Professional Writers’ Secrets That’ll Help You With National Novel Writing Month.

(NOTE: Based on time elapsed since the posting of this entry, the BS-o-meter calculates this is 3.618% likely to be something that Ferrett now regrets.)

So today, you’re going to start writing A Novel for National Novel Writing Month.

Don’t forget that it can suck.

Lots of novels suck on the first draft.  Mine do!  (And some even say my novels suck after the sixth draft and they’re in bookstores and shiz.  That happens.)  The Viable Paradise Writers’ Workshop mantra is “It’s a draft, it can suck.”  Sucking is part of the process, and that’s awesome!

Quite often, when someone’s writing a novel, forward momentum is their goal.  I know I screwed the pooch in Chapter 3, but if I go back to fix that then I’ll never get to the stuff I’m excited about in Chapter 4.  I have friends with award-nominated books who have entire segments that go {INSERT AWESOME MAGICAL BATTLE HERE} or {HEARTBREAKING BACKSTORY GOES HERE} in their first drafts because, well, ya gotta keep going.

Fun fact: In the latest book I wrote, I kept getting feedback from my beta readers that went, “This entire book winds up being about the lead character’s religion, but his religion is barely mentioned in the first six chapters.”  That’s because I realized my protagonist was religious in Chapter 6.  I eventually had to go back and rewrite those chapters heavily, but I didn’t at the time because this whole “religion” angle really made the character come alive for me. I wanted to follow him down this new path, not churn up backstory – and that new path kept me excited enough to write all the way to those delightful words “THE END.”

(Why didn’t I rewrite those early chapters heavier before sending it out for feedback?  Because honestly, I’d hoped that I could get away with religion suddenly popping up in Chapter 6.  I couldn’t.  That’s what beta readers will tell you!)

While we’re speaking about beta readers, you may need them for Your Great NaNoWriMo novel.  But I wouldn’t worry about them now.  I’ve watched lots of people go through NaNoWriMo over the years, and the people who treat it like “THIS IS MY GREAT NOVEL WHICH I WILL PUBLISH AND BECOME FAMOUS OFF OF” usually melt down over the pressure.  Whereas the folks who say, “I’m gonna have fun with this and see what happens” have a greater chance of getting through it.

Because it’s hard enough to write to please yourself.  Writing to please others, specifically publishers, is going to just have you questioning every decision with, “Is this commercial enough?”  And the honest fact is that if any writer knew what was commercial, by God, we would all write bestsellers.

(Maybe James Patterson knows.  If so, he’s not telling us.)

I’m a little biased, because I’m well-known for having written six novels of varying quality, each of which was designed to appeal to a Market.  And after six novels that got roundly rejected, I finally gave up and wrote a story a story about donuts and magical drugs and videogame magic, and that novel sold.

So don’t worry about Your Grand Future.  Write a novel you’d enjoy.  It doesn’t have to make much sense; if you want to, you can run it past beta readers and fix the incoherent parts in edits.  NaNoWriMo should be about writing something you’d want to read, because I guarantee you that with some time, nobody will be able to write the type of novel you’d want to read better than you can…

Which is to say “with some time.”

My last bit of advice is that if you’re new to writing, you should watch this video by Ira Glass.  It’s literally the best thing I’ve ever heard said about why you get disappointed at your own writing, and why that disappointment is actually a good thing, and it all takes about ninety seconds. I’m not even going to paraphrase here; let the man talk directly to you.

Now.  Get in there!  Write your heart out!  And remember: if you’re not finished by the end of November and you’re still writing a story you love, you haven’t lost; you’ve actually become a real novelist!

Finish!

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