I’ve been watching the #NaNoWriMo hashtag on twitter this week and there are a lot of people all around the world gearing up for their first attempt at writing a novel in a month and wondering what secret formula there is to cracking the 50,000 word prize.
As you know, I’m going to kick-start the sequel to my first book with NaNoWriMo. And I’m not doing it because I want to ‘win’ NaNoWriMo (ie reach 50K words). I’m doing it because I have discovered that for me, this way of writing works.
All the really good writers will tell you: if you want to be a writer, you have to sit in that chair and write. Just start laying down the words – don’t think, just write. Thinking about writing, talking about writing, daydreaming about your characters, drawing pictures of the houses they live in or coming up with their names – all of that isn’t writing. If you want to be a writer, you have to sit your arse in the chair and write.
NaNoWriMo forces you to do just that. I can type somewhere in the vicinity of 70WPM, maybe a little more if I’m really in the groove. That means 4200 words an hour. Well, I don’t think I’ve ever actually written 4200 words in an hour but I did have some days where I hit a rich vein of inspiration and I managed many more than that over the course of the day. The point is, I sat in my chair and I wrote.
But what did I write, and where did it come from? This is what everyone asks me… How did you write it?
I had a plan. I already knew the characters, the major plot points, and the places. The scaffolding was up, I just had to write the bricks.
This is my notice board. It sits on my desk to the right of my computer screen. That large piece of paper in the middle, with the three columns, is the scaffolding. There are three plots/storylines running through my next book, and these are the main points, in chronological order. Elsewhere, on my hard drive, are the outlines of the characters in this next book. I’m pretty sure that I can fill the gaps in with whatever the characters start saying to each other. The bricks in my books are mostly the dialogue between the people, and when I am writing it feels like I’m sitting and watching them all interact, and I’m just writing down what they’re saying to each other.
The other stuff on that board is all cards and messages from friends, all of them positive and uplifting and inspiring. That’s the other secret to NaNoWriMo – a positive attitude.
The first 50,000 words will come in November. The second half will come in the weeks following, and not until all the bricks are laid will l begin to edit. Stephen King says it takes him about three months to finish a book. I think that sounds doable. 100,000 words in 100 days? No worries.