Monday, December 3, 2012

6 Things I Learned from NaNoWriMo

Beta Magnus Wins!
National Novel writing Month 2012 is in the books (see what I did there?) and I successfully completed the 50,000 word challenge. I even smashed my previous year’s attempt in the first five days or so, which was really cool. “Project: Brothers” (the codename for the book) wasn’t finished in that time as fifty thousand is actually not enough for a proper full size book and I’ll likely need an additional sixty thousand at least to finish it. I’m hopeful that I can finish the book by the end of January though and then spend the rest of 2013 editing and re-writing. I’m sorry to say that I wasn’t able to finish any updates for the blog this past month, partly because of NaNoWriMo but also partly due to very specific problems in my personal life the last few weeks (don’t worry, I won’t get into them. This still isn’t that kind of blog). But now that November is over I plan to getting back to work and giving you as many Nerd Blogs as I can produce.

Today though I wanted to share some of my experiences with NaNoWriMo, as it turns out that it was one of the better things I’ve ever gotten involved with in my life. I’m breaking it down into the 6 Things I Learned from Doing National Novel Writing Month.

As a quick reminder: National Novel Writing Month takes place November 1st through November 30th and is a challenge to write 50, 000 words in that time frame. It can be any kind of prose (I chose original fiction) so long as it isn’t a project started before November 1st.

Six Things after the jump.

Let's face it: it's not the best acronym on the planet

#1: It's Not as Hard As You Think

50,000 words feels like a lot to write in a month but it’s absolutely possible to do without killing yourself. It’s simple and straight forward if you can just dedicate two hours a day to writing. The only reason I had trouble in the end was because I got distracted by real life and didn’t write for something like ten days (or more). Still I managed to get it done in the end, which is all that matters. It’s cliché but if I can do it anyone can.

#2: Young Adult Novels Are the Preferred Thing to Write
There are a lot of writers out there doing NaNoWriMo who are either inspiring or confirmed Young Adult novelist. I mean a loooot. I mean like 80% of people I came across. That’s a staggering amount of people. It’s almost as this was actually National Young Adult Novel (and other lame bullshit, we guess) Writing Month. I guess YA (as the cool kids call) it pretty popular right now and a big money maker but it doesn’t seem like very fulfilling stuff to write. Bottom line is I severely underestimating the literary world’s love affair with YA. Also vampires. Lots of vampires.

This, but times 1000

#3: Teens Love NaNoWriMo
A surprising amount of teenagers were participating in this event, which I thought was funny because when I was a teen I was indeed a lot more capable of churning that many words in at least 30 days but on the flip side I wasn’t capable of churning out anything readable. I didn’t start writing decent fiction until I was twenty-four, for God’s sake. But they say that NaNoWriMo isn’t about writing good, it’s about writing really fast so in theory it doesn’t really matter what comes out. Still I think at least 37% of people I saw doing this weren’t legal adults. This is probably a good thing for the novel writing community in the long run. If even half of these kids write regularly like this for the next ten years then we may get a shit ton of awesome books to read by the year 2024. Or not; we’ll see.

Also 90% of those kids I noticed were working on YA novels.

#4:  Many People Want to Ruin the NaNoWriMo Party
There were a lot of people on the internet who really hate people who participate in NaNoWriMo. Their reasoning is different but the fact is a ton of assholes out there were talking a bunch of trash to people who are just trying to have a fun month of writing. Why? Are you just that cold hearted that seeing people trying their best to reach a goal offends you enough that you feel the need to destroy them? So what if you’re annoyed that they’re spamming Twitter or Facebook; if they need to extra motivation to succeed then it’s a valid strategy. Every time I saw some jerk saying negative stuff about people being “stupid” or “losers” for doing the project I just wanted to burn their house down.

Trolls gotta troll
On a similar note I was slightly annoyed by all the people who made a point to declare, using the NaNoWriMo hastag, that they were not going to do NaNoWriMo because it was somehow beneath them or that they were going to do things different this month (like work on an old novel, or write a play instead of a novel) because they “weren’t a follower” or they “like to be a rebel.” These guys are the hipsters of the writing world, and when you’re the pretentious jerk among of group of notoriously pretentious people (come on, fellow writers, you know it’s at least mostly true) then you’re not doing great by my count.

#5: Many People Want You to Succeed
At the same time there are a ton of people who want you to succeed. Total strangers gave me support during my time sent working on the book out of nowhere. That’s really cool, especially considering it happened on the internet where I’m usually criticized for being a “stupid gay n-word loser” by thirteen year old psychopaths. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to actually utilize Twitter but I soon found an enormous community of writers all doing exactly what I was doing, going through the same hardships I was going through. It was a rare moment in my life where I felt like I belonged somewhere. It was awesome.

#6: NaNoWriMo is a Tool to Challenge Your Creativity
I’ve always known that NaNoWriMo was not supposed to be about writing a book, but I always thought it was just supposed to get you in the habit of writing regularly.

But I now know that’s only part of its usefulness. I very loosely plotted out the story I wrote in my head before the start of the month and I only had a vague idea of characters aside from the two main ones. But it ended up being good that I did it that way because I was forced to come up with new ideas under pressure which really jump-started my creativity. I would come up with little interesting ideas that, looking back, were pretty weird and might have been swept under the rug under normal circumstances but since I was working on the mindset of “Gotta reach 50,000 words, gotta reach 50,000 words” I threw them in and hoped for the best. In the end that was a fantastic way to do it because it forced me to integrate these ideas in to the story in a natural way. So now I honestly feel like I’ve created a very original, if quirky, universe populated by oddballs that I think people will earnestly enjoy reading about. I’m extremely excited and anxious to continue working on this book. Hell, I haven’t been this excited to write since I was in High School.

NaNoWriMo makes you take chances with your storytelling because it lulls you in a state of mind where you don’t realize you’re actually taking a chance. If you do things right you might end up with something outside the box that you wouldn’t normally write…which for almost every writer out there that’s an amazing gift.

All that's missing is some scotch, a cigarette, and decades of bitterness

That's it for National Novel Writing Month. December is usually a slow traffic week for Beta is Dead so it might not matter how much I end up writing over the next few weeks, but I plan on posting a lot since I'm super behind on reviews. Also as for the book I've been working on I'll try to keep its status up to date for anyone who is interested in that sort of thing.

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