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DIGITAL DEBATE WEDNESDAYS: NanoWriMo Advice!

Welcome back to Digital Debate Wednesdays! Every Wednesday, the staff of The Ace of Geeks will get our keyboards ready for a good, old fashioned nerd argument, and you get to hang out with us! Feel free to email us any ideas you might have for future debates, or let us know in the comments! Until then, here’s this weeks topic:

November is National Novel Writing month. Thousands of people around the world are about to get together and write thousands of words a day, with the goal of finishing a novel by the end. With that in mind, and since we’re all semi-professional writers here, what advice would you give a prospective NanoWriMo-er?

Brian J. Patterson: Start out with your heart out…then edit it until you’ve bettered it!

Nick Bailey Jr: To actually do it this year, instead of hemming and hawwing. Oh, advice for other people?

Scott Woodbury: Always write something. Practice makes perfect. If you have writers block, take your favorite book and write it out word for word, sometimes it helps get the juices flowing.

Joe Hadsall: As someone who tried and failed to do this: Learn how to slow-and-steady things. Success, to me, really depends on regular work throughout the month. Why they made NaNoWriMo in November, one of the craziest, most hectic times of the year, is particularly frustrating to me. Success depends on being able to make writing sessions into a schedule.

Justin Rhodes: One of the most common pitfalls is thinking you don’t have the time. There’s plenty of time. You just need to sit your ass down and write. Even if it’s just an hour here and there it all adds up.

Seth Oakley: Panic. No, not like that. Panic Harder. Harder. No, you’re not doing it right. Harder. Like you are going to fuck it up. There you go. Good.

At least, that’s my strategy so far. This is so fucking stressful.

  • R. Steele Earl: Have you tried the modified stationary panic?
  • Seth Oakley: AAAAAAAAHHH!!!! WHAT’S THAT!!??!?! DO I NEED IT!?!?!? FUCK!!! NO ONE TOLD ME!!!!! AAAAAAAAAHHH!!!!

Katrina Smith: Divorce yourself from the idea of quality. Do the thing every day even if it’s terrible. It costs you nothing and brings everything if you can just sit with the work, whatever stage it’s in.

Digital Dame: My favorite quote regarding being a creative: “You must be imaginative, strong-hearted. You must try things that may not work, and you must not let anyone define your limits because of where you come from. Your only limit is your soul. What I say is true – anyone can create… but only the fearless can be great.”

Katrina Smith: More general than nanowrimo advice, this is just straight writing advice, but writing is like music– you’re in practice. If you stay in practice, it will get better. Put your time in.

Lauren Harrington: Be ok with setting a more realistic goal for yourself than other have set for themselves. You have different needs and schedules than they do. Be ok with falling a little short, but get a little done each day, even if it’s just storyboarding.

Also, if you must write under the influece: Write drunk, edit sober. Editing does NOT include deleting everything you wrote.

Mark Foo: I believe the best advice is this: write every day, no excuses, even if it’s just an hour.

Alexis George: Work-life balance. It can be easy to put important stuff aside because “You’re on a roll and need to write that idea down and the sentence after that and the sentence after that,” but the reality is you need to pay the bills and take care of yourself before hitting your word count. And it’s just like exercise. Some days you won’t want to do it. Do it anyway.

Megan Fox: Save EVERY draft!

  • Lauren Harrington: Pause to eat? SAVE. Pause to sleep? SAVE. Pause to breathe? SAVE.
  • Seth Oakley: I can’t remember the last thing that I did that didn’t include autosave. What is that like?
  • Lauren Harrington: It’s still a good idea to save.

Ellie Collins: My first published book started as a NaNo book. DONT DELETE ANYTHING! Just keep going! Stream of conscious! You’ll figure out stuff later and you can edit in December. Just keep going.

Rowan Hansen: As a person who has never successfully finished a NaNo and has read a number of things suggesting that a NaNo draft is meant to be a truly pre-alpha draft of your novel wherw the whole point is to get the ball rolling and get the words that have been sitting locked up in your head out onto a page, the beat advice I can give is: know yourself. Understand yourself well enough to know that you will get tired of the writing at some point in the process. Have a plan for when that happens, so that even when you’re not writing the book, you can do SOMETHING that contributes to it, whether its world building or research or whatever else. If you don’t feel comfortable telling your story yet because you don’t know the characters you want in it well enough yet, take the opportunity to just explore those characters A LOT, and cobble the bits you liked or loved together into one character and one story at the end. As long as you commit to doing the work, you will always get something out of it. As long as you commit. Know yourself. Be ready.

