It wasn’t all that long ago that I breathed a sigh of relief, glad to be done with all the writing I had planned for the ‘Year of the Zombie’. I mean, I still have this blog to finish…but that’s pretty well ahead of schedule, and feels easy after the list of tasks I set for myself to build a small library of books in one year that all began with the words ‘Zombie Zero’. I had three months to plan next year, and lay out a schedule; anything I wrote on top of that was total bonus content for me.
Then I heard about #NaNoWriMo.
My publishing partner told me about it, which means I am blaming her for this whole shift in schedule. Dawn is also my partner in everything else, and she’s the only one that knew I was chomping at the bit to write a book I had planned for next year. I had already gotten to work on a short story tie-in, and was very excited about the new direction it was headed in; but I was also looking at a long list of other things that I wanted to get done, and consoling myself that I would get to it when I got to it. Keeping a writing schedule has made it easier to live with so many stories in my head; I can show them where they are on the schedule, and tell them I need my peace until then.
It doesn’t work, always; but that’s what I try to do.
Dawn knew all this, and still she thought it would be a good idea to tell me about #NaNoWriMo the second week of October. If she had just waited another week or two, there would not have been time to outline and set a schedule and draw the map for this journey. I know some folks like to poke fun at writers like me, and call us ‘plotters’. They must use the term because it sounds like ‘plodder’; otherwise they’re just admitting that their own books are light on plot, which is also possible. My life is well-planned, and better executed as a result of learning to plan; of course I bring that skill and knowledge to my writing. Dawn knows this. Obviously, she wanted me to drop everything and participate in this event. I just needed her to explain exactly what it was.
Oh, make no mistake; you had me at ‘National Novel Writing Month’. I just need the details. The devil is in the details, after all; and everyone knows what a big fan I am of both. The gist is obvious: if you have always wanted to write a book, or just want to write another one, this is the month to do it in. All kinds of other writers are doing it, and together we help create momentum and support for the whole community. The event was created to encourage those folks who always wanted to write a book to get started on following that dream.
That being said, I would have balked at the idea of writing a book in a month up until recently. My first book was too short to even qualify for this project, and it took me a year to write. It took me over a decade to get it published. My second and third and fourth books were not novels that I could have written in a month, back then. I say ‘back then’ because I have since discovered the wonder of a writing schedule, and keeping to it has made me a better writer. Now I hear that there is an event set up to keep track of a fifty thousand word novel as it takes shape over a month, and that sounds totally reasonable to me. If it sounds unreasonable to you, I get it. I have heard actual published authors say that it’s impossible to write a decent book of that size in that time, but they are really just talking about their own abilities. There are plenty of professionals out there perfectly capable of such a task, and November will be the month in which they prove it.
By the way, Viktor Frankl’s ‘Man Search for Meaning’ was written in way less than a month, and many folks have called it one of the greatest books of all time. I completely agree, although I didn’t see how he could have possibly done it when I first read the book. Then I sat on my own books for a few years, letting them live only in my mind, and the pot started to boil. When I finally got started, I found that I got better at writing the more I did it. I also got faster. It’s a good thing I had gotten a little bit of discipline into my life before I started following news in the publishing world; it wasn’t such a shock to discover that five thousand words a day is not considered anything but a good starting point by some dedicated professionals. They talk about ten thousand words a day, and it does shock me. I was super happy when I was able to make new daily writing goals of two thousand to twenty-five hundred words a day and keep them while still getting other things done.
Before anyone panics, the event does not require that your novel is complete in one month. It does suggest a fifty thousand word goal for the month, but concedes in the same breath that not all books are that short. It’s perfectly acceptable for folks to just get started on a longer novel, but it is suggested that those fifty thousand words go into it in the month of November. Like many other authors, I am aiming to complete the entire novel in the month of November; but not everyone has to.
