Saturday, November 1, 2014

Happy NaNoWriMo! Plus a Pep Talk

Guess what? It's November first!

Bowties are cool. So was the eleventh Doctor.

This means that the great writing adventure known as NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) has just begun. Those who wish spew words at paper in haphazard fashion will attempt to complete at least 50,000 words by the end of the month. It's not a novel, but it's about halfway, which is a darn good start.

There are some fantastic resources out there, like Nathan Bransford's series of writing posts corralled here, Eddy Rivas' pep talk on how he wrote 3 novels (drafts) in a year, and Chrys Fey's posts on specificity, redundancy, and how to craft a good sentence (hint: cut unnecessary verbiage).

With writing, there are hundreds of tips and thousands of ways to do it right or wrong. You should read books and articles about writing and practice what they talk about, but also take it with a grain of salt and find what works for you. There is no universal formula or tip--except one.

Do not be ashamed.

Shame is the biggest killer of creativity. Embarrassment fills us with thoughts of ourselves instead of our characters. Guilt makes us contrive plots into strange aberrations of modern art: the form just isn't pretty. Shame makes us want to hide, and in hiding we remove our heart from our work, making it feel unreal and flabby.

Don't be ashamed if you're not a perfect writer. If you miss a day or your work slams you and you have to put aside a half-written novel for a few weeks. Don't be ashamed if you just can't do 1700 words per day. If you have to do NaNoEdMo instead and edit the heck out of an old MS, or if you have to make NaNoWriMo continue into December. Don't be ashamed.

Don't be ashamed if your work isn't perfect. If you realize halfway through (or more) that you've gotten your main character all wrong, and he's just the love interest while this character over here is the real star. Don't be ashamed if it takes you 40,000 words to figure out what the stakes are, or to redirect the plot in the direction you actually want to go. If your spelling and grammar are terrible. If your first chapter sucks, don't be ashamed.

Don't be ashamed if you break the rules. Don't be ashamed if you use adverbs everywhere. Don't be ashamed if your main character looks like yet another Disney princess or the plot is your high school wish fulfillment. If it's sappy or stereotypical or been done before. Don't be ashamed.

You have something to tell the world. I don't mean themes and messages. Sure, my story is about helping the people who want to do you harm. But that's not the thing I have to say. What I have is a story about a young woman who is being hunted down for her magic by men whose powers are making them insane...

Stories are our lifeblood. Everything in life is a story. Humans live stories. Sociology shows that what we call roles are really more like scripts: we have a narrative for how life works and people act. We have other narratives for how we think life should work and people should act. It's all story. Most religious texts are stories, and even their lists of rules and rites are often contained within a story.

Your story will help us shape the way we write our script for the world.

Say what you need to say. Get it out there. Crappy rough drafts (or zero drafts, as Eddy Rivas calls them) can be made better, but they have to exist first.

Turn off the voices that shame you and just write. And celebrate the fact that you're writing.

Word count: 634.