Therefore, this comes to you in two parts.
Part 1 - EpiphaniesWithin this part are two parts. Cue bullet points:
- Epiphany #1: Just write.
They tell you this when you read the NaNo intro page and in every peptalk. You could recite it all back, Quantity, not quality. But you can read it as much as you want. Until you accept that you are not going to get 100% on the first try, you will be disappointed. And as much as I would love for you to come away from this paragraph and say, "Wow, Alex really convinced me. I have to write stuff like 'He said, she said, I scratched my head, they raised their eyebrows' and use it as practice," I know you won't. It's a personal thing and I cannot, try as I might, shove it into your brain.
I won't hide that I had a really hard time re-accepting it this year. I'd written my first novel and been trying to edit it for the past year.* I knew the brutal truth: at the end of nanowrimo, you have a bloody, somewhat horrifying (but beautiful and fulfilling) thing that, after extensive editing, might someday resemble a novel. There are really, really good parts. There are also really, really bad parts.
For 2010, I wanted to write something better. I wanted to be artistic and thoughtful, like John Green. I wanted my words to paint beautiful images and feelings, like Cassie Clare. I wanted to be "perfectly paced and brilliantly plotted," like Suzanne Collins. Hence the psyche out. I expected way too much of myself.
It was only after I gave myself back that permission to write three pages of back story and an extended paragraph to describe each character that I started to enjoy it again And I know that that back story is chunky and poorly written and won't make it into the final draft but I wrote it and I know three pages more about my character now then I did before and that, my friends, is not a waste of time.
Only you can give yourself permission to use this month as extended practice. Your practice doesn't have to be good at all--think back to learning to write a capital 'G' in cursive**. Don't call it a first draft, even. Call it a zero draft or a really long outline. Just know that if you don't write it, you won't write it. So think about granting that permission. It's worth it (and you'll have to trust me on that).
- Epiphany #2: Do what works [for you] (this one'll be shorter, I promise)
I started off on November 1st with past tense even though I wanted to try present. Why? 1. I went to a writers conference where more than one person told me that present tense is distracting and a lot of people don't like it so stick to past until you really know what you're doing. AND 2. I was worried I wouldn't be able to pull it off.
I wrote four chapters in past tense and then, after nearly 10k, decided to switch. I was feeling it and it was so invigorating, I can't even tell you. I don't even care if it sucks. That's how enjoyable it was to write.
Lesson? Do whatever you want. I don't care if the world thinks vampire romances or bad boys with daddy issues are played out. Your novel isn't about what the world thinks. It's about what you want to write. This is your chance to rebel. Write whatever you want because if you don't want to write it, you won't enjoy it. And I happen to like misunderstood bad boys with daddy issues. It's hot. Class dismissed.
Part 2 - Tips
I'm not the most qualified person to be handing out writing advice but I will anyway.
- Inflate your head.
If you write something that you're really proud of it, don't be modest. Be anything but modest. You're going to write a lot that's less than noteworthy so if you churn out something you really like, cling to it, brag about it, smile to yourself and think about what a genius you are. If you're brave, post it on your blog. YOU ARE A GREAT WRITER. Get with the program.
- Write Chapter 8
You do not need to be linear. I got stuck on Friday because I didn't know what happened next or maybe I did but I didn't want to write it. Instead of beating my head on my desk, however, I hit enter twice, typed Chapter 8 (my last chapter had been 4, by the way) and started in on a scene (and if you don't have a scene in mind, start with an emotion). I don't know where it started or where it was going but that's a good scene and you can read it here: http://dft.ba/-4la
- Don't stress it.
You probably don't need to be told this but just don't, kay? If it's not working and it's not working, it's not working. Do something else, or write something else or something. But don't force it. That's no fun. And we could all use some reminding that this, above all, is about fun. It's about a love for writing and a challenge.
That is all.
*That's really hard. Editing is when you get to figure out just how broken your writing is and try to fix it. What I'd found out is that my 2009 NaNo isn't great. It's not bad, per se, and it doesn't make me violently ill but it's not as fantastic as I thought it was as I wrote it. Which is fine with me, actually.
**Am I the only one who had a really hard time with that?