As I watch the clock countdown to November 1 and the start of NaNoWriMo, I am a jumble of excitement and trepidation. Writing a 50,000 word draft in a month is the writing equivalent of the Indy 500, where we have to keep the car on the track and avoid hitting a wall and crashing. In a writer’s world, a wall is usually less about exhaustion (though that can happen, certainly) and more about the inner critic that nags and complains and tells us our stories are stupid and no one will ever read them.
Sometimes we hit a wall when our characters veer the story into a ditch, leaving us scratching our heads and wondering where the tow truck is. How do we get the story back on track? Many NaNo’ers do a lot of prep work ahead of time to keep their stories on the road: outlines, detailed plots, character sheets, etc. I don’t do anything beyond a loose outline because I’m a “pantser,” or one who flies by the seat of her pants when writing. The good news is, I have fun when my characters surprise me. The bad news is, they’re often lousy drivers, with the local tow truck driver just shaking his head and saying, “You again?” The finished stories have stories of their own, with plenty of skid marks and discarded words, paragraphs, pages, even whole chapters that get thrown out of the window and littered onto the ground. When I ride with my characters, I have to remember to take my dramamine along, because they don’t care that I’m carsick.
I hear that some people are planning to put their works in progress onto Smashwords to get feedback from people. To me, that’s giving a kid a car before he or she has had driver’s ed. To each her own, I guess, but I’m not letting my characters take anyone else in the car until I’m sure they know how to drive. I’m just sayin’.
The best part of NaNoWriMo is the camaraderie among the thousands who do it each year. Most of us writers slog along with a certain level of isolation. Family and friends often don’t care how we’re going to rewrite our beginning or get Greg and Marsha together at the end when he’s in a coma from his latest drunken car wreck. I can be disconsolate when a character dies, and there’s no one to come over with a tuna casserole or to sit shiva with me while I grieve. During NaNo, since all the other participants are having similar experiences, we can talk to each other. Groups get together to have “word wars” and other games to keep the juices flowing. This weekend we have a kick-off party, and I hear there will be lots and lots of brownies! It’s one month out of the year when a writer is never alone or lonely.
To my fellow NaNo’ers: Good luck! Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines! See you at the end when that checkered flag comes down on November 30!
Now, since it’s Thursday, I want to pass along my weekly blog recommendation. I can’t believe I haven’t told you about this one before, because it’s one of my favorites. If you haven’t met Totsymae, it’s high time you did so.
Totsymae is a writer and artist with plenty of common sense and folksy wisdom to share. Whether traveling, offering insights on dating, or ruminating on politics, Totsymae observes the world in a way that many of us do, but she explains it in a way many of us can’t. Reading her blog, I’m often smiling and nodding my head. First I say, “Yep, yep,” and then “Why didn’t I think of that?”
In this visual world that we live in, Totsymae adds value to her blog through her colorful illustrations. Take a look! You won’t ever be bored.