Lessons From the Trenches: NaNoWriMo

I am getting ready for NaNoWriMo. I completed the challenge last year and, though that project is still being edited and tweaked, I’m really proud of what came out of that experience. I learned a lot going into it, and I learned a lot about editing in the aftermath.

This year, I’m looking forward to applying what I have learned in the 365 days since the last NaNoWriMo. Strangely, it’s been the littlest things I’ve read or watched that have helped me understand writing the most in the days that followed November. I learned (again) to stop using flippin adverbs. Seriously. I knew the rule, I accepted it, and yet…weeding through the rough draft I found countless adverbs. Ugh. It almost hurt. Had I really retained so little? I’m watching for that when writing this year.

Structure is something I’ve always been very in tune with – as a screenwriter, you create your outlines based on the structure of your story. Everything is related to structure – if your second act ventures too far outside of the usual page range, your audience will feel it and get uncomfortable. But I know that the structure in my outline could be better, that my story could be more fine tuned.

And then there’s Trey Parker and Matt Stone. Or, more appropriately, the creators of South Park. You may have seen the video posted on youtube in which they ambush a lecture about plot. They give the class the most simple and brilliant advice: When you are outlining or story boarding your plot, don’t think about the events in terms of “and then”. If you want to create a plot that flows and doesn’t leave people wondering why certain things happen, you must think of your events in terms of “but then this happens”, or “because of that event, this happens.”

Everything happens for a reason in storytelling. Maybe not in real life, but we are not writing real life. If you have something happen “just because” then you are lazy. Your readers will catch on to your laziness and they will resent you for it.

These are all things I’m going to work on applying during this year’s NaNoWriMo. Only one more week….

What about you? Anything you learned last year that you’ll be applying this year?

2 Responses to “Lessons From the Trenches: NaNoWriMo”
  1. I’m full of admiration. Good luck. I think i’m too late to get myself ready for the challenge, but it’s probably the only way my novel will ever get written. Great advice from the boys too. Thanks for sharing that.

    • I’m definitely one of those people that needs to prepare for NaNoWriMo, so I completely understand. But November doesn’t have to be the only time you challenge yourself to write a book in a month, either : ) Yes, if I can find that video again I’ll link to it somewhere. Kind of eye opening.

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