Lately some readers have been asking about books that teach how to write a book or how to write a novel in X number of days. Understandably, it’s important for many to define a timeline, perhaps so the author sees a light at the end of the tunnel. This was not my personal method for writing novels, but if it works, what the heck. Writing is hard. Do whatever works.
If memory serves correctly, years ago there was a title about writing a book in 90 days, and then one came out for accomplishing the task in just a month, then another for finishing a book in a week, then another in only three days. Someday soon the title will be, “Write a Book and Sell a Million Copies in One Day!” This concept is both alluring and off-putting, and it should be discussed.
In practice, my specialty is not teaching people how to write (or how to write quickly), but teaching what to do after the book is written. However, since this subject seems so hot, perhaps my two cents can get thrown in for at least a few recommendations. One thing that is clear; books don’t write themselves. Anything that motivates you to write is a great place to start. If getting it done in a quick time frame is appealing, then now might be the time to start thinking about a November challenge and NaNoWriMo.
NaNoWriMo is an acronym for National Novel Writing Month. Kind of sounds like Mama Rhino. From their website, NaNoWriMo is:
…a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to novel writing. Participants begin writing on November 1. The goal is to write a 50,000 word, (approximately 175 page) novel by 11:59:59, November 30.
Valuing enthusiasm and perseverance over painstaking craft, NaNoWriMo is a novel-writing program for everyone who has thought fleetingly about writing a novel but has been scared away by the time and effort involved.
Because of the limited writing window, the ONLY thing that matters in NaNoWriMo is output. It’s all about quantity, not quality. This approach forces you to lower your expectations, take risks, and write on the fly.
Make no mistake: You will be writing a lot of crap. And that’s a good thing. By forcing yourself to write so intensely, you are giving yourself permission to make mistakes. To forgo the endless tweaking and editing and just create. To build without tearing down…
Yep, it’s a real deal. Last year 200,000 participants entered and 30,000 actually reached the 50K word goal. That’s an impressive 15%. For the others who didn’t, many of them probably wrote a good bulk of 50K words, also impressive. It took me years to write each of my novels. Here’s the registration page.
Activities like this are different from simply repeating phrases like, “really need to write that novel someday,” because of the DEADLINE and the GROUP PARTICIPATION. Those two factors will have a huge difference on most writers.
You might be thinking, “It’s August for crying out loud. What’s up?” The answer is, it’s the perfect time to start gearing up for this and getting your creative juices flowing so when November comes around–you’re already rolling.
1. Make an initial outline. It doesn’t have to be perfect or even complete. A general outline discussing beginning, middle and end features will always help.
2. Add some basic sentences to all sections of the outline. Try to identify key points, scenes that come to mind, which characters might be involved where, anything to help expand your initial outline.
3. After the outline’s in place, create a document for your book that’s like a daily or a journal and label it as such. Then set ten to twenty minutes aside for your “dailies.” Write anything that comes to mind on your story and don’t edit. Just write, don’t edit. Keep on writing for at least ten to twenty minutes if not more. Don’t edit the dailies. In case you still haven’t heard this piece of advice, DON’T EDIT THE DAILIES. The reason is to build the creative flow since that’s where the magic happens. Editing takes you out of the creative moment. It’s okay to make mistakes. It’s okay to have typos and poor choices of words. You’ll fix them later.
4. Do this everyday. Even if it’s just ten to twenty minutes, you’ll be amazed what can happen in a few days to a week. Your “dailies” document should fill up fast, even if some of it is crap and needs thorough editing.
5. Create a 2nd document and title it the name of your story or “main story.” At the end of the day, when your creative mind is waving a white flag, copy and paste sections at a time from the “dailies” and place them where you think they will go chronologically in your “main story.” Now’s the time to go over what you’ve written. Editing and rewriting takes different brainwaves as creation does. You might be pleasantly surprised to actually feel recharged during this time of editing. For me, working on editing in the “main story” is far easier than creating the “dailies.”
6. Stick to it. That’s easier said than done, but if you can stick with this, once November and NaNoWriMo comes around, you’ll be ahead of the game.
If you have any extra time, the main other thing that will help is to join a critique group on the side. Yahoo has critique groups as does every site for writers like Authonomy, Redroom, and others. By regularly hearing critique of your chapters and critiquing the work of others, you’ll get a finer idea of what makes your writing its best.
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