Hello, dear readers, and welcome!
Ah, the end of October(...ish): carving pumpkins, praying for cooler weather, getting ready for Halloween, and...NaNoWriMo is coming!
Whoever decided to make NaNoWriMo the month of November was, in my opinion, a genius. What better way to wrap up the year than with a new story? But as much as I love NaNo, it also presents its flurry of challenges to be overcome (secret: that's the best part, really).
My relationship with NaNo has been an interesting one. In 2009, I participated in my first NaNoWriMo. I was taking French class at the time, and one of my classmates told me about it. I ended up starting late, but I finished the 50K (writing The Ending), and couldn't believe how much fun I had. I couldn't wait until the following year!
In 2010, my best friend Ree and I did NaNo together, and even went to events. It was exciting to meet other writers. I made good friends, and wrote my first Horror(ish) novel, which is one of my all-time favorite projects. The next few years I worked as unofficial, and then official, ML (municipal liaison) for my region's NaNo.
Then 2014 came. That was a very difficult year for me, and I ended up needing to opt out of being ML because of personal matters. I vowed (well, assumed) that I would never do NaNo again. And then in 2015 I realized why I was having such trouble with NaNo: I was focusing on winning.
If you're new to NaNo, here's the lowdown: in November, writers are challenged to write 50K (the length of a novel, by some standards) of a writing project, typically something brand-new. 50K is the goal, what all NaNoers strive for--
But that's only half the story.
Is 50K an awesome goal to shoot for? Certainly. It's a feat to reach that in a month, and it should be celebrated, but here's the truth: 50K is not the real goal of NaNo. At least, not in my book.
What's the real goal?
Yes, I know this just transformed into a lesson, but bear with me. The best part of NaNo, the real goal, is to learn -- what you're capable of, what you need to work on, how you deal with deadlines, how you can schedule writing time and stick to it, what you may want to do in the future.
NaNo may have a challenge of 50K, but the real goal is to learn more about yourself as a writer.
I pride myself on being as honest as I can with my readers, so here's a new dash of honesty:
Those of you who have been with me for a while have seen my struggles firsthand: with writing, with holding onto your passion for your art, with what authors are "supposed" to be and not be, with how difficult publishing can be.
I've lost my way along this journey plenty of times. I've hated writing at many moments. I've nearly given up, and that seemed acceptable at the time. A lot of these pressures I have put on myself, but that's what happens when you're a perfectionist (and having a logical personality type in a creative, emotional field does not always help).
I still struggle, but I am getting better. I truly believe that everything comes full circle, as I mentioned in my 6 Year Publishing Anniversary post. I am growing closer not only to the writer I want to be, but to the writer I used to be.
The writer I used to be absolutely loved NaNo. It brought something special out in me: a greater connection to characters and ideas, because I didn't have time to doubt what I was putting onto the page in order to reach that 50K; a connection to other writers the world over, all struggling and crying in joy and frustration.
In coming full-circle, I am "Un-Learning", as Mrs. L'Engle calls it in her book "Walking On Water: Reflections on Faith and Art" (seriously, read it). Sometimes you really do have to forget what you've been taught, and find your own way...even if it's back to where you started in the first place.
NaNo is special, and it's a wonderful thing. It gets writers into writing, and provides an almost magical inspiration. NaNo is reminding me of what writing is all about: the crafting, the characters, the excitement, the story.
We should be excited when we go to write, even if it's not amazing every time. There shouldn't be drudgery, even if sometimes we will inevitably be frustrated.
NaNo has made me return to plotting and thinking long and deep about my stories, which I had not been doing for a while in the rush to publish (but that's another blog post entirely...coming up. *wink, wink*). NaNo has made me reach out to my friends more than ever, and join in the wonder of brainstorming together.
Together, we make each other better, and NaNo brings that excitement out. I'm returning to an old story (well, a new/old story -- a companion to Shadows of Past Pages), my friend Ree is returning to an endeared project, and my new friend is working on her second novel ever.
Speaking of new friends, here's another secret(ish): writers are better together.
NaNo provides plenty of opportunities to meet new writers, so get out there and meet some people! Some you will not click with, but others you will, and there's really nothing like having friends to share your work with, get ideas from, and celebrate the ups and downs around.
NaNo has reminded me of the importance of working with and helping other writers to grow. When we make one of us stronger, we make all of us stronger. Writing is about sharing, and that means sharing best practices and encouragement with other writers, too.
So share some NaNo love! Tell your friends, and help them along.
Find a young writer to inspire -- find an old writer to inspire. You'll be surprised how they are able to inspire you, too. Just being around someone who hasn't forgotten the spark -- or maybe needs to be reminded that there is a spark -- will do wonders for you.
It has for me.
My last bit of advice and NaNo love before I finish this ridiculously long post:
Take this time before NaNo to fall in love with your story.
What does that look like? It depends on the person.
Maybe you're more of a Plotter, and need an outline, and dialogue cards, and extensive character profiles, etc, etc. Maybe you're a Pantser, and all you really need is to feed your inspiration so that when the time comes, you can write with a well of things to keep you going.
Maybe you're more like me: a Plotser, who needs both inspiration and detailed planning. I'm a bit of a weirdo when it comes to plotting. I love the world building aspects, and I like to have ideas of what might be contained in chapters, but the outline just doesn't do it for me.
I'll be spending time drawing up characters, figuring out backstory, and writing out my fictional language for the next week or so, and that works just fine.
Find things to inspire you. Connect with your characters. Figure out what genre you're writing it, what tropes you might want to turn on their heads. Get ideas, plot, gain inspiration. Make sure that November 1st can't come fast enough.
Here's a little questionnaire to get you started. Characters are my favorite bit of writing, so I wrote up a character discovery sheet. Feel free to use it, and pass word onto your friends! Have fun!
I hope you all have a wonderful NaNoWriMo! Best of luck to you!
New InkTober Drawing ~
My next to last InkTober drawing! I've managed to keep up this year (with my personal goal), and am very proud of myself.
This is Clara, from the Snowflake TripletSnowflake Triplet. I had fun trying a new angle with this drawing, and adding the heart. (My brown pen ran out, so she ended up with mostly white hair. Foreshadowing? Possibly...)
This drawing is available on merchandise, along with other Snowflake Triplet doodles, on my Redbubble. Thank you for your support!
Also, if you're looking for a fun Christmas book, you can download the Clara Claus ebook free from most retailers! Happy reading!