Dreaming in Character

G.L. Jackson


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NaNoWriMo Update

This month has flown by in an absolute tizzy of words. I haven’t done much else, and there’s much more I need to do. This November, so far, I’ve learned the perils and rewards of working without a real outline. I’ve got a sprawling character study! With the no-editing clause in full effect, I have to go through five more days of do-not-touch-the-structure, but then in December I can rip it apart.

Usually when I’m drafting I’m far too close to the characters to see how to pull it apart and rework it, but I woke up this morning with a clear revision path in mind. I’m impressed, and it’s not often I impress myself.

I refuse to boast about word count. I haven’t even got to the end of the novel yet–I’ll just say I’m above the required. But instead of adding more lovely characterization, I’m going to sketch out how to get from here to the end and fill it in loosely. Then I’ll be satisfied.

I only changed the name of the novel once. That’s also impressive. I have written every day, which is good for me during NaNoWriMo, but doesn’t necessarily apply to my everyday life. Eleven months out of the year, I write when I can as often as I can, but don’t generally have the time to sit down and write for three or four solid hours. And you know what? It’s all good.

NaNoWriMo hasn’t been as much a rush to the finish for me as a learning-to-navigate-my-lack-of-outlining-skills experience. But as my mom always said, “As long as you learn from it, it was worth doing.” Now I can’t wait to craft it into something solid.

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It’s almost November (or: how I #NaNoWriMo)

Over on Twitter, a friend asked if I had any tips for a first-time NaNoWriMo participant. This will be my third year doing NaNo, which hardly makes me an expert. It does help me learn a few things about myself and my writing process, and the ways I can push myself to take advantage of the sparkling creativity that’s so easy to brush to the floor most of the time!

That’s my purple-prose way of saying here are the tips I shared.

  1. Treat writing like a job. I get up in the morning, get dressed like I’m going to work, and sit down and write for two hours. There are a million ways to put off writing – that’s why I do mine first thing in the morning. That way I can procrastinate on all the other things in my life…once I’ve made my word count.
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  3. I set my own word count goals. To complete a NaNo “novel” the goal is 1667 words a day, but we all know a 50k novel is a little on the short side. If you want a longer first draft, up your word count goal. It’s not as difficult as it seems! When all else fails, I look at my writing as a series of 100 words at a time. I can write those all day long, so doing 20 of them is not a big deal.
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  5. Don’t stop and edit. Just write, every day. The goal is to come up with a first draft, not a finished novel. That’s what the rest of the year is for.
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  7. If you can find a cheerleader willing to read your words every day or week, that’s a great way to motivate yourself to keep going. Not a critique partner, just a cheerleader who’ll tell you they love your work and can’t wait to read more.
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  9. Peruse at least one of the forums on the site, either in your age group or genre, but don’t let it suck up all your time. (Don’t be cowed by the people who claim to have huge word count achievements! I’ve seen people say they got to 50k words the first day. To each their own.)
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  11. A lot of people approach NaNo as if it’s going to consume their every waking moment for the whole month. I’ve never found this to be true: I get my stuff done, then have a perfectly normal life the other 22 hours of the day. (The hype around being too busy at NaNo to do anything but eat badly and leave the house a mess is just that, hype. We’re writers. We know that 1667 words a day is absolutely achievable. In fact, this post is already over 350 words. We write in prolific ways all the time without stopping to count!)
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  13. The one thing NaNo does for me (besides let me tell stories I don’t plot out or go into with much more than vague ideas most of the time) is get me into the habit of daily writing. In my case I don’t sustain it for the other 11 months of the year, but I do use that time for editing and helping my critique partners and for writing queries and loglines, summaries and tip sheets.
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That’s about it. Not too bad, right? If you’re going to try to write a complete first draft in a month, be sure to take deep breaths and appreciate yourself for your word count output in November! Good luck! I’m an excellent cheerleader if anyone needs one. Add me to your buddy list and then drop me a line. I’ll be sure to return the favor.

If you have any tips to add, I’d love to hear them. What works for you doing NaNo?