NaNoWriMo is an incredible undertaking for anyone. 50,000 words in only 30 days is a lot. I have participated four times now and won twice. I failed last year due to working three jobs and also attempting to have a life. This year I had been hoping it would be different. I was down one job and had my mornings free. Surely I would use them to write and get something new finished.
Well I failed. Miserably. Even worse than last year. As of this writing I have fewer than 7,000 words. According to the website I will finish in June! And you know what, I don’t care. Sure, it would have been great to finish. “Winning” would have been awesome, a great accomplishment that I could share with friends and family. But the thing is, “losing” is great too. I may not have a lot done, but I got words on paper. I introduced new characters and plot lines along the way. I cleared my head of some things that were bothering me.
Most importantly I learned more about myself as a writer and a person. I learned to prioritize. Writing is important to me, and I still take time out every week to do a little, but family, friends, work, and sleep are more important. I am slowly learning how to space these things out in my life, and doing so will only help my writing process. I remembered how difficult it is for me to write at home where I am distracted.
Even though I “failed” at writing 50,000 I succeeded in a lot of ways. I can still feel good about this. So even if your writing experience is going poorly, remember that there is always some good to be found while writing, no matter where or how you find it.
~Rachael Miller Crawford
You've made it through the rest of the month with your word count intact. Now, like any good book, a new challenge comes forward that you, the main character, needs to overcome. This time it's the dreaded holidays.
That's right, Thanksgiving is near. Christmas presents must be amassed, traveling must be done, weather fretted about, and then comes the biggest time eater of all: socializing.
How will the main character survive this time?
Some lock themselves up in the bathroom and write words in their phone, hoping that auto correct doesn't mangle them up too much to figure out their meaning in December. Others spend extra money on a train ticket and spend the traveling time in a novel writing frenzy. Still others will determine that the traveling time is really the issue. They'll be the ones who offer to host and cook. Throw the turkey in the oven, quickly vacuum the first floor, and then twiddle down the hours by writing while bathed in the scents of home cooking.
1) You're the main character. You want to win this, and us, the readers, are rooting for you every step of the way.
2) Main characters want something and then they make a plan to get it. You should make a plan, schedule out time to write every day, even on the holidays, and then stick to it as best you can. While the best plans may fail, the plan is a start.
3) When main characters fail they make a new plan and keep going. When plans go askew they do they best they can, and that's ok. As Confucius said thousands of years ago. "Our greatest glory is not in never falling but in rising every time we fall."
Did you ever read a book that had drawn you in, and you were amazed by the imagination of the author? Think about the first time you read Harry Potter and the Socerer's Stone. Flying broomsticks? Yes, broomsticks that fly, and Ms. Rowling made it work.
World building. Authors use this technique to create a realm so real that what’s not possible in our world is commonplace in theirs. But it’s not just a bunch of made up ideas on paper. Everything must fit and work together.
The set of laws governing the world and characters must remain true throughout the story, and this is where mapping and even the use of a handbook can come in handy. Using references to keep things organized makes writing a story easy. I love the idea, especially using maps. They add to the mystic of the tale and can even aid readers to the world's rules as they travel along with the characters.
The first step to world building is to create a time and place. Stories can occur anywhere. It doesn't matter if it takes place here in the United States, in another country or even in another dimension. Certain conflicts are universal to all cultures, and the setting details are the backdrop. However, world building is vital for character development. It helps authors create characters that the readers can relate to.
World building is different for various genres and may not be necessary for some, but in fantasy it’s crucial. There are magic spells, curses, creatures, and mythical characters that have to be kept straight. Think of it as a chess game and the characters are the pawns. Each character must adhere to the rules that make up who they are. Otherwise, the reader can experience confusion.
This holds true for the metaphysical society too. How is it organized? What do the civilization and culture stand for? What’s the relationship of the characters to the environment and each other?
Now that the big stuff is created, it’s the small details that make everything come alive. Think about your favorite story character and their idiosyncrasies. The way they dress and the little things they do, make you fall in love with them.
However, what makes a good story great are the twists and turns. What if something or someone doesn’t follow the rules? What if a character rebels and breaks the laws? I call this the chaos factor, and it's my favorite part of the story.
So when you sit down to write your story, think about world building. You may be surprised how easy it is to get the words down and to spin a tale from beginning to end.
Goth and the post-punk music movement grew up in the 1970’s and early 1980’s, like me. It had its ups and downs, heartfelt crushes and experiments with make-up, clothes, and friends. There were new mixes of composition, recording, dance, style, and sounds that came together to form something unique. It became the post-punk movement, yet there was no concerted movement. Bauhaus, Modern English, and The Cure didn’t sit down on the porch over tea and discuss the post-punk opportunities for new musical styles. They did what they did, and they did it to their own taste, meeting their own expectations. They pleased their own senses and made the music scene their own. People flocked because it rippled in their collective consciousness, their time had come.
Writing is meeting your own expectations, choosing subject matter that is meaningful to you, and placing yourself in the market because you wrote. Like bands who sang in new ways, wrote about things not discussed in polite company, things will resonate when their time comes. There are people in the world who will not only appreciate your work, they will need it. Sensations like Harry Potter can only be explained in terms of their time having come. The boy who lived struck a chord in millions upon millions of people, and the evil he defeats is as much within himself as it is in others.
There are songs bands wrote that flopped. Many. And there will be things we write that flop. Many. But some stand out for me. Shadowplay by Joy Division reminds me of Requiem for a Dream by Hubert Selby Jr. The world he creates distends, like a balloon being sat upon, until it pops, and his characters finally realize that they have created a nightmare of their own lives, in trying to live out their dreams. Killing Time by Echo and the Bunnymen touched a nerve, much like Watchmen by Alan Moore. My friends and I shared copies of that book for a year, reading and re-reading it, discussing it, loving it. I had to buy Porcupine three times, wearing it out learning the lyrics, singing, listening to it over and over. Watchmen, in addition to the awesome graphics, reached out to young people and touched a nerve about authoritarianism and human failings.
The door is wide open. Writing is your journey. Others can encourage, but only you can write to please yourself. Just know that when you do, your work will be appreciated and needed. You just have to find the venue, and know that your time has arrived.