Thursday Tips : In the Classroom of NaNoWriMo


 

Well another week has rolled around and the first week of January is almost at its end. How is your first week going – creatively speaking? Are you feeling inspired? Are you reaching out for inspiration?

As promised, at the beginning of this month, I am going to be doing a weekly post on Thursdays called Thursday Tips. What day is it today? Thursday. So time for some tips.

This week’s tips are going to be what I learned in the Classroom of NaNoWriMo 2010. Have you studied writing? Have you done NaNoWriMo? If you answered “No” to the first question but “Yes” to the last question: Congratulations! You have been awarded a degree of excellence and achievement in both the art of self-discipline and writing from the School of NaNoWriMo. NaNoWriMo really is like a crash course in a writing qualification. The only difference between NaNoWriMo and a traditional classroom is that in this school the past students are your mentors, your class monitors and your teachers. So I enrolled in NaNoWriMo in November 2010. I was not quite sure what I was expecting but I know that in hindsight the school of NaNoWriMo taught me more lessons in one month than I had learned the whole way through. So let me take this time to share the lessons that most impacted me.

01/11/2010 The Bell rings, School Begins.

I sit down. All my materials for the course are in front of me. I have the notebook, the loosely plotted storyboard, the pens and pencils, the Macbook and more importantly I have my fellow students all ready at desks around a global classroom.

The first lesson of the day is about to begin.

  • Lesson 1 ~ To write the words you need a blank page in front of you.
  • Lesson 2 ~ You have to unpack your internal editor and send it away for a month.
  • Lesson 3 ~ Don’t think about 50000 words or 25 chapters. Think only of your first word. Put that down.
  • Lesson 4 ~ Now turn that first word into a first sentence.
  • Lesson 5 ~ Now turn that first sentence into a first paragraph. (You have now officially gained your first commendation. Well done.)
  • Lesson 6 ~ Write to a timed limit. Set your clock to either 30 minutes or 60 minutes. Write without stopping and when the limit is up,stop. Walk away. Stretch your legs. Make yourself a coffee.
  • Lesson 7 ~ Sit down again within 3 hours. Your brain feels refreshed but the story is still fresh in your brain.
  • Lesson 8 ~ Do not read over what you have written 3 hours ago. Instead begin again. Set the timer and write.
  • Lesson 9 ~ Walk away again giving yourself a 2 hour break this time. Then go back to the story.
  • Lesson 10 ~ Finish writing for that day. Do not read over what you have written. Remember since you have sent your internal editor – Ethel / Nigel – away, you have nobody checking up on your grammar or your plotting. E-mail what you have written to yourself as the first backup and then drop-box your writing for a second back-up. Back-up is essential: It is like fastening your seatbelt when you get into a car. This is your safety net.
  • Lesson 11 ~ Second day in, break away from the story and write a scene for your main character. Set a timer and write strictly to the limit.
  • Lesson 12 ~ Have a 3 hour break. Go back and now write a scene for your antagonist. Set the timer and write strictly to the limit.
  • Lesson 13 ~ Stop and have a 2 hour break. Go back and write a scene where you create the atmosphere in your setting. Set the time and write strictly to the limit.
  • Lesson 14 ~ Stop for the day. Switch off your computer / Put down your pen/paper. Rest.
  • Lesson 15 – Go on this same way for the next week. Alternating from character building and scene setting to the story itself.
  • Lesson 16 ~ Week 1 is finished. Your energy is still high and you hope you can keep it going for the next week. Stop. Don’t think about a whole week ahead. You have only the page in front of you. Focus on getting down your words in the three timed word wars you have scheduled preferably with your other students/classmates.
  • Lesson 17 ~ After 6 days of writing, take a day of rest. You will need it to refresh and re-energize your imagination. Do nothing that is writing related. Spend some time outdoors in the fresh air. Take the time to spend with your family and your friends.
  • Lesson 18 ~ Day 7, sit down at your desk. Read over the last day’s writing. Now read over the last day’s character sketches and scene settings. Do not edit. Read. With eyes and not pen/pencil. Now the story is refreshed in your mind. Set the timer. Write to the timed limit. You are in a rhythm now. Your brain is slowly forming the habit to write when a timer is called by a Word War Mediator or when your timer alarms goes.
  • Lesson 19 ~ Continue the same way that you did the first week but this time write for 5 days. Add an extra timed writing time / timed word war in every day. So you are writing to 4 scheduled times.
  • Lesson 20 ~ On the 6th day rest again. If by the end of the 6th day, you are still weary, take another second day to rest. Do not worry about your story. It is not going anywhere. It also will not progress if you write while tired. It is important you rest.
  • Lesson 21 ~ You are now in to the third week. Do not break the rhythm. Do not look at the calendar. Do not count how many days you have left. It is just you, the page and the story. Time will take care of itself. Your job is to sit down and have your fingers ready to write the seeds that enter your mind.
  • Lesson 22 ~ Write for 6 days. Then take a day of rest.
  • Lesson 23 ~ Have you backed up?
  • Lesson 24 ~ You are now into the fourth and final week of NaNoWriMo. Keep to the rhythm that you have created. Write for 5 days with 4 word wars or timed writing schedules a day. Take a day of rest on the 6th.
  • Lesson 25 ~ Put your finishing touches to your work.
  • Lesson 26 ~ You are done. Take 2 days of rest. Pat yourself on the back and celebrate. You have completed a month of disciplined writing. You have treated your story like a job. You showed up for it and you did the hours.
  • Lesson 27 ~ It has been over 28 days of writing to a discipline and you have rewired your brain. It takes 1 month to form a habit. You are now in the habit of daily and disciplined writing.
  • Lesson 28 ~ Do not count the words. You may have under 50000, you may have over 50000. The important thing is not the quantity but the fact that at the beginning of the month you only had a blank page and some ideas. Now you have what is a story or the beginning of a full length novel.
  • Lesson 29 ~ Try not to take longer than a few days break. In this time like in your previous breaks, do nothing writing related. Once you feel refreshed, go back to the writing. You now either have a task of editing to begin or you need to continue your writing.
  • Lesson 30 ~ Whether you are taking a break from the current WIP and starting another one or whether you are continuing / editing with the current WIP – keep to the timed schedules. Try to do no more than 4 a day. If you do 3 a day, write for 6 days. If you do 4 a day, write for 5 days and take a 2 day break.
  • Lesson 31 ~ Your story / writing is now as important a focus to you as a 9-5 job. You are both your manager and your employee. Like any employee, you need to be rewarded every now and again for a job well done. Make your imagination feel rewarded. Keep treats on hand for certain accomplishments you have achieved.
  • Lesson 32 ~ Keep every word you have written. Even if you don’t think there is a place for it in your story now. File it away in a separate file. It might come up handy later on in your story or it may even be the seed for a new story or a sequel. Those words you wrote are precious. Treat them as such.
  • Lesson 33 ~ Have a trusted person read what you have written and give you their honest opinion. Listen to their opinion. Do not change anything. Ask them to make notes on what they think. File the notes away.
  • Lesson 34 ~ Now give your story to a writing partner or writing mentor. Ask them to read it and to write notes for you.
  • Lesson 35 ~ Let someone else read the story aloud to you now. Be the listener. Make notes on what you think about your own work. Think objectively.
  • Lesson 36 ~ Call back your internal editor from her/his holiday. It is time for them to begin work. Give them the 3 correlated notes; your trusted friends, your writing partner, your own. It is now their job to take control of the wheel. You are now a navigator and your internal editor is in the driving seat. They are in control of the driving but you have the map. Be clear in your navigation.
  • Lesson 37 ~ Once the editing is done. Do the same thing. Give it to your trusted friend, your writing partner /mentor and have it read aloud to yourself. Make notes again.
  • Lesson 38 ~ Give your internal editor the notes again. The second editing begins.
  • Lesson 39 ~ Your story is almost complete. Now go back to your file where you filed the words you edited out. Can you use them now? Are they better for another story? Now is your time to decide.
  • Lesson 40 ~ Put your finishing touches to your work. You now have a third draft in your hand. Well done.

