Thursday, November 15, 2012

NaNoWriMo GUEST POST: Don't get derailed!

I'm delighted to post another fantastic guest post in honor of NaNoWriMo.  Kara Bietz writes contemporary YA fiction from her home in North Georgia. Kara does not miss her job as a preschool teacher, where she was not allowed to say the F word even once. You can find her online at or on Twitter @KaraMB75. (Proud to say she's also an Agent Courtney client!) 

You’ve decided to NaNo this year! Good for you! Making the commitment to this kind of adventure should not go without recognition. Go ahead and pat yourself on the back a little, I’ll wait here.

All set? Feeling good? Okay, now let’s get down to business! Writing 50K in thirty days means that you will have to average just over 1,666 words each day, or six pages of solid text, give or take. 

On November 1st,  you might feel GREAT about this. All cylinders are firing and your fingers scramble over the keyboard like magic. Your ideas are all over the place. You write them all down. It’s wonderful. 

By November 15th, you may be struggling with the mucky middle of your manuscript, where characters have fascinating conversations about the weather, or debate the merits of apple juice vs. orange juice. But! You are still writing with gusto, easily clocking your 1,666 words. 

By the time Thanksgiving rolls around, though, you wonder why in heaven’s name you ever agreed to such torture and wonder if you can just kill off all of your characters just so that you can write that ever satisfying THE END at the bottom of your Word document. 

Here are a few tips if you feel yourself getting derailed by your NaNo project:

1. Don’t sweat it. I know that’s hard to hear, especially if it is November 28th and you have put in a few hours of work each day, not to mention ignored your kids,let the Thanksgiving dishes get crusty in the sink and skipped Black Friday shopping with your husband. Any kind of project you undertake with this kind of extreme deadline is likely to wear on you after a number of days. Give yourself permission to fall down. Then get up and plow forward. If you miss a day of writing, try to be super productive tomorrow. Readjust your goals. Get out your abacus and recalculate how many words you will have to write each day in order to get that shiny “I Won NaNo” sticker for your blog.

2. Take a walk. Some of the best ideas come when you remove yourself from your work and give yourself a little bit of space to breathe.

3. Remember why you signed up in the first place. There are many reasons to sign up for NaNoWriMo. Some do it just to see if they can actually manage to write 50K words in 30 days and look forward to that sense of accomplishment when they finish. Some writers, such as myself, use it as a tool to begin the first draft of a new novel. The daily goals can help keep a first-draft-writer focused on the task at hand and give the ever-present internal editor a month off. And still others do it for the social aspect, the meet-ups and the feeling of camaraderie. 

If you’re feeling lost, sit down and decide WHY you decided to NaNo in the first place. If you did it as a personal challenge, then sit back in the chair and do your very best to finish. Channel your inner Bela Karolyi and remember the ’96 Olympics…”You can DO IT, Kerri. You can DO IT.” Then hobble over to that vault on one foot and fling yourself over. 

If you are first drafting, take a look at what you have written so far. Is it enough for you to know where your next draft should begin? Do you know your core story? If you feel confident that you can begin again and take your time, then don’t stress about not finishing NaNo. Begin again, with a deep breath, and know that NaNo served its purpose for you this year. If you are participating in the social aspect of NaNo, look for support and encouragement from your fellow NaNoers. There are online bulletin boards, regional meetups and several other ways to reach out to your fellow fast-fingered novel writers. Use the resources available to you.

4. Remember the number one rule. Even people who write for a living will tell you: this is supposed to be fun. Creating a world and letting pretend people run around in it all day long is The Best Thing about being a writer. Write a kissing scene. Add a road trip. A meteor shower. Writing a novel is the ultimate game of “What if…”


Cathy C. Hall said...

"this is supposed to be fun."

YES! Love your take-away, Kara (and the advice in the middle was pretty good, too)! ;-)

Amy said...

Thank you, I'm in danger of running into the mucky middle right about now... These are lovely words of encouragement!