In order to keep the momentum of NaNoWriMo to a peak, I asked Author and Writing Coach Rochelle Melander, if she could do a guest blog post on how to stay motivated during this event and this is what she wrote.
I rocked NaNoWriMo on November 1. By the end of my first writing session, I had nearly twice the amount of words I needed. When I woke up on November 2—a Friday—I felt a sense of foreboding, “You mean I have to do this again?” By the end of that first busy weekend in November, I was thousands of words behind and worried about catching up. And I wasn’t enjoying creating scenes. Instead, I was worrying about whether the scene was realistic, thinking about how this should be easier, and wondering how long it was going to take me to revise this quickly drafted book. All the time, I had my eye on the counter: how many words had I written. (And I’m a professional writer!)
But recently, I’ve had a brilliant, game-changing aha moment: oh yeah, National Novel Writing Month is supposed to be fun. That tiny thought was all I needed to jump back into NaNoWriMo project with some joy. If you’re struggling with NaNoWriMo and need to add a little fun to your work, here are five ways to rock your story:
1. Add a pop of color. I hear that advice a lot on clothing shows (as well as in nearly every magazine I read). In order to make an outfit compatible with the season, we can add a pop of color with our nails, shoes, or jewelry. Well, why not add a pop of color to our novels? A few weeks ago, I heard a story on the radio about a guy who had invented a working gun that could be printed on plastic using a 3-dimensional printer. My mind went right to fiction: imagine what would happen if a character could print a gun? Now that would add a pop and maybe even a pop of color. Try it: give your character a printable gun or some other unusual 3-dimensional prop to make and use. See what happens next.
2. Take a page from fan fiction. Many of the students I am working with during NaNoWriMo this year write fan fiction. They borrow the best elements from their favorite novels and television shows, add new characters and plots, and write forward. When they talk about writing their NaNoWriMo book, they get all giddy because it gives them an opportunity to spend the month with characters they are curious about in a setting they have long admired. Try it: list 5-10 elements you like from your favorite television shows and novels. Don’t limit yourself—write down characters, setting, plot points, props, and anything else you can think of. Once you have your list, add one or more element to your NaNoWriMo project.
3. Make worry work for you. I’ve been a worrier my whole life. Even happy events leave me worrying about what might go wrong. On the other hand, if you’re a worrier, you can harness your imagination and make it work for your writing. In Josip Novakovich’s Fiction Writer’s Workshop, he invites readers to make use of their worries by listing events that could have happened but didn’t (p. 23). These could be events you feared or hoped might happened. Try it: Make a list of at least five of these events and use one or more in your novel.
4. Phone a friend. On the popular television quiz show, Who Wants to be a Millionaire?, participants could get help by reaching for three lifelines: 50-50, ask the audience, or phone a friend. Often both the audience and the friend were not just wrong, they were wildly wrong. In NaNoWriMo, we might get some interesting answers if we ask a friend or acquaintance for help with our novel. And in the world of NaNo, interesting means more fun for us. Try this: ask your friends on Facebook to give you a fun character or situation to add into your novel. Then do it—put in the zombie librarian or the flying pig, even if they have nothing to do with what you are writing about. Trying to add a unique element to your book will puzzle your brain in the best possible way.
5. Use Found Passages. I’m enamored of artists who can take old materials and shape them into new items. In Paper Made: 101 Exceptional Projects to Make Out of Everyday Paper, author Kayte Terry teaches readers how to make purses out of old book covers and bracelets out of scraps of paper. As a writer, you can take found passages of writing and incorporate them into your book as well. Jonathan Safran Foer created his book Tree of Codes by cutting into his favorite book, The Street of Crocodiles by Bruno Schulz. What emerged is a novel that is part story, part sculpture. Try this: review favorite books, journal entries, magazine articles, and your old drafts of articles and novels for snippets to mix and match and revise into a part of your book.
Your turn: What tools and techniques do you suggest for letting go and having fun? Comment below! We need your advice!
Rochelle Melander is an author, speaker, and certified professional coach. She is the author of ten books, including the National Novel Writing Month guide—Write-A-Thon: Write Your Book in 26 Days (and Live to Tell About It) Rochelle teaches professionals how to write good books fast, use writing to transform their lives, navigate the publishing world, and get published! For more tips and a complementary download of the first two chapters of Write-A-Thon, visit her online at www.writenowcoach.com