Saturday, November 04, 2006

Know That You Can

Novels are not written by novelists. Novels are written by everyday people who give themselves permission to write novels. Whatever your writing experience, you have a book in you that only you can write."
Chris Baty, Nanowrimo Founder

Bring it on! Bring on the fatigue, the frustration, the mind blocks, the doubts, and the carpal tunnel (well, okay, maybe let's leave that out).

Nanowrimo (National Novel Writing Month) is a huge mind game.

This is my third year "playing" and I learned a few things between the first and second attempts. In 2004, I was determined but not convinced that I could write 50,000 words of a new story in 31 days. My brain kept telling me it was too much, that it was a waste of time because anything you write that fast is garbage. I only got to 32,000 words by November 31st.

Yes, Nano novels are garbage, at least as long as they stay in first draft form. That's the key: you have to be okay with the fact that it will be garbage and rejoice in the freedom to allow yourself to write garbage. After all, no first draft is every ready for publishing (unless you happen to be an amazing writing talent and ... I'm not sure there is even an example of well-known writers who ever published a first draft). That's one of the important lessons of Nano. The first draft is about open, free creativity. That's all it should be. It should get your story down in print, with its huge warts and misspellings and horrid sentence structures, so when you've finished that draft, you can let it sit a while and have the freedom to go back and edit. It's truly impossible to edit well when most of the story is still nagging your brain to be let loose. The first draft has to capture the fire of the theme and the inner beauty of the characters. They will be stifled by concerns of spelling and grammar and construction if done simultaneously with the original creative process.

Another thing I learned between the two years is that you can only do something if you believe you can. It's sounds cliche, I know, but it's truth. I wasn't truly convinced I could do it the first year, and I didn't. Last year, I heard other writers say they weren't sure they could make it, and they didn't. The ones who made it were the ones who believed they could. In 2005, I began blogging. For several months, I blogged every day whether or not I wanted to, and this helped to form a habit. By the time Nano came around, I was ready to expand my writing habit (the same time of the day works best for me) into longer time spans, working two hours every night. At times, I worked longer than two hours because it was moving well and I didn't want to stop. The big difference, however, was knowing I was going to make the 50K, not wondering if I could. I ended up with over 60,000 words by the end of November. Then I kept going. Once my habit was established, it was quite easy to maintain.

Nano also provides a wonderful sense of community. Along with the official forums, it's easy to find other types of support groups or to create your own. Find the challenge form on the site and send it to anyone you know who might be interested in writing a story of any kind. Last year, I challenged my niece since she's a budding writer. She's there again this year. A new challenge brought Mom into the folds of Nanowrimo for 2006. We all have at least one story in us begging to be let out. Nano is the perfect time to do so. And tell people you're taking the challenge. Let them watch your word count and see your success and determination. Let them fuss at you for not meeting weekly goals.

Most of all, know that you can, but remember it's the effort you put in and the lessons you learn that count more than anything.

You'll find me at by searching for lkhunsaker ... I'm an open book. ;-)

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