Why I LOVE NaNoWriMo

Okay, I admit, this is not one of my typical posts. And yet it is, in a way. Whatever, it’s confusing, moving on.

I’ve read both good and bad things about NaNoWriMo. Some people say it’s a horrible idea to try to write a complete novel in only 30 days. Others say it’s the ONLY way to write a novel. Some hesitant, on-the-fence people say they can see it either way.

I think NaNoWriMo rocks.

Why?

Because it’s actually a really good idea, and there are multiple reasons why.

Reason 1: Writing a novel in 30 days is the best thing that ever happened to me.

And why is that, you ask? Because I stopped second-guessing myself. I stopped over-analyzing. I stopped telling myself that there was “no way” I’d ever write something good enough. I just wrote. And wrote. And wrote.

Because I had to write so many words per day and had so few days to write it all down, my inner editor shut up and let my creative genius shine through. My first NaNoWriMo was 2014, and that novel – the one that came out of my creative side, not my formula side – is still one of the best pieces of work I’ve ever done.

Reason 2: Writing a novel in 30 days stretched all my creative muscles.

The first five (or so) days were awesome. I wrote and wrote and wrote. Finished a few chapters. And then it happened. I got stuck. Suddenly, I had no idea where the plot was headed. I had no idea what happened next. I was only about 5,000 words in. No! I couldn’t fail! This couldn’t be happening!

Needless to say, I didn’t have weeks to ponder and work through my writer’s block. I had hours. Maybe.

So I did what any self-respecting novelist would do.

I freaked out. I ate half a pan of cookies. And some chocolate. And a couple caramels. I paced my room for a while.

And then I sat back down at my computer, re-read the last few sentences, and pushed on. It was painful, not knowing where the story would go next. And some characters died in the process. But I did it. I stretched that creative muscle and overcame writer’s block in record time. And, as much as I loved them, I see now those character deaths were necessary to progress the plot.

Reason 3: NaNoWriMo is just plain fun!

Who cares if anyone else ever reads your NaNo Novel? The journey from blank page to 50,000+ words is FUN!

Whether it’s hanging out with the Word Sprinters on Twitter, joining a virtual write in on Youtube (via Google hangouts), or actually meeting up with fellow WriMo’s in your area, it’s nice to know that there’s an entire community of writers around the globe backing you up.

If for nothing else, join the NaNo community for one month and get some advice from writers around the world. You never know if they’ll have a different perspective on writing that you’ve never thought of before. It could be the best experience of your life. But you’ll never know unless you try.

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So… Are you planning on joining NaNoWriMo this year? Why or why not?

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Did you like what you read today? Do you have questions, comments, or cat-killing curiosity about something? If so, please either comment on this post or visit the Contact page and drop me a note!

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The Reality of Loss

Two weeks ago, on what would have been a perfect Saturday morning, I broke my cardinal rule of writing. I looked away.

I know to some who haven’t been reading these posts long, that won’t sound like such a big deal, but really it was. Why? Because my cardinal rule is ‘don’t look away from anything because if you look away you won’t be able to write it accurately’. Because it takes something major to make me look away. Something like death.

You see, I looked away because I didn’t want to feel the pain of loss. Which brings us to the point of this whole blog post.

There are two things that are indisputably the hardest emotions to write. 1) Pain. 2) Sorrow.

Why are these so hard to write realistically? A couple of reasons.

First of all, no one wants to feel them. Ever. I have not met a single person who wants to be in pain or feel so sad that they can’t stop crying. And, yes, we can write what we don’t know, but it is so much easier to explain when you’ve felt it.

Secondly, these two areas of writing tend to come off as forced and cheesy no matter who you are or what level your skill set is at. I hate it when my writing sounds cheesy, don’t you?

What do we do to write these things more realistically? Well, we don’t do what I did. We don’t look away. But, to be helpful, I’ll give you some tips.

Tip #1 – The Art of Pain

In my YA novel, “The Half-Shape Child” (by the way, so excited because book two will be out next year. YAY!), there is a scene where one of the major characters is in serious pain. To give you some perspective, I’ll post an excerpt here:

Henry laid a hand to Collin’s forehead. “I’m trying,” he insisted gently. “You don’t have a fever, but you’re sweating like a pig. Obviously she poisoned you. When? When did she poison you?”

Realization dawned on Collin. He mentally kicked himself for being so stupid. “The salt,” he groaned. Arching his back didn’t help, but Collin couldn’t bring himself to lie flat anymore.

Henry nodded and took Collin’s pulse.

Collin knew it was thready. Whatever this poison was, it worked fast and efficiently.

“All right, we’re going to get you a full scan and a blood test right now,” Henry declared.

