Making NaNoWriMo Work for You by Nephele Tempest
November 1 marks the start of National Novel Writing Month, otherwise known as NaNoWriMo. NaNoWriMo challenges writers to complete a 50,000-word first draft of a novel in thirty days, the primary mission being to help participants turn off their inner critics and just get those words down on paper. But what if you’re working on something other than a first draft? Can you still join NaNoWriMo?
By design, NaNoWriMo appeals to the first-time novelist, to writers who are trying to push themselves to finish something, and to participants more interested in the social aspects of the event than actually publishing a book. There’s an emphasis on starting a fresh project and writing until you hit “The End.” If your goal is to “win”—which happens when you upload a 50,000-word document for confirmation on November 30—then you need to follow the rules, but that’s just one small aspect of a month-long writing event. Plenty of writers at different stages of their careers use NaNoWriMo as a means of pushing themselves to write daily for the month, taking advantage of the encouraging social infrastructure that has developed over time.
What started out as a small event shared by a handful of friends has ballooned over the years into a gigantic world-wide writing party, the goal of which is to encourage people to write a novel. A robust website serves as headquarters, providing posting forums for discussing your work, as well as a word-count tracker, pep talks from famous published writers, and a store selling event-themed swag. Regional groups set up local write-ins that allow writers to join with other participants at coffee shops and bars to work on their novels and commiserate. Anyone can participate in these, soaking up that encouragement and riding the wave of productivity and excitement that comes from so many people engaging in one activity.
So how can NaNoWriMo work for you? Depending on where you are with your writing, and what projects you have on your plate, you can create your own NaNo schedule to meet your needs.
- Use NaNoWriMo to build up a daily writing practice, focusing purely on getting a specific number of words down every day.
- Rewrite the sagging middle of a work in progress.
- Write a series of short stories, committing to a specific page count each day.
- Revise a set number of pages of your already-drafted novel each day.
- Find yourself a new critique partner or a new writing tribe by attending local write-ins and meeting some writers in your area.
- Draft the second half of a novel you’ve already started.
- Work on a nonfiction project.
- Write a series of blog posts to build a stockpile of material you can post during weeks you’re too busy to write.
- Use the month to play and rekindle your love of writing; experiment with writing in a different genre, try your hand at something nonlinear, or write some fanfiction just for your own enjoyment.
The beauty of NaNoWriMo is that it’s all about having fun and challenging yourself. It was never designed to produce publishable, finished products. At best, you’ll come away with a messy first draft of part of a novel, since most published works of book-length fiction are far longer than 50,000 words. The challenge comes in persisting, in continuing to write when you know the last five pages were crap, when you have no idea what your characters are doing, when you’ve just decided to kill off your protagonist and you really just want a nap. And the challenge can work for any writer who wants to play along, even if a brand-new novel isn’t quite on your agenda. Just figure out what you want to spend your time writing in November, then head on over to NaNoWriMo.org and join the community.
Agents of the Roundtable
In the spirit of Halloween, who is the most frightening villain you've ever come across in a novel?
KRISTY HUNTER: Growing up, everyone read R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps. I remember Night of the Living Dummy completely terrifying me as a child.
JANA BONIKOWSKI: Oh, that answer is easy: No question, the clown from Stephen King’s It.
TRAVIS PENNINGTON: Edward Moloch from John Connolly's Bad Men left a lasting impression on me. I also remember the "millennium monkeys" in Dean Koontz's Fear Nothing keeping me up all night.
