National Novel Writing Month: The Aftermath

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by Chelsey Guy (General Staff)

So, you decided to participate in National Novel Writing Month?

Congratulations! Whether you actually finished your piece or never even started it, you deserve praise. National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo as it is called, is an exercise in determination, devotion, and passion as participants race to write 50,000 words by the end of November. To some, this may seem like a simple task that requires no preparation or thought. However, in the 30 days that make up November, you have to brainstorm what you are going to write, put words to paper, suffer through spurts of writer’s block, breath, eat, sleep, socialize, and live your life like a normal person. That’s a daunting task. So, for deciding to surrender your life away to a piece of literature, I have to applaud you.

As NaNoWriMo comes to a close and writers everywhere begin to panic at their unfinished pieces, the all-important question arises. What now? What happens to the writers? What happens to the works? Where do we go from here? Here are a few ideas and tips to answer those questions:

1) Relax!

You have been writing like a demon for the past 30 days. Please, go relax. This is not just for your sanity. Taking a break from writing is a perfect way to refresh your brain. It gives you a different perspective and thought process. Energy flows through you along with ideas and creativity. So, go out and drink a milkshake! Eat your favorite snack! Party with friends! Watch Netflix and Youtube! Go somewhere! Then, come back and look at what you worked so hard on for the past month.

2) Finish it!

This seems pretty obvious, but you would be surprised. Many people do not ever finish what they write for NaNoWriMo. They usually abandon their works forever and start a new piece next year. Then, the cycle starts all over again. However, as a writer, this becomes very problematic. If all you do is write and you never finish a work, how are you supposed to grow as a writer? Not finishing a piece is like eating only half a donut. You will still enjoy the donut, but you will only be half full. Finishing your NaNoWriMo piece, whether before or after the month is over, is a glorious feeling that you do not want to pass up. You will feel full and happy, and you will not regret it! So, keep writing until you are done!

3) Revise it!

Now, you have relaxed and finished your piece for National Novel Writing Month. Good for you! You are ready to move on to the next step in being a writer: Revising! Look over the content and concept of your piece. Take out chapters, scenes, dialogue, descriptions, and whatever else in order to get your point across in your piece. This process is easier said than done. Revising forces you to rip your piece apart, dissect it, occasionally kill it, bring it back to life, and pray it lives on better than before. It is a heart-wrenching, heart-breaking process. Nevertheless, you will be a stronger writer and a better person because of it after the tears and anger subside. I promise.

4) Edit it!

You have survived the revision stage! Great job! Now that you have a thicker skin, it is time to edit. This is often confused with revision and proofreading. Revision is looking over and changing content, but editing is purely mechanical. This is where you spend hours relearning the rules of grammar from the countless years of elementary and middle school where you thought you would never use any of these things again. During editing, you have to check for comma errors, run-on and fragmented sentences, typos, spelling issues, and a million other technical grammar stuff. Although it is far easier on an emotional level to deal with, this stage can be very lengthy because of all the small things you have to find. But, don’t lose hope!

5) Publish it!

So, you have finished writing, revising, and editing! Many people do not make it this far with everything completed and repeated to make sure it is perfect, so you have gained my respect once more. The next thing is to publish your piece! By publishing, I do not mean sending it to a literary agent or publishing company and praying you are going to become the next J.K. Rowling. Although you could go that route, I was thinking something on a much smaller scale. With your piece complete, why not post it online? Posting your novel, short story, or poem on such websites as Figment.com, Fanfiction.net, Deviantart.com, Facebook, Tumblr, Pinterest, or on any other social networking site is a great way to get reviews and feedback on your writing and your ideas from strangers and friends. I have an account with almost every single one these along with my own website and blog with WordPress. It has done nothing but help me grow as a writer. Sure, the negative comments hurt for a bit, but it has made me stronger as a person. Plus, I view every comment as constructive criticism so it only helps to improve and better me. It will help you, too!

6) Share it!

How do you expect people to find out you worked so hard on your writing if you don’t tell them? Sharing the news of your success is how you attract people to you and your writing. Hit the share button all you want. Hit it every day if you have to in order to attract readers. Post it as your status constantly. Tweet about it and spread the word. Don’t be afraid to tell your friends and family. Word of mouth is the best way to spread news.

7) Read more!

