We can surely no longer pretend that our children are growing up into a peaceful, secure, and civilized world. We’ve come to the point where it’s irresponsible to try to protect them from the irrational world they will have to live in when they grow up…. Our responsibility to them is not to pretend that if we don’t look, evil will go away, but to give them weapons against it. — Madeleine L’Engle
Be kind. Everyone is fighting their own secret battle.
Take your life in your own hands and what happens? A terrible thing. No one to blame. — Erica Jong
Helpers come in all shapes and sizes.
They can be Chekhov’s Gunman– a person met long ago (early in the story) who steps up with the needed information or protection at a critical point in the plot.
In the Hero’s Journey they can be the mentor and the friends gathered in the new world of the second act.
In the Heroine’s Journey they have their own stage (Support) where they prevent the heroine’s story from coming to an end, often reenforcing a story message about interdependence.
Even the love interest can function as a helper. How many stories have you read where the LI makes a rousing speech or drops an offhand comment that meshes perfectly to close the gap in the MC’s mind and get the final action rolling?
However you identify them, helpers are critical to the story. Helpers serve the function of providing information, external motivation, practical, logistical helps, and emotional support (which matters a whole lot more than a lot of us want to admit, even in real life).
Knowing the kind of story we’re writing and the way we’re writing it will help us in expanding our cast of characters. Archetypes, for example, come into play even in thrillers or romances, and key characters can be identified by thinking back to the last couple movies you saw.
No matter what role you choose your walk-ons to fill, the important thing to remember is that even un-main characters (should) have their own lives, hopes and dreams. They have their own motivations that drive them to act, or prevent them from acting. They need to, or they will not be different enough from each other to justify their existance
Some people don’t give a cat’s sneeze about our MC or his/her goals. This does not make them evil or even mean people. It makes them somewhat normal.
So even as you determine your major characters’ motivations, you should decide why these helpers want to help.
Their profiles don’t have to be as deep and extensive as your major characters, but knowing how they think will help your readers with believability, and will help with your writing process when change (inevitably) takes over your story and bit parts have to respond to more than one thing, with more than one reaction.
There are generous, self-sacrificing people in real life, but even they have their own hopes and dreams.
Some want to take action/responsibility for these, and some don’t. And just as in real life, this willingness to accept responsibility ant act is a reflection on, and of, their character.
The way to keep your extras alive (and even let them surprise you with their depth beyond a playing piece), each helper, just like each person you meet in real life, is the hero of their own story.
I enjoy the BBC Sherlock a great deal.
In fact, my novel this year is sort of a play off an imaginary spin-off of the show. I have an affinity to the title character that has only been reinforced by a sweet friend who has an affinity to John Watson’s character.
She calls me Holmes. In public.
And I can’t say I mind. It fits in a lot of ways and it’s sort of fun to be open about it.
One of the show’s great exchanges happens in a restaurant when Sherlock urges John to eat, denying his own need or interest. Referring to his body, Sherlock says dismissively, “It’s transport.”
While I share Sherlock’s annoyance with having to eat yet again (what a waste of time!), I have learned well enough my need that I’ve worked through the denial and anger stages and skipped “acceptance” for the “how-can-I-minimize-the-tedium?” stage.
My path has been to learn what my best fuel is, and how to batch-process its preparation in order to minimize the extent of interruptions (aka, individual meal prep).
~ ~ ~
Now, I know I mentioned in my second post in this series that Baty (NaNo founder) recommends loading up on your favorite “vice” food, in order to free up some will-power to write daily.
My advice, in contrast is to know (or check) your nutritional type and then stock up on the stuff your body actually needs. As I said yesterday, I have a persistent battle with depression that I can’t be lazy about fighting.
Nutrition is one of those ways to fight, and I often must use my story mind and imagination to hold in my body the memory of how some tasty or convenience food made me regret its indulgence.
My type is the protein type, which means that I have to go out of my way to maximize the amount of protein I get, if I want to function optimally.
I’m going to share some ideas and advice for functioning as a protein type, because about 1/3 of people are each type, and all the healthy eating lists focus on types one and two (avoid fat, maximize fruits, veggies, limit protein, especially to fish, skinless poultry, and fat-trimmed red meat—if you indulge in the stuff at all).
This is okay advice as far as it goes, it’s hard to go wrong maximizing food without lables, but for types like me it is inadequate. I thrive on a high-protein, high-fat diet. Counting protein grams is about the only way I remember to stay on top of it, and to answer the next question, the only way I can really balance the calorie equation with straight-up fats (I stick to the healthy ones– almost none liquid) is to minimize grains and almost completely cut sugar.