New Clients On the Block
» Kristen Koster: Website | Twitter | Facebook
» Gary Blackwood: Website
» Hailey Edwards: Website | Twitter | Facebook
» Melissa West: Website | Twitter | Facebook
» Amanda Renee's THE LAWMAN'S REBEL BRIDE (first in the Saddle Ridge, Montana, series), in which the protagonist, determined to give her grandmother peace of mind, decides to go through with a fake “wedding” to a deputy who had already left her at the altar and broken her heart, to Johanna Raisanen at Harlequin Western Romance in a nice five-book deal by Pamela Harty
» Erin Knightley's DECEIVED BY A DUKE and VEXED BY A VISCOUNT, from the All's Fair in Love series, to Steve Feldberg at Audible in a nice deal by Deidre Knight
» Lauren Hawkeye's UNTOUCHED and UNSPOKEN (from the Florence, Arizona, series), to Steve Feldberg at Audible in a nice deal by Deidre Knight
» French rights to Nalini Singh's ARCHANGEL'S ENIGMA and ARCHANGEL'S HEART, to J'ai Lu by Anne Lenclud at Lenclud Literary Agency on behalf of Elaine Spencer
» German rights to Tibby Armstrong's NO APOLOGIES, to Dead Soft by Julia Aumuller of Thomas Schlueck Agency on behalf of Elaine Spencer
» Deidre Knight's RED BLOODED, from the Gods of Midnight series, to Steve Feldberg at Audible in a nice deal by Deidre Knight
» Robin Owens's LOST HEART and FERAL MAGIC, to Steve Feldberg at Audible in a nice deal by Deidre Knight
» Brenda Minton's SECOND CHANCE RANCHER (first in a series set in the small town of Bluebonnet Sprints, Montana), in which an Army veteran returns home to take care of her family's neglected ranch and finds herself falling for the neighboring rancher, to Melissa Endlich at Love Inspired in a six-book deal by Melissa Jeglinski
» Maggie Black's THE MILITARY HERO'S SECRET BODYGUARD (Book 3 of her Truth North Bodyguards series), about a Navy Commander and his female bodyguard who must pose as a couple to get the bad guy, as well as two books in a brand-new miniseries focusing on brothers in law enforcement, to Emily Rodmell at Love Inspired Suspense in a nice three-book deal by Melissa Jeglinski
» Kelli Ireland's next three titles in The Assassin's Arcanum series, and the first book in a new series featuring a soul collector employed by the Grim Reaper, to Ann Leslie Tuttle at Harlequin Nocturne in a nice deal by Deidre Knight
» Samanthe Beck's DIRTY GAMES, Suzanne Rock's WICKED GAMES, Daire St. Denis's SEDUCTIVE GAMES, Lauren Hawkeye's PLEASURE GAMES, and Cathryn Fox's BONDING GAMES, for the Tropical Temptation miniseries—when these couples decide to take a tropical vacation, they never guess that the best sex of their lives will be part of the package—to Brenda Chin at Entangled Brazen by Elaine Spencer
» Gena Showalter's revised and updated OH MY GOTH, RED HANDED and BLACKLISTED, to Natashya Wilson at Harlequin Teen, in a good deal by Deidre Knight
» Japanese rights to Nalini Singh's HEART OF OBSIDIAN and SHIELD OF WINTER, to Fuso by Whitney Lee at The Fielding Agency on behalf of Elaine Spencer
» Faith Hunter and P.N. Elrod were listed on Barnes & Noble's 12 Highly Bingeable Urban Fantasy Series.
» Amy Jarecki's RISE OF A LEGEND won a RONE award from InD'tale Magazine for Best Time Travel, and KNIGHT IN HIGHLAND ARMOR was the runner-up for Best Historical Romance.
» Michele Belanger's new Shadowside novella MORTAL SINS is free on both Kindle and Nook.
» Gena Showalter was listed on Amazon’s Omnivoracious blog as one of four romance authors who make great choices for a binge read because they have ten or more book series.
.... ...» THE FIFTH SEASON by N.K. Jemisin was on Book Riot's Best Books We Read in September and THE OBELISK GATE was one of Publishers Weekly's Best 20 Books of 2016.
» Several novels by TKA clients have been spotted in bookstores around the world, including ALICE by Christina Henry, THE INVISIBLE LIBRARY and THE MASKED CITY by Genevieve Cogman, WARCRAFT by Christine Golden, THE FIFTH SEASON and THE OBELISK GATE by N.K. Jemisin, and STAR WARS: DARK DISCIPLE by Christine Golden.
Halloween Question for Authors
What’s the scariest thing you’ve ever read, seen, or heard?
Well, the scariest thing I've ever read has to be a scene from Stephen King's Salem's Lot. I won't describe it, because it would creep me out even now, but that's my vote.
