Aspiring writers looking for an excuse to start their novel can enter the nation-wide challenge known as National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo).The challenge, which occurs annually and began at midnight on November 1, has a word count of 50 thousand words and a deadline of 11:59 p.m. on November 30.
If you are participating in NaNoWriMo, you may be experiencing that little nagging feeling of writer’s block at this point in the challenge. Here are some tips to approach the challenge at this point in the process, as well as tips to consider if you want to participate next year.
Treat it like a class. Set aside a block of time in your day where, like a class, you will devote this time only to writing your novel. If you have a tendency to get carried away in your writing, set a timer or word-count you want to reach, and then when either of those are reached, stop writing for that day and do other homework.
Utilize “quiet” moments. If you did not do your planning or outlining in October, then use moments where you’re waiting for something, like waiting for ramen water to boil or sitting in the shuttle, to mentally “fix” something. I find that carrying around a small notepad is a good idea for this reason.
Break it up into smaller pieces. Fifty thousand words in a month is a tall order. But how does 1,700 words per day sound? You can adjust the math to give yourself more words on days where you have more time or even give yourself days off . . . say, Thanksgiving?
Assign yourself some writing exercises. If you’re stuck on plot, character development, or another facet of your novel, step away from it briefly. One thing I like to do is to delve into a character’s backstory to see if there’s anything in his or her past that I can use. Try writing your characters in a situation outside of the story to see how they react to it.
Other great resources include the NaNoWriMo website. During the month of November, the Office of Letters and Light (OLL) which sponsors NaNoWriMo, facilitates support groups such as “write-ins” that take place in coffee shops all around the country.
The NaNoWriMo website also has “pep talks” by famous authors such as Chris Cleave (“Little Bee”), Erin Morgenstern (“The Night Circus”), and Audrey Niffenegger (“The Time Traveler’s Wife”) that are e-mailed to participants.
For NaNoWriMo and other creative writing endeavors, there are many campus resources available that will be helpful for writers. The library is a good resource for research, the Creative Writing faculty could help with writing exercises, and fellow students who are taking on the challenge can attest to the time management it requires.
If you are lamenting missing the beginning of NaNoWriMo, there is another challenge you can undertake later in this school year. Another event OLL sponsors is Script Frenzy, a similar challenge where participants write a 100-page script in the month of April.
If “Water for Elephants” by Sara Gruen can come out of NaNoWriMo and later go on to become a movie starring Robert Pattinson and Reese Witherspoon, what magnificent literary idea could be lying dormant in your head right now?
— Contact Grace Cummings.