The NaNoWriMo Dialogues: Day Zero

You: Holy shit. National Novel Writing Month.

Me: I know, right? Almost here.

You: *whistles* NaNoWriMo. Is it “ree-mo,” or “wry-mo?”

Me: I seriously don’t know. Follow your bliss, I guess?

You: Are you, ahh, doing anything around these parts for the ol’ NaNoWriMo? This is, after all, a writing blog, so I assume…

Me:  Well. This isn’t really a writing blog. This is an author’s portfolio-flavored ranty-hole where writing is occasionally — okay, frequently — discussed. I also talk about applesauce. But yes, I am going to do a specific thing for the month of November. This blog post — this “dialogue” between Me and the imaginary writer that is You — is part of it, actually. The very first part. Chapter Zero. The Prologue, if you will.

You: *snerk* Imaginary. Good one.

Me: Hey, whatever lets you sleep at night, Captain Howdy.

You: So, what are these dialogues?

Me: Sort of a casual way to explore the… weird nutty-ass journey that takes you from Not Having The First Draft Of A Novel to Having The First Draft Sorta Maybe Kinda Done.

You: Sorta maybe kinda?

Me: Well, 30 days is a pretty short haul for writing a novel. And 50k is technically novel-length, but publishers are likely going to be reticent about a novel of that length unless it’s young adult, but whatever. And what you finish may not look like much of a book yet…

You: Are you giving the stinkeye to NaNoWriMo, bro?

Me: Nope. I did, once, admittedly, because I tried it and it really didn’t work for me — in fact, it had negative consequences. It made me feel like shit for a little while about the whole writing thing. And back then I was naive enough to assume that when something does or does not work for me it obviously has to be that way for anybody else because we’re all the same precious snowflake, AND I AM MOST PRECIOUS OF THEM ALL. Which is not true, and of course everyone has a process as unique to them as a strand of DNA. What works, works, and NaNoWriMo works for some people very well.

You: What works about NaNoWriMo?

Me: It gets you used to being on deadline. It forces you to write every day to meet that deadline. It teaches you that if you want to Do This Thing called “writing” then the only way out is through. Really, it teaches you to finish your shit, which is a core tenet of being a writer. And one so few writers manage. Now, that’s not to say I think it’s an ideal writing plan (if such a thing exists).

You: This is where I ask you what’s not ideal about it.

Me: This is that time, yes.

You: *waits*

Me: *stares*

You: *waits more*

Me: *stares harders*

You: Holy piss-lasers, you have a very intense stare.

Me: It’s actually the beard. It grows darker as I stare. All the hairs point toward you slowly, gently, but with great and sinister certainty.

YouFine, I’ll ask: what’s not ideal about NaNoWriMo?

Me: Being in November doesn’t help. Start of the holiday season, and for me the whole week around Thanksgiving is a swirling vortex of chaos and gravy. And again, it’s worth noting that NaNoWriMo is for some an effective process, but it might not be your effective process. Maybe your process is writing 350 words a day. Maybe it’s taking three months instead of one. Maybe it’s eating peyote in a lighthouse while wearing a rain slicker made from whale leathers. If it works, it works. If it doesn’t, it can be like cramming a square peg in a monkey’s urethra.

You: You have a thing about monkeys.

Me: Monkeys are always funny.

You: You also have a thing about pee-holes.

Me: Pee-holes are always funny, too. These are comedy laws, I’m sorry if you don’t like them. But like climate change and gravity, this shit is real.

You: Fair enough. So, are you doing NaNoWriMo?

Me: I’m doing NaWriEvMoMoFo.

You: What is that? Did you just summon something from the bleak beyond?

Me: National Write Every Month, Motherfucker. Writing is my job. My full-time gig. MY INKY JAMZ, MAN. Has been for a long time — every month for me is NaNoWriMo. That being said, I will be coincidentally starting a new novel on November 1st. I’ll be jumping into the third Heartland book, tentatively titled The Seven. (Shameless plug time: the first book, Under the Empyrean Sky, is $1.99 for Kindle until the close of October 31st. The second book, Blightborn, is through editing and should be out… summer, 2014?)

You: You really are shameless.