My type of fast-food is a ¼ pound chicken sausage nuked in a paper towel and eaten while I work.
Just today I stocked up on enough to get me through November– if my family doesn’t learn to like them too, which they are.
I’m trying to be glad for them instead of pouting for me.
Other make-aheads and quicks (relatively speaking, though straight-forwards might be the better term):
The crockpot is your friend: throw a couple frozen meat chunks in (a few chicken thighs, pork chops or a small roast), cover with broth, 1 ½ tsp. cumin, a cup of salsa and a couple cans of beans (salt to taste) and you’ve got a generic chili/soup you can eat plain, mix in your favorite taco toppings, or (shred the meat with two forks once it’s cooked) serve it over greens and recreate Wendy’s Baja salad for a fraction of the cost.
Spaghetti with meat sauce: cook whatever pasta you usually use and brown a pound of ground meat. Add a teaspoon of salt and tablespoon of taco seasoning. While the meat browns, combine two (15.5 oz) cans tomato sauce, (8oz) can tomato paste, 1 T oregano, 1 ½ t garlic, 1t paprika and mix until smooth. Add the hot, seasoned meat and you’re ready to go. (Meat sauce can double as sloppy joes, or go over shredded cabbage instead of noodles.)
These ideas are mostly to get your own thinking rolling: whatever you already make will probably be faster to put together than someone else’s recipes. Even so, these are all things that come together under 20 minutes, or can be made in bulk and save meal prep for days (ask me how I know…).
So don’t feel that your health or sanity have to suffer because of your other goals. We all have to eat anyway, so knowing how to maximize the time you already have committed can actually buy you more flexibility, later.
Mysteries and thrillers are not the same things, though they are literary siblings. Roughly put, I would say the distinction is that mysteries emphasize motive and psychology whereas thrillers rely more heavily on action and plot. — Jon Meacham
Thrillers provide the reader with a safe escape into a dangerous world where the stakes are as high as can be imagined with unpredictable outcomes. It’s a perfect genre in which to explore hard issues of good and evil, a mirror that allows the reader to see both the good and not so good in themselves. — Ted Dekker
In her book Killer Fiction, Carolyn Wheat offers a detailed outline that she calls “The Four-Arc System for Organizing Your Novel.”
It is roughly analogous to the 3-Act Structure, taking arcs 2 and 3 together to form the “middle half.”
An opening scene or chapter that is self-contained and grabs the reader in some way, by either showing a “day in the life” of the character whose life is about to be turned upside down, or giving a mini-preview of things to come.
End Arc One at a crisis: the first turning point scene changes everything and sends the main character in pursuit of a new goal. A decision leads to a beginning level of commitment.
End Arc Two at a crisis: the Midpoint scene may involve hitting rock bottom, being convinced there is no hope of success. Or the main character may move from reactive to proactive, from committed to fanatical, from objective to emotionally involved, from wrong goal to right goal. A line may well be crossed. Return to status quo is now impossible. The character can only move forward, come what may.
End Arc Three at a crisis: The second turning point in which the character is forced to make a crucial decision. This can be a low point (if the character hasn’t already hit bottom), or it can be a recognition that nothing short of a life-or-death confrontation will solve the problem.
Use all the elements you have set up in the earlier arcs for maximum pay-off now
All of this is (of course) expanded on in greater detail in the book, and I urge anyone interested in these genres to look past the (lame) cover and check out the great content.
Sherlock Holmes gets to be brilliant, solitary, abrasive, Bohemian, whimsical, brave, sad, manipulative, neurotic, vain, untidy, fastidious, artistic, courteous, rude, a polymath genius. Female characters get to be Strong. — Sophia McDougall
(A castigation, not a complement. Whole article at the link.)
To be a witness does not consist in engaging in propaganda, nor even in stirring people up, but in being a living mystery. — Cardinal Suhard
The Heroine’s Journey has not been codified the way The Hero’s Journey has, but it is still useful to consider gender differences in terms of roles and realism.
As much as we (especially me) may wish we live in an equal world, we know we don’t, and (especially if you are writing a character of the opposite gender) it is useful to look at the types of differences in the processes.
Several books I’ve found address (compare/contrast) the journey females take (contrasting it with a man’s experience).