  • Lauren Harrington: It wasn’t until the last couple years that I was told that NaNo was supposed to be anything but a final draft. It’s totally a super-pre-alpha.

Luke Farr: Completing NaNoWriMo is one of the most fulfilling achievements I’ve ever accomplished. In the end it’s not always about GOOD writing, it’s about LOTS of writing. You can edit later, don’t get caught up struggling to make sure every sentence is perfect, instead work on getting through your wordcounts and take time to edit your novel later. I like to use Camp NaNoWriMo the following year as an excuse to edit my novels. But just stick with it! It’s worth it.

Melissa Devlin: Do not worry about the quality. This is a first draft and those tend to not be our best work, just keep pushing through and what you get might not be your best. But you can make your best out of it.

Teresa Loesch: Other people can fend for themselves a little bit.

Not to cast everyone in my life as a draining parasite or anything, and it’s far easier to say this as someone without needy children who need to be /fed/ and /taken care of/. Tiny mooching children.

Resist the urge to use other people as your excuse not to write. If you made plans on a day when you were 1,000 words ahead of your goal and now, day of, you’re 1,500 behind and panicking, just cancel. Surprisingly, most friends will be mildly disappointed but ultimately sympathetic if you say “Hey I’m sorry but I’m actually 1,500 words behind on my NaNo, and the project means a lot to me. I’m going to have raincheck lunch. How about next week, or December?”

Jarys Maragopoulos: When I began NaNoWriMo, I did not have much confidence that I would finish, though I was incredibly interested in the story I was telling. But making time everyday, keeping daily and weekly word-quotas and taking time to catch up when you had a few days off, all really helped. It’s important to work toward YOUR goal, not to compare yourself to others’ writing speed (or even time and resources to write).

I guess, all I can say is don’t edit, don’t go back unless you need reminding of some fact. I found NaNoWriMo incredibly useful for producing huge amounts of the base resources from which you could construct a great story. The feeling I had, finishing my 50k words on the last day by pulling off a final stretch of five pages, was buoyant and joyful. I hope everyone attempting the challenge gets their celebratory moment too.

Tyler Dent Hayes: 1. I’ll echo Jarys: Do not edit. Do not go back at all except to double-check something you need to know to continue. Maybe don’t even do that unless it’s really bothering you.
2. Be proud of what you produce at the end of the month. If you get to 50k,that’s amazing! If you get to 30k, that’s still amazing! Whatever you get to, feel good that you got there!
3. That said, push yourself to really try to get to 50k; it’s rough, but it does feel really good when you get to the end.
4. And that said, know that the thing you have produced is not quite ready to be submitted anywhere. Don’t worry about that during the process! But be aware that what you produce during NaNo is a rough draft: it needs editing and refining and possibly some expansion before it is ready for prime time. That’s OK, and NaNo is a valid thing to undertake, but do not set yourself up for disappointment by thinking this is all there is to the process (a mistake too many I know have made).
5. Keep being proud of what you produce at the end of the month.

Chris Brecheen: If you just want to do Nano, have fun. It can be very fulfilling. If you don’t make it, you’re not a failure and not “not a writer.” If you want to publish your novel, you will need to invest in half a dozen National Novel Rewriting months and about three or four National Novel revision months. If you want to BE a writer (paid, published, read, etc…), make your daily word counts smaller and more manageable, and on Dec 1st……don’t stop writing.

Mike Fatum: Most importantly, don’t even let anyone tell you you’re not a “real” writer just because you’re doing Nano. No matter what you write, whether it’s shitty or High Art, if you write something, you’re a writer. Period. Be proud of what you’ve accomplished and don’t let the gatekeepers try and take it away from you.

Mike Fatum
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Referred to as a God Among Men, the Greatest Man that Ever Lived, and That Dude Over There…No, The Dude with the Long Hair and the Goatee…Yes, That Guy, Mike has grown up being known and loved around his apartment. In addition to being a successful film director and editor, he loves video games, movies, comic books, board games, and his wife and cat. He’s been friends with Jarys for over a decade now, and they started hosting a radio show together on college that became the genesis for the Ace of Geeks Podcast. When he realized he had so many talented friends who could write, the Podcast became an entertainment website, and here we are.

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