Well, we’re almost there. Halloween and then National Novel Writing Month. With that and the weather cooling down and Thanksgiving coming… Well, it’s no wonder this is my favorite time of the year! To heck with winter holidays, giving me overindulgence in candy, turkey and writing!
So in celebration of the most wonderful time of the year, I’ve got a few Nano tips. I’ve succeeded at Nano almost every time I’ve done it (exception: one year when I was very ill) and so that of course makes me qualified to give tips. (No it doesn’t. I made that up, but I’m giving tips anyway.)
1) It really depends on what sort of writer you are, but for me Nano works best when you have a solid starting point, and a solid ending point and perhaps two or three salient points you must touch upon along the way. Hold onto these for dear life. You need them. They are your life preservers in a stormy sea. Everything else: let it go where it wants. Let it flow.
2) Despite what I told you in #1, only hold onto those points if they aren’t ruining everything. Let them go if they no longer work for you. If your story is sinking because your life preserver turned out to be made of lead, let it sink and swim back up. Look for the next one. Or craft a new one from the flotsam and jetsam that rose as your wrote. (Am I beating this metaphor to death?)
3) Don’t be afraid to use too many words. Describe things. Allow your characters to have ponderous inner dialogues, or indeed, ponderous external dialogues. You may well edit this stuff out later (after November, please. See #4), but it clarifies the story, the setting and/or the characters to you. It helps you work things out you may not have considered before. Your readers may not need it eventually, but you probably need it now.
4) Whatever you do, don’t edit. Really. Don’t edit. Don’t even reread except to remind yourself where you were when you return to writing after a break. You have permission to fix the occasional typo you might run across but, otherwise, leave that clunky sentence, ignore that nonsensical soliloquy, pretend that bit about the fluffy bunny is perfect. Keep going. Nano is like being chased by hounds. If you stop, you won’t start up again. (Oh, now that’s a much worse metaphor. In honor of Nano, I’m leaving it.)
5) This one is sort of part of #4 and sort of not. Don’t pre-edit. Don’t sit and search for just the right word. “What is it when you add things, but you’re English or something? What is that phrase?” Doesn’t matter. This is Nano. Use “add” now and remember “tot up” in December when you’re at leisure to do so. “Do I want my heroine’s dress to be chartreuse, lime or mint?” Pick one and keep moving. Allow her clothes to represent her specific mood later when you have time. (Is chartreuse happier than lime?) Just keep moving. Remember those hounds. Or, if we want to get back to the ocean metaphor, you’re like a shark. If you don’t keep swimming, you’ll drown.
6) Have fun. No, really. Have fun. Take it only as seriously as necessary. Yes, you want a story when you’re done. Yes, you hope it leads to something wonderful. However, if you’re not having fun, if you’re not enjoying the mad race to the finish line, it’s not worth it. Let it wash over you like a wave and swim for the joy of swimming. Love the baying of the hounds. (Wait, I was swimming. Have the hounds started swimming now too? Are these metaphors strained at last to the breaking point?) Nano is, at least in part, a self-indulgence. That’s why it comes but once a year and (in my opinion) why it’s right after Halloween and still whizzing for Thanksgiving. It’s a feast. (Hold on; are we eating in the ocean now? Am I a shark again? Is there dog food for the hounds?) Enjoy it.