This blog first appeared on the Story Queens website…
Let’s Talk Writing: I Dare You!
This month’s blog was going to be about what we’re scared of, and how we have – or plan to – overcome it. My biggest fear is public speaking, yet I agreed to join my fellow Story Queens and talk as part of our YA panel at Book Expo this weekend, in the hopes of breaking through it.
It was a big step for me, but unfortunately Book Expo was cancelled at the last minute, so I won’t get a chance to conquer that fear just yet. (And yes, I admit that a teensy tiny part of me was relieved that I didn’t have to speak, but mostly I’m sooo disappointed that I didn’t get to push through it, and really sad that the event didn’t happen…)
So that blog will have to wait. Instead I thought I’d dare anyone who wants to write a book to do it with me, since that is just as scary for some people 🙂 National Novel Writing Month starts on November 1, and October is prep month. And if you’ve ever wanted to write a book, NaNoWriMo could be a great way to do it. All you have to do is go to the website, NaNoWriMo.org, and sign up. It’s free, and there are so many great resources, so much helpful information and so many inspiring author pep talks on there that you’ll probably want to start writing right away!
You can also “buddy” people on the site, which is like friending on Facebook, so you can encourage each other to keep going – and who knows, you might reveal a previously unknown competitive streak like I did 🙂
This November will be my fifth NaNoWriMo, which is testament to how well it works for me.
I first signed up in 2012, because after publishing five non-fiction books, I wanted to see if I could write fiction. By the end of the month I’d written 51,000 words, received my “winner” certificate, and had the first draft of Into the Mists finished. The published book was pretty much how I wrote it that November, I just fleshed out some chapters and added a couple more (it ended up being around 75,000 words)…
I thought it would just be a one-off, a little stand alone novel, but then I started thinking about a second book, and came up with the names for books two and three, so in 2013 I signed up again to write Into the Dark, even though I was travelling in Scotland and England from November 1 to 30 (an interesting coincidence!).
By day I crawled into ancient burial tombs, danced in stone circles and wandered through snow-covered fields with my hubby under the full moon, and by night I typed away on a tiny old laptop back in our cute little cottage. I managed to bash out 53,000 words during the month, but I later changed a major plot point and added a totally new character, so by the time it was published I’d cut quite a few of those words and written many new chapters (it ended up at 120,000 words). Yet without the discipline of the November writing challenge, and the story I wrote while away, it may never have happened.
In 2013 I signed up again, to write the third book, and I hit 54,000 words of the story that became Into the Light. It ended up at 126,000 words, so there was lots more writing after NaNoWriMo finished, but I got the basic story written and the structure sorted during November.
And in 2014 I (just) passed 50,000 words of Rose’s story, which will be an Into the Mists Chronicle. There’s lots more to write of this one, but I certainly made a solid start thanks to this awesome writing challenge, and it will be released in 2017.
Right now I’m finishing my first Into the Mists Chronicle, called Into the Storm, so when NaNoWriMo kicks off on November 1 this year I’ll start writing the second one, which may be called Into the Woods, or perhaps Into the Moonlight – I’ll see where the story takes me, and Rhiannon 🙂 I’ll be travelling for the first two weeks of it, which will be inspiring but also challenging, then will be home for the last two weeks, and as determined as ever to hit that “winner” line.
So What Does It Involve?
NaNoWriMo is a challenge to write 50,000 words in 30 days. That’s 1667 words a day, or any variation that works for you. Some people steadily write the required number each day, some just write on weekends, some don’t start until 20 days in, then have to write 5000 words a day – whatever works for you is perfect.
Of course you can write more than 50,000 words, and if you write less that’s cool too – I don’t know of a single person who started NaNoWriMo who didn’t make good progress on their writing project, even if they didn’t reach the 50,000 word goal.
I’m mostly a slow and steady type – I plan for 1667 words a day, but usually try to hit 2000 to make up for the odd day that I don’t get time to write. But I’m overwhelmingly impressed by those who can sit down and bang out 10,000 words or more in a day to catch up by the end of the month.
* It forces you to start writing, and to keep writing. There’s no time to edit as you go, or procrastinate, or tie yourself in knots panicking about your storyline or structure. This is perfect for me, since I don’t plot my books before I start – I just keep writing, and through writing the story comes to me and I am able to weave all the strands together until it finally emerges as a coherent plot (at least I hope so!).
* It stops you second-guessing yourself. There’s no time to worry about how good your writing is, which can make you fearless. I don’t know a single writer, no matter how often they’ve been published and how many awards they’ve won, who doesn’t experience self-doubt at some point, and it can cripple you if you think too hard about what you’re writing. There are plenty of days that I think my story is stupid and there’s no point going on, but I just shrug and keep on going regardless. There’s time to worry about that and start rewriting come December, but for the month of November I put my fears and doubts to the side and just keep writing.
* It makes you a better writer. Practice makes perfect, and writing 50,000 words in a month is a hell of a lot of practise!
* It teaches you a lot about yourself. I discovered just how stubborn I am, in that I refuse to accept that I won’t hit 50,000 words, so I make it happen, no matter how tired or busy I am. This process has also revealed that I’m more competitive than I thought – seeing how well my buddies are progressing definitely helps spur me on 🙂
* It teaches you a lot about what you’re like as a writer, and your strengths and weaknesses. I discovered I’m a pantser, and although I planned to be a planner the first three times, I was always flat out with a different project so it never happened, and I’m at peace with that now. I know that NaNoWriMo works for me because I love/hate/need a deadline. I’ve been a journalist since my uni days, and even in high school I’d leave assignments to the last minute then pull an all-nighter, so I guess it’s ingrained. And I know now that even on days when I have the whole day free to write, I’ll often procrastinate most of the time away, then write like crazy just before bed. I don’t recommend it, but it works for me, so now I’m more relaxed about it and don’t feel so guilty.
