NaNoWriMo—Challenges For The Carefree


National Novel Writing Month, known to most people as November and sometimes better known as NaNoWriMo, is one of my favorite times of the year. It’s also the only reason I can stand the month of November, as I’ve never been a fan of the freezing cold New York weather without the compensation of snow or of seeing my relatives at Thanksgiving. Or any time of the year come to think of it.

The basic premise of NaNoWriMo is simple—write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. It can be any type of novel, fiction or non-fiction, written in any style that you choose, in any manner that you choose—some people I know have opted to hand write theirs or to use typewriters, I kid you not.

A problem that I’ve encountered after participating for six years and finishing three of them, is that after a while the challenge isn’t so challenging. Perhaps that’s partly due to the fact that I can type at a speed that makes my coworkers question whether I’ve made a deal with the devil, but whatever the reason, I devised a few ideas for anyone else looking to add more of a challenge to their November.

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Do you always meticulously plan and outline every chapter of your book before you start writing?

Don’t. Fly “by the seat of your pants,” and see where the book takes you. Or do you absolutely abhorr outlines and swear by your hatred of them? Try using one. See what happens, because I promise you, the internet will not explode if you try it.

Write outside of your genre.

I am personally a fan of writing mysteries, fantasy/sci-fi and action/adventure/comedy novels. The biggest challenge for me would be writing a romance or a drama, or a tragedy if I could convince myself to write through my tears. Take yourself out of your comfort zone, do some research and try something new. In the end, you’ll probably end up a stronger writer for it.

Find one of your weaknesses and pick a book or a theme that specifically forces you to confront your weakness.

Not good with dialogue pieces? Add as many scenes as you can that have dialogue, try sticking characters in an elevator or a dungeon with only each other to talk to and see what you can come up with. Maybe you’re like me and you’re really bad with using adjectives and describing scenery. God do I hate scenery descriptions. Try and describe all of the settings in your book, add as many unnecessary details as you can possibly cram into it. Sure, if they sound weird and clunky you can take them out later when you edit, but the important thing is to stretch your limits.

Shake up your protagonists, antagonists and background characters.

Recently, I noticed that one of my favorite authors tended to fit her heroines into a very specific mold. They were all quite distant with their parents, had suffered some sort of trauma or abuse as a child and were consequently emotionally distant in relationships. They were all still very good, deep characters and I enjoy reading their stories, but I was a little disappointed at the lack of diversity. Until I realized that I do the same thing with my own characters and there are several traits that a good many of them share. So, think about your characters when you’re planning out their stories and try and pick something different than what you normally would. Instead of a traumatic and abused hero or heroine, what about someone who did have a good, relatively normal childhood but is suddenly thrust into a series of earth shattering events? Instead of having an evil stepmother, wouldn’t it be a twist if Hansel and Gretel were secretly out to get each other instead?

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Happy NaNoWriMo and Good Luck!

Photo by Nico Nordstrom

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