowling, she who ties everything together superbly over a massive seven books, did she work out these things before she began writing or just start with a boy finding out he’s a wizard, and work out the rest as she went?

Perhaps I could just start by writing my character in a scene and see where she takes me.  Or do I need to have some resemblance of the nitty gritty figured out before I dive in?  Do I need to know the evil, need to know my Voldemort before I can start writing?  I’ve read that people will often scrap a large majority of their drafts before they get to the final masterpiece.  Is this the reason why? Because they are fleshing out the story as they go and don’t really know where it will end up when they begin?

These are the questions I ask myself today.  Perhaps they are also questions that I will ask at the writers’ group tonight.  In the meantime, I’m going to sit here and panic, possibly bang my head against the wall a few times, and hope that my good idea will not be stuck inside my head forever without the plot to let it shine.

~storytelling nomad~

Go Go Gadget, Write!

Today marks the first day of the National Young Writer’s Month, with the idea to set yourself a writing goal and reach that goal with the support of the NaYoWriMo community.  I’ve set myself three goals, which I think are pretty reasonable – I hate disappointing myself with unrealistic goals.  Number 2 is going to be the troublesome middle child.

  1. Join a local writers’ group – As much as I love the online writing community, I think it would be a good idea to extend that to actual living people, like, in the flesh…you know?  I’ve found one locally which meets next week.  This will be my first writers’ group and I’m quite nervous about it. I’ve read a lot of horror stories about these types of meetings, so I hope this won’t be one of them.

  2. Write a plot outline for my novel in preparation for NaNoWriMo – This is going to be the little rascal that looks all sweet and innocent and relatively simple to achieve, but will slyly evade me each day in the shadows until the deadline arrives and I realise another month has gone by and I just haven’t done it.  NaNoWriMo is the kind of motivational push (translation: violent shove) I need to just get the major project on its way, but this goal is so that when November 1st comes around, I don’t find myself sitting for hours chewing my pencil with a confused look on my face as I watch my fellow NaNoWriMo participants overtake me at great speed.

  3. Continue my daily blogging prowess – I have so far managed to write a post a day *applause*, hopefully not boring the pants off anyone too much…not yet anyway.  However, I have it under good authority that no post is better than a piece of garbage post that results in comments such as “yawn” or, “There’s two minutes of my life I’ll never get back”.  I’m too fragile to deal with such a tragedy, and so I’m willing to waver this goal if artistic absence demands it.

Anyone else have any writing goals for National Young Writers Month?  Registration is free on their website http://www.expressmedia.org.au/nywm/.

~storytelling nomad~

NaNoWriMo 2011…Can it be done?!

1 novel, 50,000 words, 30 days...can it be done?

It’s a while away yet, but I have just signed up for the 2011 National Novel Writing Month challenge.  I not long ago found out about this ambitious and exciting program, and must say, I’m more than a little intrigued.  The goal is to write a 50,000 word (or more) novel between the 1st and 30th November, and share your progress with other NaNoWriMo-ees.  Because of the exceptionally small time limit, it’s about quantity, not quality, with the aim of getting writers to just write, and save the editing/rewriting/drafting for later.

As one who has had an idea for a novel circling around in my head for quite some time now, perhaps this is the kick in the ass I need to just, well, get it done.  But I wonder, am I setting myself up for terrible disappointment? Could I really write 50,000 words (or more?!?!) in 30 days?  I’ve never been one to shy away from a looming deadline, in fact I usually embrace the last minute cram (thank you tertiary education for that little gem of a skill), but I have my reservations about this one.  Can it be done? I would certainly be more than a little chuffed with myself if I managed to do it.

Anyone else up for the challenge? Perhaps we could find encouragement in our solidarity, joy in our success…or quite possibly (and very likely) solace in our failure?  Sign up at http://www.nanowrimo.org/

~storytelling nomad~