Friday, February 11, 2011

Permission Granted

A few years back, Chris Baty started a wonderful, kick-in-the-butt writing movement to challenge folks to write a book in 30days. The movement, called NANOWRIMO (NAtional NOvel WRIting MOnth) is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to novel writing.

Participants traditionally begin writing on November 1 and the goal is to write 50,000 words (approximately a 175-page novel) by midnight on November 30. It’s a wild month of literary (and I use that word loosely) abandon that every writer should experience at least one.

However, in my writers’ group, once is NEVER enough, so we issue a second challenge in the spring of the year. Our members bring their laptops – or sharpened pencils and note pads – to our February meeting, and we kick off a 30-day challenge ending in March. We call it our Winter NaNoWriMo. 

So, how the heck do you write an entire novel – or even 175 pages – in a month? Well the trick to NanoWriMo is to put a premium on your enthusiasm and creativity. To do this, you need to break a lot of traditional writing rules.

Plan to write garbage – This writing challenge is all about spewing out words not literary masterpieces. In the 30-day November challenge, you need to output 1666 words a day. In a shorter 28 day challenge, the number is around 1786 words. This is not about polished prose – that can come later, or not. This month is about writing. So give yourself permission to write garbage.

Send your inner editor on a month-long vacation - If you’re like me, you have a writing assistant-slash- demon residing in your head. It’s the infamous Inner Editor. Ms. (or Mr.) Inner Editor can be your friend when getting a book ready for submission. However, during NaNoWriMo, she is an albatross around your neck. Send her on vacation (or throw her overboard) and “just say no” to her screaming demands to be allowed back into your head.

Write, write, write - Because of the limited writing-time window, the only thing that should matter to you now is output. It's about quantity, not quality. If you get stuck for the right word or a research fact just put a note in brackets for yourself (EXAMPLE [insert FBI fact on uniforms here]). Don't worry about paragraph structure or perfect grammar or word repetitions.  Just write on the fly.  This kamikaze approach to output allows you to barrel forward.

DO NOT – REPEAT, DO NOT EDIT – Just let the words fly. Now is not the time for subtlety or the best possible phrasing. It’s about word count and moving forward. If you move fast to the moment when you can write “The End, “ you’ll have corralled that story you’ve always wanted to write.

Finishing a book is a heady rush. You’ll feel empowered to leap tall buildings in a single bound or go out and conquer the world. Relish the feeling, wallow in it, cherish it. It’s who you are – a writer.

Why not write along as we start tomorrow? Experience the thrill yourself.

Happy writing,

PS - Remeber, don’t worry about the quality of what you write. When it’s done, you can go back and flesh it out, add subtle nuances, character descriptions, and dialogue polish. By then, Ms. Inner Editor will be back from her vacation and more than ready to tell you what to do.

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