Me: Shame is a limitation I can no longer afford.

You: Whatever, weirdo. *pinches area between eyes and nose* So, any last minute preparations I should make going into this thing, boss?

Me: If you haven’t outlined, that’s an option.

You: Ew.

Me: I know. I agree. Outlining is a total junk-punch, but for me, it helps. I’d rather fuck up a three-page outline than a 300-page novel. The first one is easy to fix. Repairing the other one is positively Sisyphean. And an outline doesn’t need to be the traditional Roman numeral line-item plotty bullshit, either. You have lots of options for how to prep and scheme.

You: Yeah, I’m pretty much not gonna outline at this point.

Me: Whatever juices your mango.

You: What else you got? Come on, come on.

Me: I wrote a thing the other day about character creation. Down and dirty, quick and simple. But lots of depth in there, I think. A puddle that looks shallow but is in fact surprisingly deep and may contain a Kraken. Because, every puddle needs a Kraken.

You: Words to live by.

Me: Not really.

You: All right, fine. We should probably finish up here. This is going on a bit long.

Me: In this, we have an accord.

You: So, what’s the deal here again? At the blog?

Me: Ah, right, we didn’t hit that base. Each week I’ll be here two, maybe three times, doing more of these NaNoWriMo Dialogues with Totally-Not-Imaginary You, and we’ll hit a lot of the perils and pitfalls of the NaNoWriMo journey. So, hang with me, and we’ll talk it out. And maybe some readers will join in the comments and air their Novel-Flavored Triumphs and Grievances, as well.

You: Cool. Last minute words of encouragement?

Me: Fuck the haters. Do the work. Finish your shit. You are the commander of your words, the king of the story, the god of this place. You’re done fucking around, so write, write, and write some more. Plus, there’s the whole NaNoWriMo writing bundle thing, hint-hint.

You: So shameless.

Me: So shameless I don’t have shame about my lack of shame.

You: A veritable shamelessness spiral.

Me: Yep. Oh, and one more thing: ART HARDER, MOTHERFUCKER.

You: *fistbump*

Me: *fistbump*

*everything explodes in a mighty fistsplosion*

49 comments

  • I’m really excited about the story I kinda sorta have planned for Nano this year – and I pronounce it ree-mo even though I know it’s not. And I’m an ‘organic’ writer so Nano really works for me – for getting an entire first draft spewed out on to the page!

  • You are pretty damn awesome. I’m pumped! Thanks for the pep talk and that was one hell of a fistplosian! Can’t wait to get started.

  • Good luck to you and everyone else.
    I’m going to meet some local geeky writing folks in Budapest on Thursday, I think it’ll be fun. The NaNoWriMo is basically the Fight Club for anyone who thinks they can write; weak pens get tumbled into the ground…

    AHEM

    I wrote 2,300 words of a “novel” last November, so that failed miserably. Still, better than nothing, and it might find its use one day. This time I decided to just stick to trying to write 50k words in short stories. We’ll see how well that goes.

    • October 29, 2013 at 10:27 PM // Reply

      That’s sort of my take, though I’m about due to start a new one (just not quite done with some edits on the last one. . . ). I probably won’t make the start time, though I might still get 50K in if I follow the excellent advice at the top of the page. But I want to roll around in all the positives and the support and the “why the hell would you NOT be writing today?” that goes with being a NaNer.

  • You crack me up! I had a similar conversation with my evil twin who sits on my shoulder trying to convince me that I can’t do it. The first draft of my first novel was written during NaNo 2011 (just published it in March) so I’m going to give it another try this year! I’ll be following your dialogue closely to keep me ‘juiced’ so…. thanks in advance!

  • I’m doing NaNoWriMo for the first time this year, primarily because of Deadline Reasons. I’ve been saying “I’m totally gonna write a book someday” for 20+ years now (that hurt to think), but life/parenthood/lolcats on youtube always end up getting the attention. And really, motherhood is an -excellent- thing, and I love it, but I can’t use it as an stalling excuse forever. Especially as the armful of squalling infant is now a fully functional, reading to herself, poptart-stealing three year old.