45 Master Characters, in particular, underscores that a man can travel on a “feminine” journey, just as a woman can take the “masculine.” It’s just that the majority of males or females take their respective paths in stories, so that’s where Schmidt makes her distinctions.
Roughly put, the difference between the masculine and feminine journeys (according to Schimdt), is that the MJ ends (transitions at that magic 75% mark) with the hero’s awakening of consciousness. Connecting with his humanity, the greater good, the noble goal. This is The road back and Returning with the Elixir from yesterday, where we get to see how the ordeal has fundamentally changed him (that’s the consciousness part).
In the FJ the story begins (1st plot-point, that magical 25% mark) with the awakening of consciousness.
Step 0. The illusion of the perfect world. A false sense of security or unhealthy coping mechanisms prevent the MC from seeing reality. (This has the opening of Cinderella all over it.) MC is accepting of the status quo.
The Eye of the Storm
Where as the Male hero usually gets the girl, the glory or the gold (external, tangible validations), the Female’s mark is often deeply internal and ongoing.
One significant observation is that this heroine being transformed does not mean that society is. There are still ogres and tyrants surrounding her, but she is better equipped now both to face those enemies, and to guide others into their own strength, even one by one.
Both heroes and heroine, in continuing stories, may find their treasures at risk of being stolen, but that is the way of all valuable things in a world with selfish people.
We must continue to be vigilant.
We have to be braver than we think we can be, because God is constantly calling us to be more than we are. — Madeleine L’Engle
Frequently we use the word hero interchangeably with main character, and that is what will happen here today. For an excellent excellent discussion of What makes a Hero, click that link.
Even though I say I’m using Hero “just” as MC, I think we should all understand the the reason there’s a story about these people is that they are heroic: proactive, admirable and/or memorable.
~ ~ ~
At it’s worst, “The Hero’s Journey” is an OCD checklist that results in a story as bloated as a cat fed “exactly what the bag says she needs” that has to waddle from place to place.
At it’s best The Hero’s Journey is a psychological map that you can look at next to your story and decide if the terrain is relevant enough for the map to be useful.
Laid out by mythologist Joseph Campbell in his 1949 book, The Hero With a Thousand Faces (which is quite the slog to read, I’ve heard, totally giving you bragging rights if you get through the whole thing), the hero’s journey is often described as a circle, punctuated by tasks or gateways or individuals that shape the story and the aforementioned hero.
For anyone who wants to explore this venerable (and useful, despite my tone 😉 ) structure, the better work to read would be Christopher Vogler’s The Writer’s Journey. This I have read and can heartily recomend as a reference work. It lays out the whole concept and shows how it can apply to the writers life as well as the storyline s/he is working on.
The cycle is as follows, but remember, it is shaped as a circle, not a line like this.
One of the philosophical differences I take to this structure is that the stories I enjoy most are about progression and trajectory. The core idea I see here is that you belong where you were, just as a different person. That you can only become through tragedy.
Maybe that’s true, but I’m not going to play that way today.
Step 0. The ordinary world. The “before” pic for your before-and-after shoot.
This is the climax-climax. The hero faces death/his greatest fears again, but this time, because of the journey, he is different. The moment of victory is the Hero and the rest of the world realizing that he is made new, transformed by his experiences.
For a beautiful list with all sorts of clickable trails to get lost in for hours of NT (you know who you are) entertainment, please please click here to visit the Hero’s Journey Page on TVtropes.org.
And if you’ve never heard of or never visited TVTropes before, be prepared to lose yourself down the rabbit hole. For a story-centric person (like myself) it is one of the most delightful ways to lose time on the internet. The bonus (if you’re a writer) is that none of your time will be wasted. It is all research.
This is a mammoth task, creating a whole new world. How will you keep track of your details? How will you be sure names don’t evolve? How will you know what visual or verbal markers go with which character for the length of a novel?
Since my story idea solidified in August, I have been jotting my discoveries in Evernote, on my phone. It’s almost always with me, it’s often what I’m listening to music on, and music is a big part of my preparation process (more on music later in the month). Apparently there are all sorts of bells and whistles to Evernote. I just use it as a notebook: I have a “pad” for each of my novels so I can capture an idea and put it in the right story from go.
Roz Morris of Nail Your Novel urges you to scribble a line on half an index card– keep it short and sweet– so you have physical objects to lay out in different orders as you determine the flow of action.
James V. Smith Jr. of You Can Write a Novel suggests index cards in a manila folder, taped only on one side, with the name of each character all that shows. You can note pertinent details (height, age, weight, visual or verbal tics) and keep them at your fingertips. You can even a glue a pic of an actor or model/magazine-random to the back of the card, allowing a quick remainder for visual continuity as you write.
