Advice. Advice, advice, my kingdom for some advice.
As we’re now a few days into the mammoth beast known as NaNoWriMo, and for those of you NaNo first-timers here looking to the grizzled vet, here are a few tips which got me through not one, not two, but three straight NaNo’s (2009-2011).
Tip No. 1: Caffeine, aye. She works wonders.
If you’re on Facebook, you’ve probably seen a meme with Kermit the Frog pounding furiously on a typewriter. (Typewriters. Those are cute. The 1950’s called; they want their writing machines back.) Supposedly, our favorite variety show host/newsman had just ingested a shit-ton (that’s a unit of measurement) of coffee, or something else caffeinated. I can remember during my first NaNo of doing just that, but it wasn’t just my morning pick-me-up. No. There was some serious chugging of Mountain Dew, and there were some afternoons spent at Starbucks, downing lattes as I worked on the young adult novel Zombie Showdown.
The resulting crash sucked, but that’s half the fun.
Tip No. 2: Those psyche-up emails you’re going to get this weekend? Yeah. Delete.
Repeat after me, gang: I don’t need psyching up. I’m going to psyche you up here and spoil the surprise.
The NaNo crew, bless them. They spend 11 months making sure the servers are able to handle everything, from the rush of writers trying to upload their winning manuscripts to the beat of the shoppers trying to grab some merch (the proceeds keep those servers on). In the meantime, they type up periodic emails for the WriMos, all in an effort to psyche them up and get them out of a rut when one just happens to hit one.
No. Just… no.
First off, one of those emails will be about sending your characters into unknown territory when you get that onset of writer’s block.
Secondly, there is no such thing as writer’s block, gang. There just isn’t. Put your fucking fingers on the keyboard and write. You are under no pressure to write (although that whole 1,667 words a day thing hangs like the Sword of Damocles, doesn’t it?). Just put SOMETHING on the page. You must defy the empty page; you need SOMETHING to edit later—yes, even if it’s total crap, like exploding monkeys or car crashes for inexplicable reasons, which is basically another email you’ll receive.
Just delete the email without reading it, and get back to your novel.
Tip No. 3: Your first draft is SUPPOSED to look like shit. Don’t worry about it.
Just write your ass off and worry about fixing your ridiculous phrasing later (and by later, I mean three months down the road from the day you finished it).
Whenever I finish a first draft—and my process may be a little different from yours—I put the MS on the shelf and leave it alone for three months from the day of finishing, and look at it then, and not a day before. I finished writing my most recent Jaclyn Johnson novel, Chemical Agent, on June 19, and I managed to give it a read on Sept. 27—about 13 weeks after I finished. I’m sure to go back to it around Thanksgiving and get it to the editor and back in time for an early 2016 release. Beach Blanket Bloodshed, in my Small Town PI mystery series, still has about another month to go before I give it its first read-through/edit.
I have found three months is a good resting time for the story to evacuate your conscious self and for you to come back to it with fresh eyes. In the meantime, work on something else: when you’re done with NaNo, write a short story—no more than 2,000-3,000 words—to cleanse your writing palette, then dive into your next book, whether writing it from the seat of your pants, or start brainstorming. Three years or so ago, my girlfriend—now my wife—wanted to know when I would start on edits to my fourth Jaclyn Johnson novel, Federal Agent. Only a month and a half had passed from my finishing the story and this conversation from happening.
Use that edit time wisely and whip the novel into shape. However, some novels—my re-released Obloeron Saga, which came out Monday, Nov. 2—take longer… like 13 years to become fully evolved, especially if it’s your first few novels.
And finally, Tip No. 4: Use every minute possible, especially during the first three weeks of NaNo.
This Sunday, you’re probably going to want to watch your favorite NFL team play. Maybe you’ll watch college football or the Barclay’s Premier League or Major League Soccer or the NBA or the NHL on Saturday. You’re going to step away from the manuscript and sit down with your buddies or your family and watch football for upwards of 11 straight hours, chugging beer and thinking about plots while your team plays for second place to my Patriots. I’m not sorry about that.
Here’s a challenge for you: Don’t do that. Not this Sunday, and maybe not even next Sunday.
Remember that whole Sword of Damocles thing? Yeah. It’s a 1,667-words-a-day bitch, and there’s a day coming up in a few weeks where you’re going to find yourself under pressure to sit still and gorge yourself (while watching upwards of 11 hours of football), and there will be no chances to write until the next day.
Writing is about sacrifice, in a way. For the first few years of my writing career, I sacrificed time at the bar, and a social life, in order to work on my craft. I wanted to become a kick-ass writer, and that meant sacrificing a few things—yes, even no extended periods of watching of pro football. During NaNo, I wanted to get ahead of the game; my first day of NaNo 2009, I wrote over 2,000 words in my first sitting, and then another 3,000 later in the day. By the end of the first day, I was two and a half days ahead.
Getting ahead in these first three weeks gives you that cushion and allows you the opportunity to spend guilt-free time with your family on Thanksgiving.
Unless you can’t stand your family and want to write with a turkey sandwich next to you.
Your mileage, of course, will vary.
The blurb (From Mr. Sweeny’s new novel, Obloeron Saga):
When one man puts aside a great destiny, it falls on another to pick it up.
This is the full, six-book Obloeron Saga bundle, which first appeared in 2009 under the author’s old pseudonym, John Fitch V. The first five fantasy novels were published before 2013, and now the series comes together with the previously unreleased third novel, Krampel’s Revenge.
In addition, there is previously unseen prose in the form of three short stories the author has weaved into the tale, and gives the full look at some previously unanswered questions from the original three novels.
Starting with the short story The Creation of Flad-rul, the SAGA tells of Krampel Paddymeyer’s journey from that of slave to bounty hunter, from bounty hunter to war hero. Then the original trilogy picks up with Krampel’s grandson, Grumpet, his heir, as well as continues the tale of Radamuck Rosar’s journey with these two great men. Add in a halfling with a warrior complex, a bit of love, and plenty of orcs, and you have a fantasy story set to stand the test of time.
The Creation of Flad-rul (short story/prologue)
The Rise of the Dark Falcon (prequel one)
The Shadow Looms (prequel two)
Krampel’s Revenge (prequel three, previously unreleased)
Krampel’s Flight to Kayiko (short story/interstitial)
The Quest for the Chalice (original one)
The Return to Lowbridge (original two)
The Fall of Myrindar (original three)
Grumpet’s First Day (short story/epilogue)
Find more about the author on his website: seansweeneyauthor.com
Thanks for stopping by, Mr. Sweeney! Your new saga sounds exciting!
And of course, as always, if you have some tips of your own – please share in the comments below to help inspire others! 🙂
Happy writing everyone!