Stages of Nano
Madness! How can you do it? How are you even CONSIDERING jumping into the world of Nanowrimo? In this economy? With 2020 in flames around us? All the stress and pressure? The desperate, urgent need to pour a story out in a matter of days in a caffeinated slew of tropes mashed together from secret perverse fanfiction! The desire to grab the characters by their shirt fronts and fall into the abyss of words with a wine glass in one hand and a random name generator in the other! Madness! Madness, I say!!
… yeah, sounds like fun, doesn’t it?
GIF: Alice falling down the rabbit hole, waving goodbye
Nano is something I’ve done every year since about 2014, and I find that I win, and often its because I used the first few times to train myself to write, some of the tips of course being somewhat hairbrained (which is straight on brand). But amongst this fiasco month of friends, writing sprints, advice and dread, you can actually come out the other side with something salvageable. Often tear marked, but still!
GIF: Alice, girl in a blue dress, sitting in a jar, floating in water, saying “Oh I wish I hadn’t cried so much!”
STEP ONE: PLAN TO CONQUER WORLDS
With one week left to go until Nanowrimo starts, even a panster is going to be jerking their collar from their neck, fanning away the precursor sweat, and at least have a starting point for the project. A dream, a poem, an image, a line in a book, a limerick, something!
GIF: Shrek, orgre from the movie of the same name, shrugging
Whatever you’ve got, run with it. Head for the hills like a vagabond wanted by the law. Escape convention with clichés, like a cat burglar in the night. Steal it like a forbidden kiss and take it somewhere secluded to ravish.
Chances are that it may need a bit of help, and at this point cheating is totally acceptable. Generators can be your friend but don’t be afraid to stick something simple to remember, and later on use the Control+F find and replace on most word friendly docs. This is a life saver, and you can come back to stuff later.
STEP TWO: DESPAIR @ WORD TOTALS
You did it! You wrote for like a day! It’s a whole five pages, that’s what I call progress for one day, that’s a lot of words, that’s-
WHAT DO YOU MEAN ITS ONLY 1847 WORDS?!?
GIF: man pushing computer off table
Okay, so that’s probably your first mistake. Don’t look at the word total. Yes, I know its important to update Nanowrimo’s website but if its putting too much pressure on you, don’t! Leave it for a couple of days, you don’t have to update it every day. I’d get to the latter part of Nano and just save updating for when I was done. By then I was usually so invested in the story the word count simply didn’t matter. I’d storm through it between writing sprints and just having a lark.
Also don’t put pressure to reach the 50k – just aim to write a little every day! Stephen King writes 2k a day, but with nano you only have to write just over 1666. Such an evil number. Coincidence? I think not!
STEP THREE: FORGOT THE PLOT
Checklist and counting, we have a strong genre, nice settings, characters and their shenanigans; ha ha, what cute little devils! Now… where was it we were going with this? You don’t know? What do you mean you don’t know?! Well don’t look at me, I don’t know either, why didn’t you stop and ask for directions!?!! … that’s why you’re here, yep, my bad, I’m on it.
I’m a pantser, I’ve confessed to this before and I’ve written various blogs about doing it, dodging writer’s block to run away with the story. But sometimes you just can’t. The story is a trash fire and you have no idea what the characters are doing; two are making inappropriate lovey dovey eyes, one’s straight up a sarcastic shit (you know which one), and then there are some other wallflowers who were supposed to be robust characters but just fell… flat.
GIF: Eeyore, a stuffed toy donkey, bouncing through the air with a disappointed expression
For all the genuine tips of where you think the story is going, sometimes you need to step back, and let the characters show you. This creation is just a spark, it’s the hand held fizz stick that’s creeping down to your fingertips. You know you’re running out of time, its burning away just like the sparkles. Stop looking at how much is left, start looking at the light. That’s when it becomes a firework.
GIF: Katy Perry, woman in pale dress, with fireworks coming out of her chest, and going off in the background.
STEP FOUR: SUDDEN DESPERATE SCRAMBLE
Write. Write like your life depends on it, write like the wind, write like the gobblegook of your 2am keyboard smashing is the prose of the celestials and all you need to do is write another goddamn word. JUST. ONE. MORE. Do it, do it, do it!!!
There is a sudden rush, once all the obstacles have passed, once we can’t kid ourselves any longer, and the twentieth day of the month has passed, and that’s really only a week left, and lets do the math that’s-
…wait, that’s nearly two weeks this year, that’s HEAPS of time!
GIF: Woman stating that everything is fine, whilst acting very anxiously.
Don’t do this to yourself. You’re only going to end up feeling like you need to do it in a huge rush in the final few days, stress yourself the fuck out, or feel like a huge failure when you can’t make your goal.
I mean, you can if you WANT to, you little masochist you…
STEP FIVE: ADMIT IT’S TRASH & STILL LOVE IT
There’s a reason agents dread December. It’s a tidal wave of caffeinated zombies holding sheafs of paper to their bodies, as close as a beloved child, weaving between the poles of Query tracker, muttering under their breaths that no one understands the great burden they carry, the gold they could give…
There is only so much glitter you can put on a turd.
GIF: Man, Jeff Goldblum, standing before a large pile of dung.
ITS NOT ENOUGH.
Go away. Decaffeinate. Lie down. Get more than four hours sleep. Have a nutritious meal with no sugar. Take a long hot shower. Read two books on the TBR pile. Have a valium- I mean a tic tac. No, really. Take two. Here’s a glass of water, you need to stay hydrated too!
You’ve got a script, and that’s good, and maybe it needs a bit of work… or to be completely rewritten.
There is a lot that goes into polishing a script to make it ready to submit or publish. There are critic partners and beta readers. They offer very helpful advice on where you might have completely missed in the story how much of a mess you’ve got left over in the post traumatic wake of Nanowrimo.
But that’s OK.
Because if they are a beta reader/critic partner worth their salt, they’ll help you down this rocky road towards publishing. Take some time off, leave the script until the next year, and then begin the processing of polishing it for those friends who will help you get there.
This is not a short journey. Take a deep breath, but above all take your time.
There is no one putting pressure on you but you. There is no one who cares more, which is why the only dictator on your timeline is you. Forget what you want to be, just start with what you need to do, one word, one day at a time. You can do it, I believe in you.