The bell rings for final period. School is out.

Well done! You have just completed the course of NaNoWriMo. A challenge of timed discipline and forming a daily writing habit. A time when you showed up ready before a blank page and filled it with a story. You are now a writer. Whether you are published or not, you ARE a Writer. You have written a Novel. You are Now a Novelist.

These were the tips and lessons I learned from NaNoWriMo. They are lessons that can translate into any of my writing. NaNoWriMo taught me a vital lesson. That if you show up and you are disciplined, the words will come. It also taught me that it is ok to send your internal editor away on vacation for a while. The world will not come to a halting stop if you do not correct every punctuation or timing element. You can always come back to a piece that is bothering you when you feel refreshed. It is important to reward yourself with treats. It is important to have a day away from your writing every week. It is important to keep your brain fresh from alternation between character / dialogue scenes to setting scenes. Do not make your work monotonous. When you are writing, you are in the driver’s seat. When you are editing, you switch to being the navigator. Listen to the opinions of beta readers, writing mentors, your own voice but stick to your writing instincts. Do not ever throw out anything. File it away in a POSSIBILITY file. More importantly than anything Back-up, Back-up, Back-up. Show up for your writing like you would for a 9-5 job. This is something you enjoy doing. Give it the same time and importance as you would your daytime job. Don’t look at a calendar. Don’t look at the amount of words still needed. Just focus on those timed word wars. The words will come and the story will follow. Trust in the words.

That’s it for this first Thursday Tips post. Good luck for the week of writing ahead of you. Remember show upthe words will come and the story will follow. All you have to do is show up.

© All rights reserved Kim Koning

 

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