Scrivener is another detail-collector, with a variety of features that I’ve found very helpful. This program has an active Table of Contents down the side and allows you to drag and drop whole scenes, allowing you to rearrange your novel without any cut-and-pasting.
I also find it helpful to create a folder in Scrivener for each character. I can include an interview sheet and digitally paste things like actor images that fit the look of a character so I can keep description consistent.
~ ~ ~
Organizing and ordering though, isn’t completely necessary this early in the process (if you’re just getting started now). The first stage is merely to capture. You shouldn’t expect to keep everything in your head all the time, or if you do, you risk rejecting new ideas so they don’t crowd out the established one.
So here’s the rundown of what I’m using:
I actually keep my more-developed novels ordered in Excel (that’s another useful tool, as is Word, and paper, and pencil). In the spreadsheet I can track content and action with additional columns for point of view, scene purpose, and sometimes more.
Speaking of Excel, it is awesome for laying out names, attributes and varying motivations. If you’ve already got a Microsoft Office Suite you can keep track of a whole novel between Word and Excel. That’s how I managed my first two novels.
And if you or a friend are an Excel genius, you can make a formula-based calendar to keep track of names, dates and ages.
My first two novels are somewhat in the Epic category, with a timeline (history/backstory not in the book) that spans over twenty years. A friend from college wrote me a formula that lets me insert event-dates and the spreadsheet will populate the ages of some 75 named characters. Only 2 or 3 might be relevant at a time, but this is a magical time-saver.
These are all tools I’ve migrated to for various reasons. I was an early adopter/beta tester, so the price tag wasn’t a barrier. Would I use all these if I had to pay for them? I don’t know. And I’m glad I don’t need to find out 😉 When making your own choices, do Google the product and get the opinion of people more (or less) in-love than me.
And Always-always paper and pen are legit and useful. Use what you have, upgrade as you get the chance, just never trust your mind to hold on to something.
I am a firm believer in the idea that we never really forget anything, but we do need the correct hook to bring it back. Writing it down means we never have to hunt for the right hook.
The true delight is in the finding out rather than in the knowing. — Isaac Asimov
I respect the man who knows distinctly what he wishes. The greater part of all mischief in the world arises from the fact that men do not sufficiently understand their own aims. They have undertaken to build a tower, and spend no more labor on the foundation than would be necessary to erect a hut. — Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
This is how you do it: you sit down at the keyboard and you put one word after another until its done. It’s that easy, and that hard. — Neil Gaiman
I knew that the moment I started worrying about whether or not I was good enough for the job, I wouldn’t be able to do it. — Madeleine L’Engle, A Circle of Quiet
There are two major contingents of writers, according to many discussions.
These consist of “Pantsters” (as in, seat-of-your-pants) and “Planners.”
In contrast, what you hear from these writers I opened with is that there is more to the process than planning or flying free.
There is also the discipline of doing the work, and the psychological readiness to take on the weight of creation.
The most important thing I wish to communicate is that you stand your ground, take hold of the spirit in L’Engle’s words, and don’t let anyone tell you you’re doing it wrong. If your method works, you’re doing well. But also remember that there is usually a place where the work becomes work and that is not a shame or a sign you’ve screwed things up.
The inspiration will fade at times, and you’ll have to slog on in the assurance, the confidence, that you’re headed in the right direction. But the delight will come back, like the tide. And in those ebbs and flows of creative energy you will learn new things, just as you see more in tide pools, once the ocean has retreated, so pressing on will allow you to understand more than you might in the white heat of inspired creation.
By all means take some of your research time to experiment with other methods that fit you and your personality, but if something hurts and never brings joy, don’t stick with it like vegetables when you could be having ice cream.
As withyesterday’s likes and dislikes, there is a possibility that your history and wiring nudges you toward the dislikes and the discomfort just because it feels more virtuous. Unless it actually improves the work or the process, you get to choose the ice cream!
The bonus advice I suggest is to pick up Dorthea Brande’s book, Becoming a Writer. Preferably the 1981 version with John Gardner’s introduction.
Brande does a wonderful job stepping back from the questions and techniques of process or outlines and focuses on the writer him/herself.
I suppose there are writers without personal insecurities, and nothing between them and the page but those questions of technique. For the rest of us there’s Dorthea Brande.
In the words of Gardner’s introduction,
The root problems [in writing] are the problems of confidence, self-respect, freedom.