    I know that I can say I’ll write a book someday until I’m blue in the face, but saying it and actually getting off my ass and -doing- it are two very different things. So this year? This is the year I’m going to put all the years of bluster and bravado to task, and actually -do- this shit.

    …and I’d buy the writer bundle but I already have a goodly chunk of it.

  • Love it! I’m going to try for the first time. What I punch out is what I punch out. If it’s 50K, great. If it’s 20K, it’s still 20K that I didn’t have before.

    I’ll look forward to your updates, too.

  • YOU ARE THE MOST PRECIOUS OF THEM ALL! And, you’re right, I am the God(dess) of this place!! Thank you, good sir, for your tireless contributions to the universe. I’m off to get my art on!

  • Good luck to all the Nano first-timers here, and those continuing current projects! this’ll be my 4th year, and i’m really liking my premise this year (Steampunk yet again, but sadly no wombats – maybe that’s something to consider…) , and i have a synopsis and outline so that’s something.

    To Tyro, I did NaNo last year as 5 connected short stories, which I found a lot ‘easier’ to keep the momentum going…

  • I think NaNoWriMo Dialogues are an excellent plan!

    I’m doing it for my…..7th time this year (not counting the occasional Camp forays). 50k is definitely my “on paper” goal (hurr hurr), though really, a first draft that isn’t a pile of crap is my real goal.

    I always try to browbeat people I know into participating as well, but that hasn’t happened yet. Lonely is the writer’s life. It’s just me and my Doberman arm rest.

  • Writing this intensively doesn’t do a lot for me, personally – especially as the new computer mouse has b*****ed up my wrist so it’s pretty painful to type at present.

    Will turn to pen and paper instead…and aim at least for some words every day.

    Good luck to everyone who is NaNoWriMo-ing…or NaWriEvMoMoFu-ing :)

    • Sorry about your computer. I don’t write by longhand much, but I’ve transcribed a few stories written by other folks, and by the 2nd hour I can barely move my wrist! But I guess it’s just a matter of practice…

  • I have a toy monkey, Spanking, that I carried around the U.S. when I was there last year. I asked around 50 people I met while travelling if they’d mind Spanking the Monkey while I took a photo. They all did. Maybe this November I’ll write 1,000 words about each of those fun-loving Americans. They’re much less self-conscious than the English, who generally baulked when I dragged my rubber chicken around England, asking random people if they’d mind holding Mycock (the chicken’s name) while I took a photo. I’ll save those stories for NNWM 2014.

  • I’m doing NaNo for the first time and I feel victorious already. Got my first-plot-ever down, ending and all, and that’s after almost twentyfive years of writing! Now it’s time to grow up… somewhat. I picked out a name for my mad scientist and I love the people in the forums. While no one in my life have a clue(or care) what NaNo is, I found people there with problems I can really relate to. Like plot-panic and grammar-meltdowns. I even got a writing buddy from Ireland last night, I’m so chuffed! Joss Whedon, you better clear your schedule for next year, because you will turn my Superhero novel into a movie!

    Confidence is a good thing, right?

    Thanks for all the brilliant writing-advice, Chuck. I’m keen like a gun-waving prepper ready to drink his own urine. Good luck, people!

  • Good strong Life Line Chuck, shows energy and vitality :)
    The coffee stains suggest desperate messy late night caffeine fixing drinking..

    P.S. NaNo here i come…scared, very scared

    • Okay just read your Penmonkey’s Paean, and I wish to withdraw my comments about being scared. Make that very excited and confident…I can make this happen.

  • I’m half-way through the first major edit of a rough draft. Would dropping that to work on nano break the rule about not taking another manuscript out behind the shed and banging it while i have another project full swing?

    I do have another novel trying to burst out of my frontal lobe right now. Must…..Hold…..On…..

  • I tried NaNoWriMo twice, years back. The most I managed was 10k. At that pace I burn out and lose interest entirely in writing for a few months.

  • Going into Nano with the intention of creating the 50k word ‘zero draft,’ and will thus be spewing my venomous vomit sandwich all over the place (and possibly into somebody’s face) during the month of November, puking it all out as if I’d just engorged on yummy gutter balls. (What?! What the hell does that even mean? Seriously, I think I need to unplug from your blog for awhile.)