I did not use an outline to write my first book, but I learned the value of it on the next one. The more I use them, the more I depend on them; and that is where most of my thinking and feeling out the story happens. By the time my outline is done, at this point, I am ready to write without pause. That’s why it was obviously Dawn’s intention to get me to do this, by telling me about it when she did. I have all the time I need to outline, and sit with the story, and answer all the questions I may have. When November comes around, the only thing I need to do is make the time to write. I’ll set high goals in the beginning, to make sure I have time for my thirteen or so edits; but there will be time for that even if I don’t get it done in November. My goal is to have it on pre-order by November 30th, and to have it go on actual sale January 1st of 2017.
That goal might change, as I foresee inner and outer arguments about releasing a book at the beginning of the year. Since the book is centered around a new year’s celebration, it’s a great chance for a timely release. But I will probably share this one with newsletter subscribers, and I’ll at least give them a good taste before the book is available to buy. My tendency is to give them everything I’m going to give them before anyone else gets it, though; so the actual release date could get pushed back a bit. I’ll promise it by my birthday, at the latest; there’s too much on the schedule next year to put it off any longer than that. That’s February 27th, 2017. At the latest.
But enough about my strange new direction that I can use so many words to avoid really talking about. #NaNoWriMo is coming up, and authors old and new are stepping up to participate. All you have to do if you want to be among us is go to the website and sign up. You’ll need to tell them some things about your book, and input your word count into their system as it grows in November. You ‘win’ by completing that novel, or at least fifty thousand words of it. The person you ‘win’ against is yourself, of course; just like the person you lose to is you if you don’t make it. It’s just like writing any other month, but with a huge support system available to you all month.
As someone who will be working on my thirteenth book, I won’t be reaching out to writing groups or other such resources to complete this project. I have spent the last couple of years learning all of the things that I need to know to undertake a project of this nature. As long as our porch exists, and the company Appletop remains as dependable and problem-free as it has always been, I’ve got this. It would have been arrogant for me to say that even a year ago; but now it’s just a statement of my experience, and confidence in my own abilities.
That’s a big part of why I’m writing this blog series, to share the things I’ve learned while the learning is still fresh. This seems like a perfect time to stand behind this blog, by participating in this event; it seems like a great time to do more, too; or at least offer to.
So here’s the offer:
If you need a little help, during this upcoming writing challenge; and you think I can give it, hit me up. I hope reading some of the posts in this series has helped folks with just this type of thing; but I’m also here for the writer that needs a little something more.
There’s a drill sergeant in my head, that yells at me when I’m not getting enough done and accepts no excuses. You’ve probably noticed that he comes out while I’m writing, especially when I’m writing about writing. Let me know if you need his voice in your ear, telling you what needs to be done and how there is no legitimate reason not to put your everything into doing it.
You may have heard the voice of inspiration come through in this series as well. Most of these posts are written a month or two in advance of posting, and I always read them when they go up. Part of that is the inner editor I have, terrified there is some horrific mistake Dawn or I somehow didn’t catch. The other part is the simple fact that more often than not I feel inspired by my own posts. With several weeks between writing and posting, they hit me in a different place and freshen up my perspective. I didn’t plan the series that way, but I couldn’t be more happy that it has worked out that way.
That voice is here for you as well. Not everyone enjoys the screaming drill sergeant, and sometimes I even tell him to shut it for awhile. Sometimes I need encouragement, and gentle coaxing, more than a good shove. Let me know, if that’s what you need.
Remember that this is about getting those fifty thousand words out there, at its core. Plenty of authors write four or five times that amount to get a book that long, so most of what we all need to do this month is get out of our own way and write. Of course, I’ll be working it from my own angle; and I’m happy to help you work it from yours as well.
Send me a message, to that email address below, if you want that help. Tell me a little about any trouble you may be having, and I’ll do what I can to help. The real thrust of #NaNoWriMo, for me, is the chance for authors to cheerlead other authors and writers who wish to join our ranks. I’ll be writing like mad, and editing, and I’ll check my emails every day; other than that, I can’t do much more than wish everyone the best.
Thanks for reading!
All the best,