What the stalled or not-started-yet writer needs is some magic for getting in touch with himself, some key. The writer needs to know what kinds of habits of thought and action impede progress, what unnoticed forces undermine confidence.
Of course, the answers to these riddles will be unique to each writer, but in my experience just having this list in front of me has helped in applying their truth.
So if you feel more secure with an outline, make an outline. Don’t let that inspired writer you know tell you it has to “just come” to be any good.
If you feel tied down at the very thought of knowing anything ahead of time, by all means, roll with it. Chris Baty’s book could be especially useful to you.
Most of us though, at least from the people I’ve talked to, are somewhere in the middle of that spectrum.
I call what I do, “Driving by the headlights.”
Since I (at least loosely) base most of my novels on fairy tales or existing narrative structures, I follow the path and the destination without having to invent the outline myself. But I “pants” it as I go along the road, picking up hitchhikers (new characters) and off-roading a bit (sub-plots as I discover them).
Do what you can to get ready, especially if that makes you more excited about the novel you will write, but use the time to tell yourself this is real, and trust that you will figure it out.
Chris Batty wrote a short book about NaNoWriMo, designed to encourage the first-time novelist to dive in, whether or not s/he has a sound story idea yet.
There are things people can do, he urges, even if they don’t have a story idea yet.
I am one of those who needs more structure or substance to commit to the process (more than cheer-leaders and personal enthusiasm, I mean), but one big thing I learned from his book I recommend to any aspiring Novelist.
Now, I talk about preferences in terms of personality, and I mean the word in the same way here: You have things that straight-up fit better and come easier for you. These are things you out-right LOVE.
The important thing about “doing what you love” isn’t necessarily that you’re better at it.
The important thing about “doing what you love” is that you will want to keep doing it, and do more, and stick with it when you hit a rough patch. It is such persistence that leads to being better. To being actually really good.
This is true in your noveling as well.
Take a break and make a list. Two lists, ultimately, so knowing yourself, decide if you’ll do this better sequentially (one after the other) or at the same time.
List 1: Things I like in a novel.
List 2: Things I don’t like in a novel.
This is crazy-important, even if you already have your story idea.
First, it’s important that your writing please you.
Many many writers describe their start as writing the book they always wanted to read, and quite often it was a book their newly discovered fans wanted to read as well.
Second, if you’ve already determined that ______________ makes you crazy in a story, you will (if you are ready to be both honest and challenged) become a better writer as you find other way to meet your story goals.
What do I mean?
I Hate (hate-hate-hate) conflict without motivation. And I can’t stand “misunderstandings” that exist only to advance the plot, that could be resolved by a simple, open conversation between the two descent people involved.
And I write fantasy with a romance element.
Which means that we’re-both-male-leaders-therefore-we-must-fight (I’m looking at YOU Prince Caspian!) and something-has-to-keep-us-to-of-bed-so-I-don’t-like-you-and-won’t-say-why (cliché problem to keep couple apart without threatening their imagined perfection) are both off the table.
I call those things lazy writing— taking the easy route– half defiantly, and half wistfully.
But it makes me work harder, better, to be true to myself and the sort of story I want to give my readers.
So, to get your juices flowing, here’s an example of my likes. I try to get as many likes in my story as possible, and, well, work around the dis likes as much as possible.
How do your likes/dislikes line up? Any must-haves or must-avoids you want to share?
That is, everything else you do, you just DO (or don’t, because you know it won’t be perfect).
The familiar mantra, “real writing is re-writing” can remind us the great freedom we have as writers: we are not bound to what we first see. This trains us in the great freedom available in the rest of life as well, a freedom to explore and experiment and remember/realize that LIFE isn’t a finished product either!
So with that in mind (and as a reiteration of yesterday’s urging) Make the decision NOW to leave your critical, editing, perféct-as-you-go mind locked. up.
This doesn’t mean you have no standards at all!
For example, speaking (as I was yesterday) about momentum in your month of novel-writing, if you’re bored and slowing down, that’s a fabulous clue your reader will feel the same way. If the scene you’re “supposed” to work on isn’t exciting enough, and you don’t immediately know how to change that, working out of order is completely acceptable.
I started my first NaNo novel in 2006 by describing the transformation of the wicked stepmother into a water dragon, whose own weight then drags her into the sea. It was a postlogue if anything, but it was the most vivid image in my mind, starting out. I wanted that woman to get the power she always wanted, and have it not be what she expected. I wanted that image in my mind as I described (and endured) her cruelty in other parts of the book.
