As I write this, I look back over the past year since I really cracked down on becoming a full time author, and I realize how all that proverbial cracking had really started with last year's NaNoWriMo.
For those not in the know, NaNoWriMo (short for the National Novel Writing Month) is that special time of year when all of the wannabe writers, authors and creative types begin oozing out of the woodwork to produce their art, and even stranger, start communicating with one another like an actual real community.
Writing isn't easy.
If it was, I'd probably have a myriad of novels out instead of just the one I wrote for last year's NaNoWriMo. And writing 50,000 words within the confines of 30 days can be a frightening concept if you let it get to you.
And it will get to you on some days. And that is completely normal.
Getting those 1,666 words out every day has to become an exercise to you, if only for that month. Every day you fall behind you will regret it more and more as the daily word counts rise.
In his book On Writing, Stephen King talks about how he rarely does more than 2k words a day of writing. So, by that math, at the end of that month, King will have accumulated about 60,000 words, and by the end of the year, 720, 000 words.
Now, not everyone who writes is a full time author. But for the month of November, you get to challenge yourself to live like one.
By writing that word count, you're living the life style of a full timer when you do NaNoWriMo, even if you're jamming those words in between the hours of 1am and 3am. Ray Bradbury used to type up his stories on breaks, and Terry Pratchett used to pencil in his Discworld ideas while working away at a factory.
It's up to you in the end to reach your goal, but there is an entire community of people attempting that very same goal, and many of them are willing to lend and hand when one is needed.
So, here are my TOP FIVE recommendations on HOW TO SURVIVE NANOWRIMO:
I know some of you writers out there have set systems in place as far as how you go about putting words to paper, and that some of you find a thrill in discovering your story and characters as you go along pulling inspiration from the ether. But in my case, I find when I tend to look to the ether, I end up wandering around it for days on end and wake up with little to no words written that week, and 30 days does not give me a lot of time for 'dillydallying.'
To avoid this, I now outline my novels. It was with NaNoWriMo that I really first attempted what some writers call 'Beats', meaning small synopsis style notes for every scene in the book. From these notes I was able to expand upon the scenes, and from there transform these expanded notes into prose.
Experiment with different outlining methods! Remember, this is a 30 day challenge, so to sit back and hope that the muse will guide you through it, to me anyways, is a very risky notion.
2. KNOW YOUR ENDING FIRST
This is a part of the outlining phase, but I thought it deserved its own attention. Knowing your ending is crucial to knowing your book in general. I'm a big believer in the 7 Act Story Structure, where you start with your ending and from there fill in the obvious counterbalances to create a interesting arc.
Let's say I'm writing Harry Potter this year for NaNoWriMo. I got this idea where a kid becomes a wizard and grows up to defeat the Dark Lord of All Evil. Starting from that ending, I can logically deduce that the best way to dramatically have contrast to the story arc would be to have my Kid Character at the beginning of the story to have an awful life since he's the Hero in the end.
The ending is the opposite of the beginning, so why not start taking that more literally when you attempt writing?
It's much easier to write your beginning if you know your ending than is to write your ending without knowing what it is.
This is a pretty obvious one, but one that people don't always follow. Writers are, in general, overly empathic, caffeine-riddled hypochondriacs even on a good day. We're wired for love, pain and noticing the little things about life that some look past.
With that in mind, try to eat healthily and to get as much sleep as you can during these 30 days. Avoid sugary foods and anything that does your body a disservice. I'm not saying go on a diet; if anything I'm saying the opposite of that.
Keep eating. Just eat the good stuff, and as much of it as you want. Do a juice cleanse, start adding more fruits and vegetables into your meals, stop buying the junk food.
Don't look at it like it's a diet, because diets are the worst idea in the world. Healthy eating has to be a regular thing that you take control over, and in the times when the stress is high (YA KNOW, LIKE WHEN YOU'RE WRITING A GODDAMNED BOOK IN 30 DAYS), you're not doing yourself any favors by throwing saturated fats and GMOs into your system.
So find the best way to eat healthier for you and your budget! Take a few extra minutes a day to plan your meals.
The body is a machine, and like any other, will run more efficiently with the proper fuel.
4. DO NOT SELF EDIT
This. One. I. Cannot. Stress. Enough.
Writing that perfect sentence can be laborious, and its easy to become dissatisfied if you're having one of those days where each word that comes out seems worse than the last. But believe me, it is much easier in the long run to keep writing, maintain that word count, and then edit down the line than it is to edit as you go.
Turn that censor off, and keep writing. Remember, this is a writing challenge, and not an editing challenge.
5. WRITE SOMETHING THAT MAKES YOU SMILE
Remember that part where I said writing isn't easy? Guess what. Nothing's changed. It still isn't.
So on top of outlining, knowing your ending, staying healthy and not self editing as you write, what's the best advice I can give you when you're faced with the daunting task of coming up with a novel in 30 days?
Write something you enjoy. Think about what you like to read, and better yet, what your friends like to read. Try to come up with a concept that is as fun for you to write as it would be for someone else to read.
Some people say that inspiration comes from pain, and this can be true, but in my mind, a happy writer can write dark just as easy as light when the words come naturally.
So my best advice on top of everything I've said is it to have fun with it. Get the most out of the experience as you possibly can. Shoot for the heavens and don't be upset if you come up short. Even if you fly into the sun like Icarus, you'll be writing more this November that you will have in past years.
Last year I started writing Dinosaur Noir: The Curse of the Diamond Heart, a book about a six-and-a-half-foot-tall lizard private detective.
Because it's fun. Not just for me, but for the people who I've told about it. There's something about the concept that resonates with people, whether it makes them laugh or just flat out interests them. It was this feedback from people that really prompted me to take this silly concept seriously, and from there I knew my path.
So after finishing the 50k for NaNoWriMo, I upped the word count to 70k. I decided then to send it out to beta readers, and a couple months later, after receiving amazing feedback, I added another 11k to the novel, finishing it at 81k in total.
From there, I hired the wonderful editor Jason Whited (www.jason-whited.com), designed a cover, and uploaded it to Kindle Direct Publishing.
So, as an extra treat for those doing NaNoWriMo this year, I've made The Curse of the Diamond Heart, the book I wrote for last year's NaNo, FREE until midnight tonight.
Here's the link if you want a copy: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00P00B6OO
So that's my story. That's how I beat NaNoWriMo 2013, and how I plan to beat it this year. If you find any of my advice or words inspirational or useful, send me an email or comment below! Here's to another great NaNo month and another 50k written.
I'm off to write Dinosaur Noir 2! Good luck everyone!