As to the scariest thing I've seen ... unfortunately, it isn't fiction.
While working as a night manager for an apartment complex, I was approached at 3 a.m. by a security guard to open a door for him to an unused wing of the building, way up on the top floor. Up we went, into a large, dark lounge area with big picture windows looking out on the courtyard. As I was sorting keys, I turned around and saw his face. I can't tell you what it was about his expression that terrified me, but I knew, in that moment, that if I didn't do the right thing I was going to be very badly hurt, or killed.
So instead of trying to run I backed up toward the big picture windows, picked up a chair, and threw it through the glass. The window shattered with a huge crash, and it echoed through the entire complex. And I started screaming as loud as I could.
The man turned and ran. I ended up giving a police report, and it turned out that the man fit the description of a serial rapist who was impersonating law enforcement. The security guard uniform was right in line with his other disguises. He was caught two days later, but that night has stuck with me: the moment that I saw something monstrous looking out of human eyes.
Needless to say, I quit that job.
I'll take the scariest Stephen King scene any day.
One specific thing that does stick in my memory is watching the British television program Sapphire and Steel at the age of seven. In the first storyline, Time itself is a malignant force trying to break into reality and take things away with it. Time is working through nursery rhymes and old songs to evoke echoes of the past—"memories" of the house in which people were killed—and has already taken away the parents of the two children who are the protagonists. As the younger of the two, a little girl, says when asked about where her parents are: "They've gone." It was very minimalist, with little in the way of special effects, mostly depending on the skill of David McCallum and Joanna Lumley (Steel and Sapphire respectively), and it was intensely creepy. Not exactly the sort of creepy that gave you nightmares, but the sort of creepy which left you uncertain about things afterwards, feeling that the world around you held shadows which you didn't understand, and that you'd never know just how deep those waters went.
Diana Pharaoh Francis
I started reading Stephen King and John Saul in fifth grade, not to mention Jack Chalker who was horrifying on an entirely different level. I found that stuff scary, but in that "got to read more" way, rather than the "must stop now and hide" way. I think my very first experience with the latter was when I first watched Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds. I still find it incredibly unnerving and creepy has hell. If I had to have a runner-up, I'd say Alien. Both of those gave me nightmares.
When I was in my 20’s, I was staying in an old trailer right outside of Camp Lejeune, NC, with my then-boyfriend, a marine. I made the mistake of reading Stephen King’s book Salem’s Lot, when I was spending most of my nights there alone in a creepy place. I got so scared, I used to wake up my boyfriend to walk me to the bathroom, since the vampires got you through the windows and there was one on the way! (I’ve never read Stephen King since.)
My latest trip to Paris, we slept in two haunted hotels—does that count?
Without question it's Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridian
. I started reading it years ago and still
haven't finished because I have to set it down every few pages and can't breathe.
Scariest thing I ever read were the opening paragraphs to Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House, followed by the rest of the book. The movie still and always will scare the bejesus out of me.
. Or Jaws
. Take your pick.
Author Tip of the Month
Genevieve Cogman is the author of THE INVISIBLE LIBRARY and THE MASKED CITY and also a freelance roleplaying game writer.
Everyone works differently: some people like to plan out all the plot details before they start, while others map out the main events and work out the precise details of how to get from X to Y while en route. That’s absolutely fine: do what works best for you. (Though do be prepared to give other methods a try. Even if that precise style isn’t your metier, you may still be able to learn something useful from it.)
Something which I’ve learned in practice is that however much you’ve planned things out in advance, you can still end up having a better idea partway through writing the book—a bit of foreshadowing, a character insight, a neat clue to the resolution. That’s fine. The Plot Police will not come after you to insist that you stick rigidly to every detail of your first schematic. This is why we edit. You can note down your good new ideas and go back to insert them afterwards. The end reader will have no idea what got written at which stage of the writing/editing process: they will simply appreciate the end result. They will never know that the bit of foreshadowing which they admire in chapter one didn’t actually get envisaged until you were writing the big climax, and that you went back to insert it later. Use your ideas whether they turn up early or late in the writing and editing process. It all goes to making a better story.
To learn more about Genevieve, visit her official website.