Writing starts with reading. As you wait for reviewers and followers of your writing to come in, read. Reading improves your writing by giving you new ideas and writing styles for you to improve on. I wrote my first book ever when I was twelve and angry at Twilight because of how it was written. Reading challenged me to write something better than I had read. I continue to read whenever I have writer’s block and in between writing. It is one of the best ways you can improve yourself on your own.

8) Plan and Prepare for Next Year!

You have officially finished and published your piece from NaNoWriMo! Now, prepare for next year! Writing is a never-ending process. So, what are you going to write next year? Is it going to be a poem? A short story? A novel? What will be about? What are you going to do that’s different from this year? How will you make next year better than this year?

9) Enjoy life!

NaNoWriMo is done! The great race for 50,000 words is complete! You have written, finished, revised, edited, published, shared, and planned your way to completion. Now, it is time to go back to step number one. Relax! Go out and have fun! You deserve it! You have worked hard for 30 days and then some. Go and enjoy life… Until next year!

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Five Tips for NaNoWriMo Success

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by Avery Lewis (General Staff)

National Novel Writing Month, known in the writers’ world as NaNoWriMo, is a month dedicated to churning out novels. The goal is to complete a novel of at least 50,000 words within the month of November. Amateurs and professionals alike sign up for the challenge every year. Many become disillusioned, lazy, or sidetracked, and few actually complete the challenge. Here are five tips to help you stay on the path of NaNoWriMo success:

 

1. Start with an idea and nothing more. If you stop to focus on all the details, mapping out characters and plots, you’ll undoubtedly get too bogged down in the planning stages. All you need is a concept and a starting point, and from there you write whatever comes to mind. The story will take shape on its own as you progress. This is not to say you should not put thought into your writing, but don’t become obsessed with making sure you have everything figured out and perfect before you start.

 

2. As Hemingway says, write drunk. Don’t worry about the tiny imperfections here and there. Expect to have imperfections in the first draft. Inconsistencies, illogical character choices, rough dialogue, and laughable grammar are common, even welcome in first drafts! And that’s exactly what NaNoWriMo is about – first drafts. You’re not preparing for publication during November; you are simply getting the story written, rough edges and all.

 

3. Media can wait. New episodes of The Walking Dead, Legend of Korra, Sleepy Hollow, and The Originals will be available on the Internet, so don’t sacrifice your writing time just to catch the original airing of an episode. You can catch up during a scheduled break or even after NaNoWriMo is over. Grand Theft Auto V, Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag, and Pokemon X and Y? They’ll still be in stock once November is over. Unless you are one in a million, don’t try to use video games as a break, because you will become sidetracked and lose precious hours of writing time.

 

4. Schedule writing, but also schedule breaks. Sure, during NaNoWriMo, it’s good to write whenever a spare moment presents itself. But it’s also good to have set times that you are committed to every day. That being said, don’t spend whole days glued to your computer screen. Keep your health up by taking scheduled breaks. Go for a jog, play with the cat, get lunch with a friend. It’s important to stay healthy and maintain social contact during NaNoWriMo. You want to get as much writing done as you can without turning into a social recluse. Scheduled breaks are also needed for inspiration. Participating in different activities can provide an assortment of new ideas for your novel. You never know what you’ll find! Just make sure your breaks don’t distract you for too long…

 

5. Finally, don’t fret. Is it Week 3 and you’re only at 10,000 words? Don’t worry, and certainly don’t think that there’s no longer a point to continuing. Keep writing. Don’t sacrifice sleep, grades, income, or meals for more writing time. Just keep writing as much as you can without sacrificing too much. Sure, you may not complete the 50,000-word challenge, but that’s not what NaNoWriMo success is all about. NaNoWriMo success is about getting your idea down on paper (physical or pixelated). It’s about transitioning your ideas from abstract to concrete. It’s about getting started. NaNoWriMo, in its simplest form, is a gateway, the starting line for your novel. You may not finish it in November, not even the rough draft, but the important thing is that you’ve started. You have a place to continue from. All that’s left is for you to keep writing, even after November, and get your novel to completion. What defines NaNoWriMo success is that a writer keeps writing even after the deadline and does not fall victim to the “I didn’t complete the challenge, so there’s no point continuing” syndrome that plagues participants. So no matter how far you get during NaNoWriMo, don’t let that be the endpoint. Even if you meet the challenge, refine your story, because your first draft is always the worst draft. No matter what, keep writing.