As NaNoWriMo 2016 is winding down, I found myself reflecting on what I’ve learned during the last month. I wanted to take a moment to share it with anyone thinking of attempting NaNo, or just writing for that matter. I’m not a pro, and this may or not be helpful to you, but here are a few things I’ve taken away from the experience of trying to write a novel in 30 days.
- Don’t approach your novel like it’s a masterpiece. There are going to be lots of revisions, lots of changes. Trying to aim for perfection out the gate may set you up for failure.
- If you get stuck on a scene, make a note of your basic idea for it, and move on. Sometimes writing what happens after a scene you were struggling with can help create some clarity. It can even spawn completely new ideas you may not have considered until you got unstuck from the mud of it.
- If you aren’t enjoying what you’re writing, try moving to another scene. Creativity flows best when it is driven by inspiration, not duty.
- Don’t obsess over plot holes. You’ll be revising. If your characters completely contradict something they’ve said or done, you can change it later. Allow the story to flow, even if it’s not perfectly in line with a previous event. If you get caught up trying to fix things, you may fall into a blackhole of revisions before you’ve even gotten the entire story out.
- Your story is going to evolve, so let it. You might have a grand plan, and you may be a perfectionist, but a good story has a mind of its own. It will start out as the seed you planted and then try to branch out. Let it! Even if you are going down a rabbit hole that seems completely insane, follow it until you’ve determined it is/isn’t important to the overall story. Tangents can lead to side stories, backgrounds for characters you may not have considered, or really crazy story twists that even surprise you – and it came out of your head. That’s awesome!
- Don’t be afraid to do something different. Of course it’s important to consider sentence structure, grammar and spelling, but when it comes to writing style, there isn’t really a right way to do it. Just look at the variety of books on the bookshelf at any store. There are those who argue that many best selling authors have horrible narrative, shallow characters, and absurd plots – all because their writing style isn’t what they consider “proper” or “correct”. Guess what? If you have an awesome story and it draws people in, they read, and they love your characters, you’re doing it right. Write with your voice, you don’t have to imitate someone else’s to be successful.
- Keep your creativity engaged. If you feel like a scene is falling flat and you can’t describe one more castle in the massive kingdom you’ve built, take a break. But use your break to look up images and artwork of castles, or dedicate the time to researching other topics for your story. The longer you can take a breath and immerse yourself in your world, the better your story will flow.
- Take a break from your world once in awhile. Creativity is like a muscle, if you try to flex it too much, you might strain it. Taking a walk to clear your mind or watching a movie can help give your brain time to recuperate, and reset your creativity.
Hopefully there is something helpful in there for others. I definitely figured out a lot for my process…even if I didn’t get to my 50k words this year!