How to Make NaNoWriMo Work for YouI Heart NaNoWriMo.
NaNoWriMo changed the way I write—and it’s why I’m a published novelist today. I wrote my first full-length novel during NaNoWriMo. I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember. But about ten years ago, a friend suggested I join in National Novel Writing Month. Until then, I had always written short stories. That year, I finished the first draft of what would eventually become Legally Undead—it was my third published novel, but it’s the very first one I wrote, and it was a finalist this year for the Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery and Suspense (you can check out an excerpt at the end of this post).
There are three things, in particular, that I love about NaNoWriMo, so today I’m going to talk about how to use these three elements: the community, the deadline, and the writing philosophy.
1. The Community
Writing is so often a solitary act that having a community of other writers who are all writing at the same time can be incredibly empowering. I always love checking the discussions to see who else is having writer’s block, who else has a character that has just run off in unexpected directions, who else has stayed up too late thinking up new scenes. It may take a village to produce a book, but that first draft is usually done all alone. NaNoWriMo changes that.
How to Use the Community: For inspiration and encouragement! I strongly encourage NaNo participants to post to the boards on a regular basis. Choose one or two that appeal to you and engage with other writers—this might be the only time every year that you will have the chance to interact with other people equally engaged in the creative process. I like the word-count threads that celebrate various milestones as a starting point; no one gets cranky in those!
2. The Deadline
I also love the deadline. Knowing that I have a definite goal of 50,000 words in 30 days gives me a reason to keep going. In particular, it forces me to write through the rough spots. I can always go back and edit those, but if I don’t keep writing through those hard-to-perfect scenes, the book will never get done—much as it never got done before that first NaNoWriMo many years ago.
How to Use the Deadline: For that extra push. In order to meet the 50k goal, you need to write a little over 1666 words every day (go ahead and round up to 1667). That can seem intimidating, even to seasoned writers. But it also gives you a definite goal, something more than “I need to finish this book” or “I sure would like to write a book someday.”
3. The Writing Philosophy
And finally, I love the “No Plot, No Problem” philosophy. Until NaNoWriMo, I didn’t actually know that I was a “pantser” (a seat-of-my-pants plotter). I had sketched out probably hundreds of stories that didn’t get written—in part because if I already know what’s going to happen, I get bored with the story. I didn’t know that about myself until I wrote without the safety net of an outline. But I have written seven novels since that first NaNo novel, all of them using the “just write” method. Every time I have something to write, I set word-count limits. Because now, almost every month is National Novel Writing Month at my house.
How to Use the Writing Philosophy: For comfort. You can quit trying to make your book perfect. Don’t worry about any particular scene. Just write what comes to you. See where the story takes you. Or, if you’re a plotter and have a careful outline drawn up beforehand, use this writing philosophy as permission to deviate from that outline should the story take off in a different direction. If your odd story direction doesn’t work out, write a new one the next day. Remember, you can always come back and edit out any wild tangent. In December. Or later.
In the end, of course, what you do with and in NaNoWriMo is entirely up to you—and if you’ve participated before, I’d love to hear what you like best! Leave comments and tell me what elements of NaNoWriMo are your favorites, and how you use them. If you haven’t participated before, let me know what you’re most looking forward to (or most worried about).
About the Author
Margo Bond Collins is the author of urban fantasy, contemporary romance, and paranormal mysteries. She lives in Texas with her daughter and several spoiled pets. Although writing fiction is her first love, she also teaches college-level English courses online. She enjoys reading romance and paranormal fiction of any genre and spends most of her free time daydreaming about heroes, monsters, cowboys, and villains, and the strong women who love them—and sometimes fight them.
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Elle Dupree has her life all figured out: first a wedding, then her Ph.D., then swank faculty parties where she’ll serve wine and cheese and introduce people to her husband the lawyer.
But those plans disintegrate when she walks in on a vampire draining the blood from her fiancé Greg. Horrified, she screams and runs--not away from the vampire, but toward it, brandishing a wooden letter opener.
As she slams the improvised stake into the vampire’s heart, a team of black-clad men bursts into the apartment. Turning around to face them, Elle discovers that Greg’s body is gone—and her perfect life falls apart.
Legally Undead is available at World Weaver Press, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Kobo.
The worst thing about vampires is that they're dead. That whole wanting to suck your blood business runs a close second, but for sheer creepiness, it's the dead bit that gets me every time. They're up and walking around and talking and sucking blood, but they're dead. And then there's the whole terminology problem--how can you kill something that's already dead? It's just wrong.
I was twenty-four the first time I . . . destroyed? dispatched? . . . a vampire. That's when I found out that all the books and movies are wrong. When you stick a wooden stake into their hearts, vampires don't disintegrate into dust. They don't explode. They don't spew blood everywhere. They just look surprised, groan, and collapse into a pile of corpse. But at least they lie still then, like corpses are supposed to.
Since that first kill (I might as well use the word--there really isn’t a better one), I've discovered that only if you're lucky do vampires look surprised before they groan and fall down. If you're unlucky and miss the heart, they look angry. And then they fight.
There are the other usual ways to kill vampires, of course, but these other ways can get a bit complicated. Vampires are notoriously difficult to trick into sunlight. They have an uncanny ability to sense when there's any sunlight within miles of them, and they're awfully good at hiding from it. Holy water doesn't kill them; it just distracts them for a while, and then they get that angry look again. And it takes a pretty big blade to cut off someone's head--even an already dead someone--and carrying a great big knife around New York City, even the Bronx, is a sure way to get arrested. Nope, pointy sticks are the best way to go, all the way around.
My own pointy stick is actually more of a little knife with wood inlay on the blade--the metal makes it slide in easier. I had the knife specially made by an old Italian guy in just about the only ratty part of Westchester, north of the city. I tried to order one off the internet, but it turns out that while it’s easy to find wood-inlay handles, the blades themselves tend to be metal. Fat lot those people know.
But I wasn’t thinking any of this when I pulled the knife out of the body on the ground. I was thinking something more along the lines of “Oh, bloody hell. Not again.”