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Preparing For National Novel Writing Month

Updated on January 17, 2018
Eric Seidel profile image

One of the reasons for joining Hubpages is I just like to help people whenever I can. Some of my work is for giving advice or preparing.

Hiding at my place of work is a lot more productive than looking at old pieces of art. Some of you are probably lucky enough to work in an office so this should not be an issue. Just make sure you have your own personal USB flash drive handy.
Hiding at my place of work is a lot more productive than looking at old pieces of art. Some of you are probably lucky enough to work in an office so this should not be an issue. Just make sure you have your own personal USB flash drive handy.

Challenging Your Creative Spirit

As a writer you want to create something that you can share with others. The aspect of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is to get people throwing words onto paper rather than sitting in a room staring at the ceiling for the next original idea. Yes, it does help to have a story to actually write, but it does not have to be perfect. You can make whatever revisions you want, but you must get 50,000 words down.

It is a lot easier than it sounds. I attempted this when I first heard about NaNoWriMo back in 2008. I wrote out six chapters for a story and have not yet ever got back to it. I have since developed it into an idea for a movie. That was kind of the thing; I wrote it picturing a movie. I think that is a good way to help develop your work. Even if you are not writing a script I think picturing your scenes in motion help them pop on the screen… the computer one of course. I would not recommend doing 50,000 words, in 30 days, with solely a pen and paper. Not saying that is a bad thing, or against the rules of the competition. It’s just a cramp on your wrist and fingers.

Finishing What Is Started

When I was 18 I started writing a novel called Charm City that I was not really looking to get published so much as I was just trying to entertain some friends and people I knew. I use to post them on a site called HitmanForum (no the game series with the bald dude, Agent 47. not an actual site for contract killers.) The site has since been purged, and rebooted, so none of it is still posted there. Charm City started off as a “what would I do if a zombie apocalypse occurred” scenario, into an episodic novel where ever chapter ended with some cliffhanger. The TV series “Lost” was popular at the time, so I tried to make it like one of those shows that asks a bunch of questions and then answers them at some point later. Except in my case, they were answered almost immediately in the chapter after the next. I got about 24 chapters into it before I lost interest in writing it. I had the ending set up, but the whole zombie thing is so overdone these days and I have since grown up from it.

When I first heard about NaNoWriMo I instantly started writing “Professional Risk” six days into it and had to play catch-up. It was kind of a modern western about a gunslinger. I wrote six chapters before the week was over, but once again I got away from it after a while because of other distractions. Even though I knew where the story was going I just never get around to finishing it. I am not the only one that has this problem. I have since turned this novel into a movie idea (I mentioned this earlier) and have developed that more and more into something coherent for film… or memory cards… or whatever the hell they use these days.

After I graduated college, and had more time, I started writing “In the Shadow of Justice” a novel about a vigilante in Baltimore City. Like “Professional Risk” I have only wrote six chapters before I lost my urge to continue. With both, I know where I want to go but it is connecting the dots that can make it hard. I suppose that is why the show-the-ending-first-then-explain-how-the-story-got-there plot device is used so much.

You do not really have to succumb to plot devices and cheap tricks to get your story finished with NaNoWriMo and I do not believe in the need to be original. If you stick yourself strictly to trying to be original; not only will you develop a brain tumor, but you will also get yourself stuck on one impasse. I know, I have been there.

This is an example of location scouting. It works better for movies, but it is just as good for someone writing a novel. I took this picture about nine years ago for an image of a pivotal moment in "Charm City".
This is an example of location scouting. It works better for movies, but it is just as good for someone writing a novel. I took this picture about nine years ago for an image of a pivotal moment in "Charm City".

Combating Writer's Block

There is always a wall, that we hit at some point, even when we are inspired to write. A lot of things can factor into writer’s block; massive amounts of school work, maybe your ex was a drug addicted c***, or maybe you just don’t feel like writing about your chosen subject matter anymore. This is not the best advice from someone who has three unfinished novels under their belt, but I would say go back and read what you have. You might smack yourself for spotting clichés you did not realize WERE clichéd at the time. You might notice your main character never had a goal that was understandable to the reader. And, most importantly, you might improve what you already have. That’s why, this year, I’m not going to start a new novel. Instead I’ll focus on the unfinished.

According to the official NaNoWriMo website you can pretty much do whatever you want, but will not be able to take part in the actual contest. Write five 10,000 word short stories, write a movie or video game screenplay, make an unusually long Hub, your imagination is the limit. Not focusing completely on just a novel can help with writer’s block. Another very important tip is description. Where I usually seem to get myself flubbed up is with description. There’s nothing wrong with it but you should not do too much of it right away. It’s like drinking water, you don’t want to flood your kidneys, but water is good for you. Like water, just let the story flow out and then add in description as you go. If you try to be too descriptive, right away, you will just overload the reader’s psyche. Of course it depends on what kind of novel you are writing and how big your universe is. It also helps to take a break from your novel if you feel like you have hit the wall. I took break from “Charm City” to make a short story with a western theme… which ended up inspiring “Professional Risk”.

Which Reminds Me

Make sure if you move on to another quick project that you COME BACK to your novel at some point. It’s easy to slip away to another project, it’s sometimes harder to return. Also don’t try to multi task, you could end up overlapping themes and story points.

The environment in which you write in has a lot to do with how much you can churn out. For example I am writing this Hub on a piece of loose leaf, while wasting my youth away on a loooong Thursday night, working in a boring art museum. LOTS of room and silence for writing. I would rather be sitting in a park, or anywhere quiet and outside, but you work with what you can. Let’s say that you are a parent or have younger siblings. A good pair of earphones is a good investment. If it can drown out a forty-caliber handgun, it can make screaming brats… I mean children, a whisper.

I am not going to go into a big thing about using vices to get your writing done. Different things work for different people. I won’t go into a big history of that stuff (that’s material for a whole other Hub). Weed, booze, Oxy, sex, etc. I tried writing after drinking six Yinglings and two shots of Jameson. All I managed to do was procrastinate and crack the screen of my iPod Touch 4. Not saying that drinking does not help, it’s just not a good idea to handle small electronics in the process. The one thing that does help me write is caffeine and company. Nothing fancy like frappacrappachinos or espressos; just straight coffee, or mocha, or a Monster/Redbull/Rockstar energy drink. Coca-Cola in the right amount of quantity works great too. Who the hell needs cocaine and acid when you have caffeine? Also not being so anti-social not only helps you get to typing, but you also can pick up ideas as you go along. You know a lot of those natural conversations Elmore Leonard had in his works? He use to write everything down when he would be out and about; waiting in line at the grocery store, having a beer at the bar, etc. You can hear just about anything if you your ears and brain do the work.

You Still Have Time To Prepare

National Novel Writing Month starts soon. There is nothing against the rules in terms of thinking. Make an outline, read it, think some more, and then make notes. You still have time to do research or scout locations that will inspire you. However once November 1st comes around, get writing.

Comments

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  • askformore lm profile image

    askformore lm 

    3 years ago

    Thank you for sharing info about your writing experience. In particular the section about Writer's Block.

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