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Journey to Nanoland

National Novel Writing Month

“Your work is to discover your work, and then, with all your heart to give yourself to it.” ~Buddha

And that’s just what I’m going to do in November during National Novel Writing Month. How many of you have thought of writing a book length work  but haven’t started because its too daunting, too time consuming, you can’t think of a topic, or you lack motivation? Nanowrimo is for you.

I thought all these same things. I thought I’d never be able to do it, but at 11:59 PM on November 30th, 2004 I crossed into that magical winners circle with 50,000 words of my first novel. I hit send and my manuscript sailed off to Nanoland and moments later a flashing sign appeared on my screen:  WINNER. A great moment in my life!

What is Nanowrimo? It’s a free novel writing contest open to anyone who wants to participate and held in the month of November. The idea is to write 50,000 words of your first draft between 12:00 AM November 1st and 11:59 PM on November 30th. It’s a tough pace, but if you win, you’ve got a solid start to your novel. Sign up and learn more at www.nanowrimo.org.

Once you start, be ready for high velocity writing. Here are some tips: 1) The most important thing a writer needs is a deadline. During Nanowrimo it’s 1667 words every day. 2) Don’t set your expectations too high. You are writing a draft. Founder, Chris Baty calls this “exuberent imperfection.” He says we should risk writing something bad to create something “beautiful and enduring.” The secret is to write uncritically—you can fix it in revision. 3) Write with friends who will hold you accountable. A group generates a pool of energy that you’ll tap into to keep you going. And  4) start well prepared: plan your time, find a writing buddy or group, clean up and “set” your writing space with everything you’re going to need to be comfortable and productive.

Then find a totem—something that reminds you that you’re writing and tells you and others you’re not to be disturbed. It will help you remember why you’re writing 50,000 words in 30 days!

Now, think about what you want to write, but don’t over plan. Too much planning can make the writing boring, a repetition of effort, or too precious. Baty says to treat the draft with “irreverent disregard…a rough draft is like bread dough—you have to beat the crap out of it to make it rise.”  So think on your work, but beware—past a certain point, planning and research become excuses not to write.

Get busy:  Baty suggests listing everything you love in a novel and everything you hate in a novel. Use what you love, leave the rest. If you won’t enjoy reading it, you won’t enjoy writing it.

Nanowrimo is a high velocity, seat of your pants approach to writing a rough draft. Check out the website, track your progress, read some pep talks from respected authors, make some friends, go to a write in, have some fun.

Chris Baty, The Night of Writing Dangerously

Read Chris’s book: No Plot, No Problem A Low-Stress, High-Velocity Guide to Writing a Book in 30 Days

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