Off the Top of My Head: NaNoWriMo

National Novel Writing Month!

Depending on what kind of writer you are, you’re going to approach this with either fear and trepidation, or the kind of enthusiasm that should really only be reserved for hot chocolate. (I have very strong feelings on the subject of hot chocolate.) Personally, I like writing off the cuff, so I think this is going to be fun.

Oh, yes, I am participating this year. On purpose this time!.

I should back up. My debut novel, Deadman Switch, was written in four weeks—well, three-and-a-half—during the month of November 2015 after binge-watching the entire run of a crime show. It was only after I was finished that I found out that my frantic work on my book coincided with NaNoWriMo, which was really funny in retrospect. Last year, I accidentally had an October/November run of inspiration on the Bridgehold Trilogy (to be published next year sometime, hopefully) that, again, accidentally coincided with NaNoWriMo.

This year, I’m going to be deliberate about this. Yes, my hat is in the ring…let the writing commence!

I have a few suggestions for anyone interested! (Yes, I realize that it’s ironic to be taking writing advice from a guy whose username across all social media platforms is wrongwaytowrite.) First off, ignore any and all advice that I’m giving if you don’t think it works for you—including this piece of advice; which, while paradoxical, is probably the best advice I’ll ever hand out. Probably won’t end up on a meme, though. Too wordy.

First off, do not use a detailed outline. Have a little fun with this! Find out what weird directions your mind goes! I prefer the method of creating a character (or characters) with distinct personalities and quirks, putting them in a situation, and seeing where it goes from there. I am a visual person, so I’ll browse pictures online to try to find someone who looks like the specific person I’m trying to envision. I won’t always get the perfect picture—my mental image for Takami had longer hair than the picture I found that was the “closest match”—but it helps a lot when envisioning the scenes.

Second off, no—and I repeat, NO—editing! Some people are compulsive editors (I’m looking at you, Ben!) and can’t write a sentence without editing it five or six times…before completion of said sentence. That’s wildly inefficient. Even if you decide that you need to make a timeline change, just highlight the part where you’re at, make a note, and keep going. Edit when you’re done!

Third…hey, remember what I said about not having a detailed outline? This is going to seem a little contradictory, but I never claimed to be consistent. Make a chapter outline—and by that, I mean make titles for each chapter that contain ideas about what you want each one to be about. It helps with pacing. Something like this:

Chapter 1: Weird Tornado

Chapter 2: Through the Portal

Chapter 3: Surviving the Flying Sharks

Chapter 4: The Interesting Cave with the Doomsday Weapon that Accidentally Gets Activated and Vaporizes All Flying Sharks (Wait, Is That Too Much of a Literal Ex Machina?)

…and so forth. Don’t actually outline each chapter. That conflicts strongly with rule 1. Also with my general philosophy. #wrongwaytowrite!

Forth, accountability. Tell someone what your plan is! I prefer the method of announcing exactly how many pages I plan on writing per day. (Five Word pages, single-spaced, 12-point Times New Roman.) Since everyone in my immediate vicinity is not participating in NaNoWriMo—not even my English-major siblings (looking at you again, Ben!)—I’ll be using all of you as my motivation. My progress, by way of pictures, will be posted once per day on my Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter feeds, to both keep me honest about my progress and to avoid the inevitable trap of dropping off the face of the Earth. Don’t worry, I’ll make it fun, and you can see all the research I’ll be doing in various forms! (Exploring caves, performing fighting moves, applying first aid to limbs damaged by ineffective fighting moves, etc.)

Five…I thought I had a fifth one here. Guess not.

So go, fellow writers! Create the next great American novel from the random plot lines rattling around in your heads. I’ll see you all on the back end of this month!

…and if any of you spot my brother, tell him to stop editing and get cracking on a new book. (I’m still looking at you, Ben!)

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