Saturday, November 8, 2008

NaNoWriMo Survival Tip

I had kind of a break-through the other night. As part of my type-A, goal oriented personality, I like to hurry up and get to the end of whatever I'm working on. This usually means glossing over important bits, leaving interesting details out of scenes that would make them richer, and so forth--see my "lessons learned" series of posts in my archive for more on that.

So, when I start a new novel, I sit here and think, "Wow, there is so much I have to write! It's so intimidating! I don't know if I can do it! How am I going to write such-and-such scene?" I also think, "Hurry up and get there! Get it done!"

The other night, I was feeling overwhelmed at all I needed to get into this book, plus all the stuff I need to come up with to fill it out to meet the needed word count (oh, and make it an interesting story, of course). I sat here, not knowing where to begin, because there was too much to do. I finally decided that I knew what scene needed to happen next, so I might as well write it. So I did, and there was my word count for the night. The next day, the same thing happened. I lamented the great task before me, decided to write just the next scene, and boom! Another 1000 words done.

That's when I realized: you don't have to write or even think about your whole book all at once. Sure, it's great to have an outline (I do a loose one in my head; other people do very detailed and formal outlines) so you know generally where you're headed, but you can work at it one scene at a time, and no matter if the scenes are long or short, they'll add up and eventually you'll have a book. Naturally, you want to make sure each scene is relevant to the story and somehow moving it forward!

When you sit down today to work on your novel, if you're feeling unfocused or bored or overwhelmed or don't know what to write about, just think about what scene is next in your story and write it. Often, that's enough to get me in the writing mode and I keep going, but not always. If you can't stay focused after that, take a small break and come back and write just the next scene.

If that's not working for you, try this: one of the motivational speakers for NaNoWriMo last year (sorry, I can't remember which one) said when she gets stuck, she makes herself sit down and write just ten words. That ten words usually turns into a bit more, and often inspires her to write a whole lot more. You just need to get your fingers typing, and often your brain gets in gear! The more you sit around thinking, "I don't know what to write," the more time you're wasting. Just start typing...anything. Do a character sketch, if nothing else, just to get your brain in the creative mode.


Michelle L. Devon said...

I've said it before... a book is nothing more than a series of 'scenes' strung together to make a story. I have a lot of neat scenes I really want to get into the book, so I've written some of the scenes outside of the timeline of the book - I'll add them in when I get to that point. Much easier to write things to string one amazing scene to another than it is to tackle an entire book.

Good advice.

Jennifer Walker said...

Thanks for the input, Mich! Good point about writing things out of order if you need to.

Anonymous said...

You are so right. Very good point. When I think about what is happening in my book and where it needs to go I stop.

Like you told me last night, just go write one sentence. I did and it turned into 1000 words. Thank you for your tips and help!

Chris said...

Ah- HA! I thought this might be what has been consuming you! I was just asking where you have been on BAEN, LOL!

I was going to do NaNO again, but I had too much other junk going on...go for it!

Kali (Chris)

Jennifer Walker said...

Ha ha, you caught me, Chris! Thanks for asking about me--I missed it until you told me!