So: 50,000 words, on a new work of fiction, in 30 days.
The main point of “30 days” is to invoke the power of deadline. Many people perform best (or at least they think they perform best) when there is some external motivation providing a framework or structure for the goal in front of them.
The truth is that willpower is a muscle. It is a limited resource, and the less it needs to be exerted in one area, like decision-making (Will I write?), the more you have to apply in other areas.
The creator of NaNoWriMo, Chris Batty, urges participants to load up on coffee, chocolate or any other “motivating” or “vice” food they want for the duration of the project. Psychologically this is good advice: by removing the effort one may have applied to healthy eating, you’ve essentially freed up that much more mental muscle to apply to this other, short-term goal.
The short-term nature of this goal is another reason for the 30 days.
Writing a novel is an intense, I have to say God-like experience. You are creating a world. Not out of nothing, so we don’t match God there, but out of a Frankensteinian collection of hungers and memories and myths.
I have never had as much writing-compassion from the non-writing people around me as I do in November. They try to understand that I’ve got a leg in fairyland. It makes more sense that I’m pulled away, that I’m not all here.
The years I mentioning it ahead of time I got a pass to be hyper-focused on this “extracurricular” project, just because it was November and I made it clear how important this project was to me.
Revisions are a challenge for this same reason: I’m a generally responsible person with a pretty solid set of expectations when it comes to food and sanitation. And my children’s behavior and language-development.
Finding the time to leave this world and immerse myself in the one I created—that will not happen. I have to create that time.
But that comes later—with the releasing of the inner editor from its box of confinement when November is over.
30-days also gives the people in my vicinity a count-down of their own.
So maybe meals aren’t quite on time, maybe the bathroom didn’t get cleaned this month. Not to worry: Mama will be back soon. Just watch the calendar– count the days!
For now, if you ever get approached by a wild-eyed individual garbling on about NaNoWriMo (sometimes insisting that you should join in), you should understand the basic outline:
The goal is 50,000 words on a new work of fiction in the 30 days of November. It is not something you win without dedication, but it is imminently, and fantastically, doable.
Take the jump. It only seems scary.
Share your title in the comments if you have one.
The story I’m working on this year will be called Stolen.
First of all, why 50,000 words—
Even so I came across a few recognizable titles that are novels near 50,000 words:
In 2010, my husband Jay bought me an illuminated keyboard for my laptop—a noble gesture and romantic gift—as soon as they were available for the PC: My children all shared a single room, and would sit with them, typing in the dark, until after they fell asleep.
Such working ahead was critical because my worst days were only 300-800, and the last three days of the month were always a flurry of putting everything aside to find out what happens to my characters (and reach that 50,000).
So that’s the 50,000 words.
Next is the phrase “on a new work of fiction.”
You’re really not supposed to use this race of “literary abandon” as the chance to round out and finish the 50,000 words you wrote last year, even if that would, in theory, give you one “complete” 100,000-word book.
This is because you’re too invested by that point to “let” the work be horrible.
There is a famous truism in the writing world that says you have to write a manky first-draft. (Actually the original phrase from Anne Lamott is “shitty first draft,” but I first presented this information as a speech, and found another word to play it safe. Now I’m kind of in love with “manky” both as a word and as a concept, so I’ve continued to hang onto it.)
You have to do this (write horribly) because you have to write a first-draft, and if you’re not prepared ahead of time for it to be *horrible* you will despair (and likely give up) before you’re three days or three pages in. You will try to make every word count, or fit perfectly from GO, and you will make yourself into an anxious wreck before anything useful can take root.
This could be why I talk so much about personal growth, self-awareness or self-improvement: this is the orientation writers work from. Our goal is to find problems before someone else does. We are our own first critics. Our own first defense.
But we are not (the best of us) trying to be our own saviors. There is a point at which we take this baby we have formed from the scraps and jewels of our minds, and set it into the hands of some other word-lover. Another storylover. And we give them permission to speak freely about imperfection and improvement.
But that all comes much later. For these thirty days, that inner editor, the one we apply before sending our baby to the unfeeling world, it is locked in a box. It is not allowed to poke its useful, ugly head out for the entire 30 days.
Because if you start to wonder before day-31 why Sally would care if Betsy borrowed the dog’s ninja to go grocery shopping, you will lose momentum, and in NaNoWriMo the name of the game is momentum.
You tell me: Have you ever wanted to write a novel?