gillianflynn1NaNoWriMo Daily Inspiration

Since this month I'll be editing a first draft created in a previous NaNoWriMo and publishing a novel created in a NaNoWriMo before that one, I'll be participating in this NaNoWriMo by sharing some writing tips that are particularly applicable to this process. I've added the occasional comment in italics to illustrate certain less-obvious benefits.

1. Start writing today. –– Morgan Gist MacDonald (Word Target: 1667)

This is a special month. It might not seem special yet, but it will. Use it all. You won't regret it.

2. Start telling the stories that only you can tell, because there’ll always be better writers than you and there’ll always be smarter writers than you. There will always be people who are much better at doing this or doing that — but you are the only you. ― Neil Gaiman (3334)

3. Embrace your weirdness. Whatever makes you weird is probably your greatest asset. –– Joss Whedon (5000 10% complete!)

One added benefit staying on your word count of 1666-7 words a day is that you get the mini-perk of achieving 10% of your project every three days. This is a good incentive to keep going.

4. Write what you need to write, not what is currently popular or what you think will sell. –– P. D. James (6668)

It's perfectly okay to write in a popular genre if you can bring your passions to that genre.

5. Decide when in the day (or night) it best suits you to write, and organise your life accordingly. –– Andrew Motion (8335)

6. Write first and always. Painting, music, friends, cinema, all these come afterwards. –– Henry Miller (10000 20% complete)

By now you've already found it challenging to do this every day. That's one of the reasons it's important to finish a draft in a month. You'll have to stop doing some things that you usually do in order to make the time. You can't put things off indefinitely.

7. You need to create a tortoise enclosure. You have to create boundaries of space and you have to create boundaries of time. You have to be where you're not going to be interrupted and give yourself a starting time and a finish time. When you do that, you've created an oasis that is separate from ordinary life and then, and only then, can you play. –– John Cleese (11669)

John Cleese's talk on Creativity is 10 minutes well spent and will inspire you. Treat yourself to it if you've reached your word count for the day.

8. You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you. ― Ray Bradbury (13336)

9. Protect the time and space in which you write. Keep everybody away from it, even the people who are most important to you. –– Zadie Smith (15000)

10. You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club. ― Jack London (16670 33.3% complete!)

11. Use a timer. Set the timer for 25 minutes. At the end of 25 minutes, take a five minute break. If you're still working on (your word count) take another 25 minutes. –– Morgan Gist MacDonald (18337)

You might find some other good tips on the nuts and bolts of working through challenges in this interview with writing coach Morgan Gist MacDonald.

12. Write freely and as rapidly as possible and throw the whole thing on paper. Never correct or rewrite until the whole thing is down. Rewrite in process is usually found to be an excuse for not going on. It also interferes with flow and rhythm which can only come from a kind of unconscious association with the material. –– John Steinbeck (18337)

It's tempting when you stumble upon a good idea to go back and change things to make it fit. Let the inconsistencies lie for now. Keep that word count going. Ernest Hemingway will tell you why in two days.

13. First write for yourself, and then worry about the audience. “When you write a story, you’re telling yourself the story. When you rewrite, your main job is taking out all the things that are not the story.” –– Stephen King (21671)

14. The first draft of everything is shit. – Ernest Hemingway (23338)

I've heard writers disparage NaNoWriMo saying, "the world doesn't need another shitty novel." That's true. You're not going to have a publishable novel on the last day of November. But you'll have something at the end of the month. You can decide later whether or not it has potential. Some writers work for months or years to produce a polished first draft and still come up with a polished turd.

15. No work is ever wasted. If it's not working, let go and move on - it'll come back around to be useful later. –– Pixar (25000 50% complete!)

16. Your unconscious mind keeps working on your writing whether you're conscious of it or not. –– John Cleese (26672)

You've probably written yourself into a few corners by now and found this to be true. Another advantage to having a first draft done at the end of the month is that if you decide it's worthwhile to revise it, your brain will be way ahead of the game.

17. Putting it on paper lets you start fixing it. If it stays in your head, a perfect idea, you'll never share it with anyone. –– Pixar (28339)

18. Struggle to sketch the flow that already exists intact in mind –– Jack Kerouac (30000 60% complete!)

19. Don't try to create and analyze at the same time. They're different processes. –– John Cage (31673)

20. Don’t worry about making other people happy. “If you intend to write as truthfully as you can, your days as a member of polite society are numbered, anyway.” –– Stephen King (33334 66.6% complete!)

21. What are the stakes? Give us reason to root for the character. What happens if they don't succeed? Stack the odds against. –– Pixar (35000 70% complete!)

It's time to start thinking about wrapping this story up. You'll need to focus on this during the final push.

22. Always carry a notebook. And I mean always. The short-term memory only retains information for three minutes; unless it is committed to paper you can lose an idea for ever. –– Will Self (36674)

23. When you're stuck, make a list of what WOULDN'T happen next. Lots of times the material to get you unstuck will show up. –– Pixar (38341)

24. Be a sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them—in order that the reader may see what they are made of. – Kurt Vonnegut (40000 80% complete)

25. A character has to feel real. The decisions that they're making and the reasons they do things has to be genuine to that character. It can't be just because the plot needs to work a certain way. –– Taylor Stevens (41675)

26. Stick to your own style. “One cannot imitate a writer’s approach to a particular genre, no matter how simple what that writer is doing may seem.” –– Stephen King (43342)

27. If you were your character, in this situation, how would you feel? Honesty lends credibility to unbelievable situations. –– Pixar (45000 90% complete!)

28. Coincidences to get characters into trouble are great; coincidences to get them out of it are cheating. –– Pixar (46676)

29. The hero extricates himself using HIS OWN SKILL, training or brawn. –– Lester Dent (48343)

30. Finish what you're writing. Whatever you have to do to finish it, finish it. –– Neil Gaiman (50000 You Won!)

It is vitally important to finish whatever you have been writing TODAY to get the full benefit of the NaNoWriMo experience. Your ending might be abrupt. That's okay. Your ending might be convoluted or obvious. It's entirely possible that you haven't laid the groundwork for it. It might not make any sense. Even if you're nowhere near 50,000 words, come up with the best ending that you can write TODAY. Why is it so important to come up with an ending even if you don't think your story has reached its conclusion? The goal of National Novel Writing Month is to write a 50,000 word novel in November. Unless you're a seasoned pro at this (and if you are you really don't need NaNoWriMo) you won't produce a novel that's ready to go to the publisher in thirty days. If you wrote 50,000 words and didn't come up with an ending, you've written 50,000 words toward an unfinished novel. Congratulations on writing 50,000 words, but you can't really call yourself a novelist unless you finish the novel! You've put in a lot of hard work and made a lot of sacrifices to get here. Do not stop short of the finish line. Write that ending today. Do the best you can with it today. Tomorrow you can check "write a novel in November" off your checklist and move on.One of the things that makes NaNoWriMo great is that it HAS an ending. It's up to you to decide how it will end!



P.S. here's what happened to my first NaNoWriMo novel.

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