Friday, November 1, 2013

No NaNoWriMo? Eight ways to participate, sort of

Not everyone has the time to participate in NaNoWriMo. Many of us who can't participate wish we could. But just because we can't dedicate that much time and effort to our manuscripts for four solid weeks doesn't mean we can take part in the spirit of the event.

Here, for the NoNaNoWriMos, is a list of eight things we can do to make November an especially fruitful writing month:

1. Dedicate time every day to writing.
Two hours. One hour. 30 Minutes. Whatever you can do. It's not easy for many of us to write every day. But for a month, we could probably do it.

2. Take one day as a solid writing day.
Maybe you can't do it every day, but take a day off from work, or take a single Saturday, and set a big writing goal. 10,000 words. 5,000 words. Whatever is a big stretch for you. Tell your family that you'll be happy to do whatever they need that day, but first you have to meet your goal. Then write until you've completed the goal. That might be a good use for that day off on the Friday after Thanksgiving, if you can't set a different day.

3. Revise.
Maybe you don't have the time to write a novel in a month. But you can probably do a revision pass, even if it's not deep revisions. Revising takes a different kind of concentration. I find I can do it in smaller bursts, when I need to devote longer stretches of time to writing my first draft. Revise a page a night. Four or five pages a night will likely get you through most of your manuscript in a month.

4. Brainstorm.
Write down a story idea every day. The ideas don't have to be any good. Ask yourself what if and then add odd situations. If you can come up with 30 ideas this month, chances are good one or two of them will capture your imagination. One of those will spawn your next writing project.

5. Read more.
Don't have time to dedicate to writing? Then read more. Shut off or shut out the TV for a half hour every evening and read. Read something in your genre. Read a classic you've been meaning to get to. Read research material for the story you are working on or planning. Read a book about writing. Read a biography of a favorite writer. Whatever, just read. Reading doesn't require the same intense energy as writing, but it's an important part of the process.

6. Plan your next project.
Even if you are usually a pantser, the process of outlining a story can spark your creativity. Don't worry about the rules of outlining you learned in school. Make a list of plot points. They can be in order or not. You'll probably change the order anyway. Write a rough synopsis.Then start to build it out, adding more detail. When you're ready to write, you'll have the material you need to get started, and you'll probably find you have less writer's block because you know what's happening next in the story. You could even skip around to the scenes that interest you if you have problems with one scene.

7. Market yourself.
Research a new market every day, then send those queries. Even if you spend two weeks researching and two weeks querying, that's probably better than you do most months.

8. Journal.
For one month, keep a writing journal. Keep track of whatever you do each day to work toward your goals, even if it's not actually writing. Let your journal be your slave driver. It feels cruddy to write "I didn't do anything today." It feels really cruddy to write that frequently. Journals don't work for everybody, but give it a try and see if it helps to keep you going.

Maybe you don't have the time or energy or willpower to write a novel in a single month. Or maybe that's just not the way you work best. You can still feed off the writing energy that fills the air in November. Try one of the above, or combine some of them. Whatever you need to do to make November a great month for your writing. 


CNN released a list yesterday of the 20 YA novels that changed our lives. If you're looking for a good reading list, this might be a great place to start. Hard to argue with anything on that list, at least the eleven books that I've read.

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