Whoa! Has it really been that long? Wow, how time flies! And that’s what happens amidst the lovely month of November for writers participating in National Novel Writing Month – time flies. If you have been receiving Chris Baty’s updates you’ll even note that he, the founder and participant since its inception 10 years ago, has gotten a bit ahead of himself so it’s safe to assume the time continuum thingamabob does go wonky for us writer-type folk.
It’s hard for me to remember from one NaNoWriMo to the next, kind of like how childbirthing goes, the pain is just that great that you tend to push it away and relish the joy that came as a result of the pain. I do, however, vaguely recall this lull in the writing and the absence from daily life that occurs between the third and fourth weeks.
Now, I’m not going to advocate what Chris Baty, the fearless NaNoWriMo leader suggests to do at this stage, which is to recite favorite ads in the phone book or have a character sing the entire “America Pie” song. To me, that’s cheating, even borderline plagiarism and to a writer, that’s a might scary word! I will, however, dispense some sage advice that I have collected over the years that might make this a bit less daunting for my fellow writer-type folks.
Every writer experiences a moment of helplessness and shamefulness. We get to a point where we think we’re all writing complete drivel that no one would be interested in reading. It’s called the turning point. And the only way through it is to just. keep. writing.
This isn’t NaNoPublishMo, you’re not creating a final draft that you’ll send out to your agent (if you’re lucky enough to have one and if you happen to have one, please consider putting a good word in for me) or box up and ship out to a POD company. This is your rough draft. Write backstory, leave out whole “how I got from there to here” segments and come back to them during the spring NaNoEditMo or whenever you choose to edit your work. Write lengthy descriptions of your characters, put them in a time and place where they might be having a conversation with you, their creator, or the antagonist. Hell, even a nice little chat with one of the spear carriers!
And once you do all that writing, do not delete it. Do not cut it out of your manuscript! That’s word count, baby!
Something that’s motivated me this year is learning that a novel isn’t anywhere near a mere 50K words. It’s more like double that if not more. In reality, when you near the end of NaNoWriMo you should be about at the halfway point, maybe even a third of the way, towards the end of your story. Oh, it probably was said in one of the zillion motivational emails I get from the Letters of Light offices (the parent company of NaNoWriMo), but it didn’t sink in until this year. There I sat, almost halfway to my NaNo goal and I started to freak out. “I’m nowhere near the end!” I screamed out much to the annoyance of my cat. “I’m not going to make it!” I cried out in my nightmares. And that’s okay, because I don’t have to be. That was a huge relief, my friend! So take solace, you don’t have to be there. But also don’t start freaking out if you feel you’re almost to the end and you’ve just hit the 30K marker. Spend some time fattening up your character, give some wealthy descriptions of the setting (after all, you don’t want just a bunch of talking heads, do you?), are you getting in at least 3 of the 5 senses in your writing (seeing, hearing, touching, tasting, smelling)? Adding those details into your tale will surely fluff up your word count and certainly make it a story you’ll feel more proud to tell.
Hopefully I’ve made up for my five day absence with these words of advice. In the meantime, I have a page left to go of the longhand script that’s calling for me. My current transcribed count is: 34,699 (what a very odd number!)
No lurkers allowed! Leave me some love! I’ll even settle for your own word counts or words of advice you’ve got just begging to be shared.