He picked up a syringe and took a sample of Collin’s blood. Collin watched as he plugged it into a machine and turned it on. He was immediately back at Collin’s side, wheeling the bed to a full-body scanner. It was a lot like an MRI machine.

“How is this helping?” Collin spoke through gritted teeth and tried not to think about the excruciating pain in his chest.

“Just trust me,” Henry insisted. “You know I took pre-med classes. Trust me on this, Collin. I’m going to find the antidote,” he lowered his voice to a mumble, “if I even have enough time.”

Collin heard the door to the scanner shut and tried to keep still as lights and rays scrutinized his entire body. That turned out to be easier said than done. By the time Henry finally wheeled him out of the scanner, he could barely keep his eyes open.

This is pain. It took me a long, long time to write that realistically. I had to really think through it. How would it feel to be in pain? How would it look? What would you do to get away from the pain? These are just some of the things you should be asking yourself, along with the medical question of: “What is happening in this character’s physical body? How would it come across on the outside?”

And these don’t only apply to physical pain. They also apply to emotional pain. Make the reader feel what your character feels.

I hope it comes across as realistic.

Tip #2 – Sorrow

I can tell you from experience that sorrow is a funny thing. Everyone expresses it differently. Some sit stoic and watch everything with vacant eyes. Others can’t stop crying. Some are okay until they really think about the “nevers” and then they’re an emotional mess. (For the record, I’m that third one.)

There is a difference between sorrow and despair. You can be sorrowful without being desperate. Sorrow doesn’t push that character over the edge into something they wouldn’t usually do. In fact, a lot of times the most effective showing of sorrow is when the character tries not to show emotion.

For some reason, when people hold in their emotions and refuse to let others see, refuse to be vulnerable, audiences cry for them. It’s a time-honored tradition that too few storytellers are using.

So, next time your character experiences a loss, don’t immediately have them go into hysterics. Sit down and think about how they would deal with it. What would they do to make themselves forget that loss? To ensure that they didn’t cry one single tear?

I hope this has been helpful and I hope you see sorrow and pain in a whole new light now. I love you all and thanks for reading!

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Got a story about pain or sorrow? Share it with me in the comments section!

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Did you like what you read today? Do you have questions, comments, or cat-killing curiosity about something? If so, please either comment on this post or visit the Contact page and drop me a note!

It was good to have you as a visitor today! Please drop by again, or become family by following the Write Knowledge. Thank You.

Learn the Language

What’s the first thing you do when you visit or move to a foreign country?

You learn the language.

And not just the spoken language. You learn the gestures that are permissible or impermissible. You take time to learn how their bartering system works. You learn what the people from the country love to do and what they’re not so fond of. You learn every aspect of the language they speak from the inside out.

“But, Megan, what does this have to do with writing?”

Good question. And one I’m here to answer.

When people leap into their preferred book or movie writing genre (fantasy, sci-fi, action/adventure, etc.), most of them don’t take time to learn the language. It’s the ones that do take that time who excel in what they’ve set out to do.

“What do you mean by ‘learn the language’?”

What do I mean? I mean that each genre has a language you should be learning.

Do a study for me, just to humor me. Pick up a Science Fiction book or movie and really listen to what they’re saying. You’ll probably hear a lot about lasers, teleportation, spaceships, and other fun stuff. Now pick up an Action/Adventure. Bullets, car chases, knives, and stalkers.

If you look at each genre, through multiple stories, you will find that each has its own set of rules and its own language to learn. People who read or watch those genres all the time have an innate ability to speak that language fluently, and without really thinking about it.

If you’re going to write a specific genre, I suggest you pick up a book or movie and start learning the language before you take one step further. Fans will know if you really speak their language or not, and if you don’t (I hate to say it) they’ll put down your stuff and call you a fake.

Just like any other language, the genre languages are more easily learned when you immerse yourself in them. When I sit down to write an Action/Adventure, I make sure I’ve spent weeks reading that genre and watching all my favorite action movies. The more time I spend immersing myself in those things, the better my writing becomes. Why? Because I’ve learned the language.

Don’t jump into writing a fantasy novel when you’ve been on a steady romance-only diet. (Just an example, exchange any two genres in there.) What you put in is what will come out when you sit down to write. Please, please, please do the world a favor and immerse yourself in the language. Learn it until you can’t possibly speak anything else. Until the syntax and sentence structure are fused into your bones. Trust me, your readers and I will thank you later.

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Your genre and your favorite story therewithin (book or movie). I want to know!!!

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Did you like what you read today? Do you have questions, comments, or cat-killing curiosity about something? If so, please either comment on this post or visit the Contact page and drop me a note!

It was good to have you as a visitor today! Please drop by again, or become family by following the Write Knowledge. Thank You.