A blog about writing . . . and a lot of other things

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

How to Write a Novel

Since NaNoWriMo begins tomorrow, I figured I'd offer some tips on how to complete a 50,000-word novel in 30 days.

  1. Write.  I know this seems fairly obvious, but you wouldn't believe how many "writers" fail because they don't actually write.  
  2. Don't worry about quality.  During the month of November I've written some of the most awful scenes you can imagine.  I've written scenes where my main character has long internal monologues about how difficult it is to write.  I've even written scenes where my characters sit around and play icebreakers.  The truth is, these scenes can help you move to a place where you can write something good. You know what the best thing is about these terrible scenes, though?  They can be deleted in December.
  3. Keep writing.  Writing a novel is like eating the proverbial elephant -  you write it one word at a time.  Don't think about how many words you have to write or how far behind you are.  Just keep writing.
  4. Avoid distractions.  Are you sensing a theme here?  If you are going to finish this novel, you need to be writing.  That means that this isn't the time to take on a new project - remodeling the kitchen, landscaping the yard, teaching yourself to crochet - no matter how fun it sounds.  It's time to write.
  5. Do take breaks, though.  You need to bathe.  You need to eat.  You need to hug your children and clean the bathroom and walk around a bit.  You probably even have to go to work.  You can do all these things and still succeed.  I've successfully completed NaNoWriMo while parenting two toddlers and going to school full-time.  It can be done.
  6. Take chances.  I'm not saying you should drive too fast or go snowboarding.  I'm saying you should let your story fly free.  You were planning to write an epic saga of one family's struggle against famine in Ireland?  It's okay to go ahead and turn it into a horror novel if that's the direction the characters seem to be headed.  The Irish epic would have been tedious, anyway.
  7. Don't be afraid to ask for help.  Last year I got stuck and asked for help on Facebook.  My heroine was just wandering in a meadow.  It was beyond dull, and I had no idea what to do with her.  My friend Meagan suggested ninja pirates.  I let my main character get kidnapped and thus was born one of the best characters in the book (according to Jacob).  And now I have a novel with both space ships and pirate ships.  How cool is that?
  8. Don't be afraid to write while on narcotics.  So maybe you're not firing on all cylinders.  Apparently it's still possible to write some compelling narrative.  I imagine this advice isn't useful to most people, but I'm glad I went ahead and wrote through the fog last year.
  9. Throw in some healthy competition.  My brother and I generally do NaNoWriMo together.  On the website we are buddies and can see how many words we've each written.  It is a big motivation when I see that he is 5,000 words ahead.  I can't possibly let my brother beat me!
  10. Write some more.  You're feeling fat from Thanksgiving and exhausted from Christmas shopping and just realized you're still 20,000 words short of your goal?  Sit down and write.  It's not too late until December 1st.  Last year I wrote more than 12,500 words in the last three days alone.  

1 comment:

  1. Now I really want to write an epic saga about a starving vampire family in Ireland.

    Sorry not to motivate you this year, but this is all really good advice.