Take a Deep Breath…

Because it’s almost time for the plunge.

Those of us participating in NaNoWriMo are all about to dive into cold water, only emerging briefly for gasps of air as we pay obligatory attention to our families, jobs, and personal hygiene.

Maybe you’re like me, and you’re diving into shallow water for a race to the finish line. Each day of November, you’ll take another 1,667 strokes as you add an additional 50,000 words to your work-in-progress.

Or maybe you’re starting fresh–as the rules do say you should–and you’re plunging headlong into a dark, wild pool, plumbing the depths for the treasures that will form your novel. Every day you’ll find a new gem, one that will embellish the chain of story you’re building.

Either way, it’s good to have a few basic diving supplies.

Goggles: You’re about to start seeing the world through the lens of your story. You’ll be adopting your characters’ viewpoints, trying to interpret events the way they would. You might start to see your town differently, too, and a familiar field becomes a mystical meadow, or the too-cute house by the grocery store becomes the scene of a murder. Put your goggles on and think about what you see through them.

Wetsuit: You need something to protect yourself from the extremities around you. Close the door. Tell your inner critic to bugger off. Snap at anyone who wants you to wash dishes before you’ve achieved your word count. Wherever you’re diving, the water will be cold, and some story-demons bite: make the swim as comfortable and easy for yourself as you can.

Fins: You have to propel yourself when your energy starts to flag. Gulp caffeinated beverages, motivate yourself with chocolate, or enlist a friend to cheer you on. Anything to keep you swimming through the long, soggy middle of your story.

Air: This one’s important. Work nonstop, and you’ll start to drown… or worse, you’ll smother your story. Take breaks to do whatever refreshes you. Go for a walk. Take a real swim. Read. Polish your collection of antique pocket watches. Do anything that aerates your mind, body, and imagination.

And remember… those badass bites you get from plot-sharks or the winner’s medal you receive at the finish line will make you all the more intimidating to story-demons you meet in another month’s dive.

Tune in tomorrow for fewer flimsy dive metaphors and my personal list of goals for NaNoWriMo 2011.

NaNoWriMo

Or… The Case For Abusing NaNoWriMo.

For those of you who don’t know, November is National Novel Writing Month. This time of year, hundreds of thousands of amateur and professional writers are gearing up for the arguably ludicrous task of writing 50,000 words in a month. That’s 1,667 words per day, if you were wondering.

Now, I just realized that I forgot to post that I finished my first novel in June, about two months before I predicted I would. Oops. Well, congratulations to me. Anyway, that’s done, and I’m working on a new project, which I’m a about 23,000 words into. I’m aiming for about 85,000 words, which is close to the same length as Jim Butcher’s first Dresden Files book, Storm Front.  It’s October 22, and I’ll probably get at another 5,000 words in the next week or so. Maybe a bit more, if I stop lurking around the NaNoWriMo forums and wondering what I’m going to cook next week.

An additional 50,000 words would bring me pretty damn close to finishing this project, about three months ahead of schedule.

Right now I’m working at my typical 1,000 words-a-weekday pace. It’s a puttering pace, to be frank, one that allows me to run all the household errands, cook a few delicious dinners a week, work out at the gym whenever I choose, and spend way too much time thinking, “This novel is crap, the mystery is thin, and I’m blending too many genres.” I know that if I worked harder, I could write faster.

Enter NaNoWriMo.

As a professional writer, I’ve been watching NaNoWriMo from the sidelines for several years. My friend Evil Goodwin, known by his friends as Satan, tackled the project and is doing it again this year. Another friend whose blog I won’t post without approval is doing it, too. (Sorry, Satan, I don’t want your approval.) My aunt did it last year, and she’s a super busy lady who runs her own very successful business. I looked on at those trying it, with them in spirit, and said, “I don’t want to rush it. I think it would stress me out too much. I’d rather focus on quality rather than quantity.”

Well, that’s a bunch of crap. First drafts need to get written, and the quicker the better, especially when your 30th birthday is out there lurking somewhere in the future and you’ve been technically unemployed for a year now.

The rules of NaNoWriMo say you have to start completely from scratch. They also say, and I’m paraphrasing here, that writing something entirely new and pulling stuff out of your ass as you go will make you more creative and lead to better work.

Well, that’s a bunch of crap, too.

I’ve been agonizing over this draft, and a little flying by the seat of my pants will do me some good. I have an outline, but I need to work freely within it. I need to tell the inner critic to shut the hell up and wait till the first draft is done before editing.

And I think writing 1,667 words a day, every day for the length of November is the way to shut her up. She’s a bitch, but it’s fairly easy to outrun her… she spends most of her time sitting on the couch, complaining, so she’s in pretty bad shape.

Anyway, I’m in for this year’s NaNoWriMo. Look me up. My user name is Kristin Lynn. We’ll be writing buddies. I’ll post a word counter on this blog once one is available and I feel like figuring out how to hijack my WordPress account.

The big question is this, though… Should the special writing mug I buy have penguins on it, or something less seasonal?