National Novel Writing Month or My Dream Job

25 Oct

Let’s take a little break from fashion fun, and talk about writing.

I love writing.  Ever since I was a kid, I’ve been writing short stories, books, plays, and comic strips.  (My first book was about Squanto, the Indian, and his new best friend Tierney (me) and our adventures.  I believe there were “firesticks” and “woofs” involved.)

I wrote my way through English classes in middle and high school, and after a brief stint as a business administration major in college, I switch to (surprise) English.

I got to spend four [glorious] years reading thick books and writing papers about them.  Then the Creative Writing Intro came in my Junior year, and I scampered off into Advanced Fiction Workshops and Creative Non-Fiction Crafting.  I couldn’t believe that this could potentially be my life.  Sitting down every single day and crafting stories–and getting paid for it!

Of course, I graduated right in the middle of a recession, and worked a few retail/waitressing jobs until I landed a salaried office job.

I was not sitting down every day and crafting stories.  Instead, I was (and still am) putting together technical documents and creating testing scripts for government agencies.

I’ve never really stopped writing though.  Here and there, when inspiration strikes, I curl up with my laptop and get rid of all the words in my head.

 I was once talking about writing to my Dad, who is my hero and a very intelligent, practical man, referenced one of our family’s favorite movies–Sister Act 2:

Sister Mary Clarence: If you wake up in the morning, and you can’t think anything but singing, then you should be a singer, girl.

Although, he phrased it a little different.  “If you can’t think anything but writing, then maybe you should be a writer.”  My Dad and I have a great relationship, but that was a time where he said something that really struck me.  I didn’t realize he understood how I felt.

Ahh.  Memory lane.  Getting…bogged…down.

Okay.  Moving on.  National Novel Writing Month is such a cool idea.

Here’s how it works:

On November 1, begin writing your novel. Your goal is to write a 50,000-word novel by midnight, local time, on November 30th. You write on your own computer, using whatever software you prefer.

That’s it!  You can join their site to connect with other writers in your area, and update your word counts.  There’s also lots of forums for breaking your writing blocks or finding inspiration.

Now, this isn’t a sponsored post or anything, but more an encouragement to do something you’ve always wanted to do.  Sure, if you were to ask me to describe my dream job, it would probably go from a fashion editor to professional kitten hugger, but the desire to write has always been there.

So, I’m going to try to do it this year.  I do have several partially written novels that have been great dumping grounds for the multitude of characters always talking in my head, but maybe I could finish one (or more of them).  Or I’ll just start a brand new one, since it’s more faithful to the “rules” of this month.

I think I’ve always balked at actually finishing (or even telling other people) because writing is such a personal journey.  Many times, you’re crafting quirky, flawed characters, and people who read can view them as reflections of who you are.  “Oh, this girl deals with body issues in your story?!  Wait, why did you never tell me you felt that way?!  This guy fell in love with a redhead?  You never mentioned you had a thing for redheads!”  Wait.  It’s not me…it’s this character…but…uh.. sigh…forget it.

Here are some of my tips if you aspire to put your story to paper, but aren’t sure how to start:

1.  WRITE!  I know it sounds simple, but you can’t ever get your characters moving along until you actually let them out of your mind.  Listen, it doesn’t need to be pretty.  No one needs to see it but you.  Things like NaNoWriMo exist so that you can :LAKFJ:LSKDFJ: all the words out of your brain and onto paper.  Don’t agonize over how things sound or look.  There’s time for editing later.  Don’t be a perfectionist–just write.

2.  Outline.   These can be a huge help when trying to plan out your novel.  I usually start my books with a giant outline that looks something like this:

A.  INTRO TO CAITLYN

B.  THRONE ROOM SCENE

C.  INTRO TO ED

D.  CAIT’S MISTAKE

E.  CAIT AND ED MEET

F.  THEY HAVE TO FLEE TOWN

G.  THEY MEET ROB

etc etc all the way until…

Z.  FINAL FIGHT.

You don’t necessarily need to know what each of those chapters will contain.  You don’t even necessarily need a totally complete outline.  As long as you have a general idea of where your stories (or characters) are headed, it’s enough to keep you going.

3.  Buddy System.  Find other writers who can offer feedback on what you’ve written.  Use sites like FictionPress or Authonomy to post your work and invite reviews/suggestions/criticisms.   Or, find a local writing workshop at a community college.  I did some of my best writing in those super creative environments.  Plus, it’s nice to have someone who understands your struggles and can offer support.

4.  Be Brave.  Don’t be afraid of that voice inside of you that insists the character would say or do this.  Many times the truth is hard to tell–but your story will be that much richer for it.  If all authors only wrote socially acceptable, always politically correct, happy day stories, then many of our greatest works of literature would have never been written.

5.  Read, read, read.  Many times when I’ve encountered a solid writer’s block, or feel uninspired, I go to the local library or bookstore and pick out a few books in my genre.  Reading other authors who have done it right never fails to inspire me to keep going.  It’s also a great way to learn how to write–if you read quality literature, you’ll be closer to producing quality literature.  You don’t think the world-class chefs became amazing cooks by eating Twinkies every meal, do you?

Have any of you guys ever went through the NaNoWriMo process?  Or have you written anything?  Or gone though a painful publishing process?  I’d love to hear about it!

[I love this one.  Have you always wanted to be a bullfighter in Spain?  Then research it and write all about it!  Writing is a great opportunity to explore worlds you never thought you’d get to visit!]

Fun Fact:  Did you know Water for Elephants (yes, that book and later Rob Pattinson movie) was written during National Novel Writing Month?  Yup!  Get writing, my friends!  That could be us!

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2 Responses to “National Novel Writing Month or My Dream Job”

  1. Stephanie October 25, 2012 at 4:15 pm #

    I have a family friend who did this last year!! I’ve been meaning to reconnect with her to see how she did.

  2. Rachel Robinson October 28, 2012 at 2:14 pm #

    YAY! I write best under fire which is why NaNoWriMo is my perfect friend. Throughout the year I write down plot points and notes in a notebook (I’m unable to work with a traditional outline). When November first rolls around I just sit down and spew out the story that has been rattling around in my head all year. I think some call this “burst” writing. I call it mad science. What you end up with will inevitably be something very different than what you first set out to create. November is beautiful…the editing in the following months? The fiery pits of a creative dungeon. 🙂

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