I first heard these terms during my first NaNoWriMo challenge, and was totally puzzled. They refer to two very different writing styles. Some people just dive in on November 1 with no plot or plan, and totally wing it (writing “by the seat of their pants”), while others meticulously prepare throughout October so that once the clock ticks over and NaNoWriMo kicks off, they can start writing with a clear idea of where their story is going.
The first year I intended to plan, but didn’t get a chance to, so I just winged it. The second and third year I also intended to plan, but it didn’t happen. Now I’m at peace with being a pantser, which is why I’m spending October finishing one book, then come November 1 will start book two.
There are times I really envy plotters though, because I can imagine it could make the writing a lot less stressful, and I must admit that I did tie myself in knots with my current book, and it took a while for me to find the story and weave it together.
Story Queen K. A. Last is also doing NaNoWriMo this November, and her pre-plotting really impresses me.
“I’ve done NaNo twice, but only won once. All other years I’ve just had too much on to participate. This year I plan to really get into it and hopefully finish at least two (maybe three) of the novellas in my next series, Gamer. I’ve done a lot of prep and plotted the first and second books by chapter, and have loose outlines for the third and fourth books, so I think I’m pretty prepared. Hopefully by the time our retreat comes around I’ll have a good chunk of the series written and I’ll know what I’m doing :-).
“I’m really excited about it because I haven’t written anything like this before. Gamer is a mix of sci-fi, urban fantasy and dystopian. Probably more dystopian than anything, but it’s got some cool tech and weaponry. I don’t want to give too much away, but there’s a lot of action, blood, tears, fighting, and maybe some romance, with the added complication of virtual reality that’s a bit too real.”
NaNoWriMo can be done totally on your own if that’s the way you prefer to write, or you can be part of an online community, either with your friends or through the NaNo website. Each year I’ve done it I’ve been buddies with a group of friends, and we’ve shared our trials and triumphs on Facebook. On average around four in ten of us hit the 50,000 word target, but everyone involved still makes a big start on the book they’ve been dreaming of writing.
But if none of your friends are interested, yet you don’t want to do it alone, never fear – just jump on to the NaNo site and start exploring. There are wonderful forums, on everything from the technical aspects of writing to how to think up great character names to which brew best fuels a writing stint and all kinds of fun stuff, and you’ll find people near you who are taking part, and who often organise physical meet-ups at libraries or cafes. You’ll get daily inspirational emails, can take part in online word sprints and webinars, virtual write-ins and many other events. And you can start this right now, since the website is now full steam ahead for October’s NaNo Prep Month.
Writing sprints are a fun part of NaNoWriMo – going online, or getting together with a bunch of friends, or turning up at a library or cafe that’s hosting one and making new writer friends, then writing as fast as you can without pause.
Four of us Story Queens have organised a writing retreat at the end of November, where we’ll be going away for the weekend to write, talk about writing, drink tea and write some more. It will be an awesome chance to have a few writing sprints, inspire each other to keep going, chat all things plot, character and world building, and just hang out. K. A. and I will be making our own mad dash to the NaNo finish line, while Selina and L. L. will be using the time to make serious progress with their own writing projects.
Story Queen Selina Fenech still hasn’t decided what she’ll be writing, but she’s looking forward to diving in and getting lots of words down. “For our writer’s retreat, I’m really looking forward to writing! Because I’ve been so focused on creating colouring books for a while now, this weekend is the perfect excuse to ignore them and just write. I’m spoiled for choice on ideas too. I can continue on with my Empath Chronicles, which are all planned and ready to rock. I have a completed manuscript for another idea which needs some rewriting and editing. I have worldbuilding for an epic scale paranormal universe I want to create, plus a couple of other fun ideas I could just jump straight into writing. I’m kind of hoping someone will choose for me though. Choosing – or failing to come to a decision on – what to work on is one of my procrastination methods I need to overcome.”
Story Queen L.L. Hunter is also looking forward to our retreat. “At the moment I’m working on the last two books of the Aqua Saga, then I have edits for The Chronicles of Heart and Soul then its release. So I’m really looking forward to our writing retreat so I can finish off a few drafts and polish up a few of my older books so I can re-release them next year. I also have the audio book for The Chronicles of Fire and Ice in the production stage, so that’s exciting! It’s strange listening to your words being read by someone else.”
And in super-exciting news, Story Queen Rebecca Bosevski will be publishing her first novel at the end of November, so stay tuned for details about her launch.
“I am just putting in some finishing touches to my book trailer for Enchanting the Fey. I have finalised my cover design and it will be first shown to the world (otherwise known as my Facebook and Twitter friends) at the end of the trailer. I am busily attending to the many tasks required of self publishing for the first time, and have locked in the 29th of November for its release. My life inspiration is my mother, and to release my first book on her birthday is something very special to me. I still fear that I will not be ready in time or that no one will buy it, but that might be a fear that never goes away.”
So, are you ready to face a fear and write your book? Do you have plans to write in the coming months? Are you tempted to sign up for NaNoWriMo so you can make your dream of writing a book become reality? Jump on over and sign up. And if you want some tips to get you ready, check out our recent blog here. Happy writing!
Do you have plans to write in the coming months? Are you tempted to sign up for NaNoWriMo so you can make your dream of writing a book become reality? Jump on over and sign up. And if you want some tips to get you ready, check out our recent blog here. Happy writing!