  • Your shamelessness makes me feel less dirty about mine.

    I tried NaNoWriMo two years ago. I agree it’s probably the second-worst month of the calendar to choose (the first being December, because holidays). I mean, give me a month where there’s still crappy weather, low chance of holiday distractions and something with 31 days. I’m looking at you, March.

    I failed at NaNo, by the way. I outlined, I was in gear, and then I kind of stopped caring. You miss a day or two and suddenly it’s just that much more daunting. It’s not like I can’t write a novel — I’ve written two, one published and one coming in April. (See? No shame here either.) It all seemed so arbitrary. I can write like the wind when I’m in that ephemeral “zone,” but unless I’m up against a hard deliver-or-don’t-get-paid deadline, the zone finds me, not the other way around.

    But man, whatever works. If it gets your butt in a chair and your fingers on a keyboard, do it. If nothing else, it’ll help you figure out what works and doesn’t work for you.

  • I’m being a big stupid asshole. Why? Because I’m gonna try NaNoWriMo for the first time this year. Without an outline. Or much character development. Or a story arc.

    Oh yeah, watch me go FLYING INTO THE HELL OF STORY-HOLES!!! I’m a plotter, usually, so this is a ridiculous idea for me.

    Oh well. Life is short, might as well give it a try!!

  • I would agree that it’s much easier fixing an outline than fixing a novel on the fly. I normally eschew these little group singalongs but I was going to start something around this time anyway so what the hell.

  • One word of advice I’d add: you ARE going to have to tell people, “I can’t do XYZ, I have to work on my novel.” Practice that phrase, add it to your repertoire. People are going to give you seriously weird looks when you tell them this. But, you know, haters to the left.

  • I am getting more and more excited about writing for NaNoWriMo this year, although TOTALLY nervous because I’ve never written a mystery/horror before. Neither genre, much less a mixture. But I LOVE my main character, which could be a good thing or a bad thing. We’ll see. She passed the tests from your characterization post, so that was fun. Plus, I went and bought Under the Empyrean Sky because $2.

  • Over the years, I’ve seen a couple of different kinds of NaNoWriMo writers.
    There’s the ones who, no matter how hard they try, it doesn’t work for them. It doesn’t fit their process, they don’t like the vibe, they think there are rules there aren’t (no editing? Who the fuck came up with that one?), or life interferes. Whatever.

    Then there’s the ones who churn out a novel every November, and nothing else.

    Then there’s the ones who kinda do NaNoWriMO, but not really. They talk about it, they write a novel in a month, but they don’t care about the site or validation or any of that.

    And lastly, there’s the ones who love it, get involved in it, and it becomes t heir life.

    All of those are great.

    NaNoWriMo is NOT for everyone. No one writing process is for everyone. Pansters vs planners, whatever.

  • I’m doing Nanowrimo again this year. Though, I’ve written a few novels year, so its more for drive to try to finish off a project in the works. Excited about hanging out with my fellow pensters.

  • Chuck – I sadly haven’t read any of your books, but after reading this post I can tell you are a great writer. I know people probably say that to you all the time, but I just loved your dialogue. So clever. I can’t do anything that funny and cool, (well not yet anyway, there’s still hope) but I will be doing NaNoWriMo. It’s a bit of fun and will hopefully kick start my writing again. I will definitely be checking out more of your posts. This one cheered me up no end and made me giggle. Good luck with your novel :) x

  • I’ve read three of the six and highly recommend them. This will be my fourth NaNoWriMo. I’ve always hit 50K before Thanksgiving. I find the pressure to finish quiets the nagging bitch monster/editor. I’m a rebel this year continuing with my 2011 story, The Illusion of Marriage. I’m also unofficial co-ML(lfavreau) sidekick to our ML Sara (Disquiet). The WriNoShores rule and NH will be eating dust in the Word War-just saying. http://nanowrimo.org/regions/usa-massachusetts-north-shore#regions_forum

  • Nice post! I’m not officially doing NaNo (haven’t signed up), but I did coincidentally start a novel on the first. ;) Hoping to get at least 10K, ’cause of Thanksgiving and all that jazz.
    Good luck with your novel, Mr. Wendig!

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