Tips for NaNoWriMo Writers

337_notebook_writeAh, November. Most people think of Thanksgiving and ramping up to the Christmas holidays, but to writers it’s also the yearly marathon of National Novel Writing Month, known as NaNoWriMo.

For any of you out there poised to endure this mad dash to 50,000 words, here’s some random tips that I’ve found to be true for fiction writing. Hopefully they’ll help:

Skimp on character details. You only have to give your character about three simple descriptive characteristics, if even that. Tall. Short. Freckled. Thin. Bushy red hair. Scruffy. Thick glasses. Neat and well dressed. Everything you leave out, the reader will fill in themselves. You only create part of the picture … your reader creates the rest. Fiction writing is collaborative with the fiction reader. Give details that point them in the direction you want them to go and let them do the rest.

Get detailed only when it’s important to the story. When there’s something that is important to the plot, or important to move the story forward, that’s when you can get detailed in your descriptions of people, places, or things. If it’s something the reader needs to remember, describe it in various ways about three times throughout the story before the detail is actually needed. Don’t spring it on them like pulling a rabbit out of a magic hat — they’ll feel cheated, or surprised, or confused. You don’t want a confused reader, because that pulls the reader out of the story. You want the reader to stay immersed in the story.

Remember, an author can time travel. If you’re stuck later on in your manuscript, and you do need to “pull a rabbit out of a hat” (so to speak) remember that you, as the author, can time travel back into the story and write the necessary details in, where appropriate, that will lead up to the rabbit coming out of that hat. So don’t worry about it, pull the rabbit out if you have to, but make sure to go back and either write in the details leading up to it, or at the very least make notes at the beginning of your manuscript reminding you to go back in and add it later.

A story arc must remain consistent. Don’t start one type of story and morph it into another. Elements can be blended, but if you start a romance, it must remain a romance. If it’s sci-fi, it remains sci-fi — it doesn’t turn into fantasy. If it’s horror, it remains horror. Remember, you don’t want a confused reader, or a reader to feel cheated.

Pull from your beginning toward the end. When you get bogged down toward the end of the manuscript, and most of the time you will, simply go back in and steal or pull from elements at the begging. Refer back, or add something to flesh out what happened back there, or pull inspiration from back there. This will also help make the story more circular (the best stories end at the beginning) or at least will help make the whole story feel more well-rounded.

Don’t screw your reader. They’ll invest a lot of time out of their life to take the journey with you. Respect them. Don’t let them down. Give them a payoff so that they’re glad they spent the time with you.

When you’re all done, rewrite, rewrite again, polish, polish more, and then get an editor (or trusted readers) to comment and point out things you’ve missed.

Above all, enjoy what you’re doing! If you don’t, why do it at all?

Further reading: How To Be A Novelist »

Also: If you’re not participating, but you’d like to help the NaNoWriMo folks continue to inspire and encourage the future creators of literature, you can donate: NaNoWriMo Donations »

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