If I knew where you lived, I'd be knocking on your door right now, recruiting you for NaNoWriMo.
While my desktop computer is currently off the fritz, I thought I'd better blog quick quick quick. Because for the past two weeks, our desktop has decided not to turn on. Sometimes.
But OF COURSE it turns on for the repair guys. Every time.
So that explains the decline in bloggage around here lately -- I have been at the mercy of a single power button. A single e-vil power button. But let's not give it any more attention than it deserves. Because you know what?
IT'S NaNo TIME AGAIN!!!
Can you tell I'm happy? Because I am, in the most genuine way possible.
Were it not for NaNoWriMo, I would not be the proud author of the big fat beautiful manuscript that I am today. (The one that Laini Taylor gave the best-est, nicest post about EVER last week. My toes are still wiggling with joy. THANK YOU, LAINI! When I am Rich and Famous, I will buy you a castle. Or, at least, let you borrow mine.)
Anyway, I freaking love NaNo. I love it so much I'd marry it if I could, and we'd have gorgeous, toner-scented children.
Partial list of other things this week I've said that I'd marry if I could:
Last year was my first time participating in National Novel Writing Month. I'd been hearing about it for years, but I kept blowing it off. "Writing 50,000 words in thirty days? Puh-lease. You can't force creativity."
Well, you wanna know something?
You totally can. And usually you have to.
Because if it weren't for NaNoWriMo, I'd still be working on the same book I'd been working on for the previous three and a half years. Yeah. Years. And not only that, but I'd still be revising the same three chapters! My light bulb moment was when someone explained to me that NaNo isn't about creating a GOOD draft. Just a finished draft.
Me: "A finished draft? Well, heck. I could use one of those."
Because let's face it -- the first draft is the hardest. Practically impossible. That blank white page, that dead eye staring back at you. So why drag it out over months and months (or, in my case, years and years)? Get that sucker done in ONE month and move on!
So I signed up, I wrote my butt off, and I won.
(If you didn't already know, "winning" in NaNo terms means you FINISHED. It's not a contest. And believe me, finishing IS winning!)
Really. It was that simple. I worked -- hard -- and it got written.
You: "So was it a good book?"
Me: "Um . . . no."
It was pretty much the worst thing I'd ever written. The main character was cardboard, the plot was nonexistent, and the scenes were written in both the past and present tense. It also had a lot of these:
[SOMETHING IMPORTANT HAPPENS HERE.]
That's a direct quote, by the way. Not "Big explosion in the condom factory, fill in details later." But "something important."
But the amazing thing about NaNo was that it gave me a COMPLETE draft to work with. And sure it was this ugly, hole-filled snotty troll of a thing, but it had an ending! Which was more than any of my other books could brag about. And in between the cliches and the plot gaps, I saw . . . potential. Tiny, shimmering threads of hope.
And that's what I latched onto in my next draft. I took what what worked, figured out why it worked, and made it work better. That's revising in a nutshell.
(The key word there? Work. Which I did. Which I'm still doing.)
So this year I'm recruiting. Because I believe in this way of novel-writing. I know it's not the only way of doing it, but it helped me like nothing else had helped before. So for anyone out there sitting on a Great Idea (cough, Sara Z, cough), or for any writer stuck between projects, or any writer who is even remotely curious in the teeniest tiniest way -- here is my advice.
Sign up. And write.
And if you want to win? Well, I'm glad you asked. Because I've got you covered there too:
STEPHANIE'S NON-EXPERT BUT VERY HELPFUL GUIDE TO WINNING NANOWRIMO:
(1) Turn off your Inner Editor. You know, this is the voice that tells you, "That sentence sucks. This idea sucks. YOU suck. Time to get a second job, suck-a-holic. I hear Applebee's is hiring." Send your Inner Editor to Legoland for the month. Tell her not to worry, because she'll have plenty of work to do when she gets back. (You'll want her on your side during revisions, after all.)
(2) Write everyday. Even if it is crappy. Which it will be. When you get stuck, insert "Something Important Happens Here" brackets and move on to whatever strange idea that pops into your brain next. Important stuff (and logic) is for second drafts.
(3) Do NOT read what you have already written. This is the quickest way of becoming discouraged and getting caught in the revision game. NO REVISING! KEEP MOVING FORWARD!
(4) Make NaNo friends. You can find them on the forums. Send them encouraging emails and, chances are, they'll send you encouraging emails back. These emails are crucial to survival. Only your NaNo buddies will understand the full insane-ness of writing a novel in thirty days.
(5) Expect it to be terrible. Keep your expectations low, and you will be much, much happier! Remember, the good stuff comes later.
And remember: It's only one month of your life. How much did you write last month? Even if you don't win NaNo, it's almost guaranteed you'll write more this November than you did this October. And isn't that something to be proud of?
So if you're interested, come find me. I'm naturallysteph in NaNo land, and I'd love to be your writing buddy.
We can send each other messages like, "YOU ARE SO AWESOME!!! ONLY THIRTY THOUSAND MORE WORDS TO GO BEFORE WE POP THE CHAMPAGNE!!!!" And these too: "If anyone ever reads this novel, I will DIE. I will throw myself off a cliff and hope to be trampled by horned goats. Please assure me your novel blows as hard as mine."
OH . . . and one more thing. The word counters.
My god, the word counters! The graphs! The charting of progress, and comparing your progress to everyone else's! This is what NaNo is REALLY about.
You know, finishing before your friends.
Because -- fer serious, people -- if seeing someone else write 7k words in a single day doesn't tweak your competitive spirit, I don't know what will.