Last year I took part in National Novel Writing Month. I don’t remember exactly how I found out about it, but signed up on November 1st with a half-baked idea and absolutely no idea what I was getting myself into. 28 days later (which is quite apt considering my sleep-deprived-coffee-infused-undead appearance), I came out with a completed manuscript, an entirely new view on the craft, and most importantly a big ol’ life goal accomplished. Success! Months of editing (and surprisingly little revising) later I had a book that I didn’t hate. I decided to tempt fate and take on Script Frenzy, the awkward-sister screenwriting challenge in April and succeeded in finishing a full screenplay (that I’ll be posting soon). With self-imposed challenges, deadlines, and best intention ideas failing miserably between then & now, I can only deduce there is something simple & mind-blowingly effective, and most certainly magical, about NaNoWriMo. Perhaps I was simply waiting until November for the reckless verbosity and ferocious caffeine driven wordsprints.
There is no rational, earthly explanation for the magic of NaNoWriMo. Unless you count ‘The Office of Letters and Light is staffed by infectious, maniacal elves!’ as rational.
Second year attempted, second purple bar earned at 50,056 words. I still have yet to write, ‘The End’ but I accounted for that from the beginning. I know exactly where I’m going to get the extra 10-20k to turn it into a (forgive the term) ‘proper’ length novel, and still stuck to the initial outline I scrawled in October (interestingly, while the outline stayed intact, the synopsis did not).
And now for the hardest, most time-consuming part: Editing.
Fun fact: Say “I haven’t edited it yet” out loud. Most awkward phrase in the english language. ;)
Synopsis: Doc and Coop have it all. They have a great idea for a dreamhacking machine. Thanks to a mysterious character known only as Deus Ex Machina, they have the cash to make it work. Best of all, they have a devoted best friend named Ella who has no qualms about being the first human test subject in this, their latest invention.
But when things go awry—as, in the case of smart-mouthed boy geniuses, things often do—Doc and Coop find themselves suddenly missing a best friend, pursued by monsters hiding out in their garage, and jettisoning from one crazy dimension to another—not to mention on the wrong side of the law and on the wrong side of this Deus Ex Machina character. With only their wits, their lip, and their determination to bring Ella home safely, they embark on an adventure of epic proportions.
On the first page of every little dollar-store notepad I buy — to jot down random half-dreamt ideas, or to scribble down indecipherable diagrams (you know, to help explain the details) — I write the same single, punctuated word.
Then I underline it. Twice.
Then I made sure to read the list below. Often.
Tips for being a prolific writer, counting down:
- 10) Write something every day. Sounds obvious, but it’s the thing wannabes do least. ”Good” word and page counts are relative to what you’re writing. I can pump out 10 pages/day (prose) for a novel, 2x that + for a screenplay
- 9) Read every day. Not so obvious. Even some pros I know don’t do this. But I think it’s crucial.
- 8) Location, location, location. Write someplace that’s physically comfortable — you’re gonna be there a while.
- 7) The Russkies don’t take a shit without a plan, and neither should you. Plan your content like the invasion of Poland.
- 6) It’s not food, it’s fuel. Like an athlete, you need to give your body and brain sustainable energy to work.
- 5) Take a break. Writing is work like anything else. Don’t go all-out until exhaustion hits. Makes it hard to re-start.
- 4) set a routine. Brains love routines. It’s all about creating the right mental state to do the job.
- 3) Use the buddy system. Writing partners can be a major motivator to get shit done. I use “partner” loosely. Don’t just mean a “co-writer”, but someone who’s in the same boat you are. Best if it’s someone whose opinion you trust and work you like There’s also the competitive angle that comes into play when we’re talking sheer output. If a co-writer, it’s also about load sharing.
- 2) One scene or moment at a time. That’s what you’re writing. Not a novel or a story or a script. You’re writing scenes. writing dialogue comes down to knowing ON A DEEP LEVEL who is speaking the words. Everything else is just a gimmick.
- 1) The most important advice I’ve ever been given as a writer was presented as an inscription in AMERICAN GODS by Neil Gaiman So you can take this advice to the bank, because I’d say he’s the most prolific writer on Earth, possibly just behind Alan Moore. The inscription reads simply “Finish things.” I’ve always interpreted Neil’s advice this way: it doesn’t matter how many pages you produce, if they’re incomplete you’ve written nothing. Psychologically, finishing things is a confidence booster. If you can do it once, you can do it again. If you’re a real writer, you will. Now that I think about it, it’s damned good advice overall. So let me take a moment to say thanks, @neilhimself .