Writing Life

NaNo Encouragement @ Sydney Writer’s Centre

Last night at the The Sydney Writer’s Centre, over looking Sydney Harbour, NaNoWriMo participants both new and experienced gathered to discuss our progress and to encourage each other to continue on to the end. Several of the more experienced NaNoers told us their stories and what worked for them.

First up was Darren
He made a number of great point but the main one came down to this:

The Word Count is the Main Thing.

(ok I missed most of his talk because I was chatting outside to my friend Valerie who runs the Centre, but I know this was the message because it was up on the board in Big Bold Letters).

Some of his other (and excellent) points included:

* You aren’t in this alone (which I can testify as being true from my own experience)
* Ignore the internal editor and just write
* Enjoy yourself (what is the point otherwise)
* If you can’t write this, write something else (if you get stuck, move to the bit you know).

Animated Discussion


Sage advice all of it.

Naomi
Next up was Naomi who is doing NaNoWriMo for the 7th time. (the mind boggles). Her record of words in a day is 15,000 which she did the first time during her first NaNo and she has done 10K on the first day for the last 4 years.

Her wisdom is summed up:

* It’s not easy
* You have to make yourself sit down and write.
* Make sure you have times when you are not thinking about writing. Watch Star Trek, go for a walk or whatever it is.
* Getting behind isn’t the end of the world
* Ignore the NaNo stats that say when you’ll finish, focus on how many words per day you need to get there. You can do it.

Alex
There was no missing the enthusiasm that poured out of Alex. He has set himself a huge goal this year to try and reach 1/2 million words. To get there he needs to write 80,000 in 13 days. He acknoweldged that he might not make it and sometimes you need to reschedule goals.

He agreed with Naomi: plonk your butt in the chair and type. (it was a common theme).

His favourite dirty little tricks? Keep asking what happens now? Keep asking why? Find something to write about even if it’s a change of direction.

Ray
Ray explained that the 50,000 target came about because in the US anything less is considered a Novella not a Novel. In Australia a novel has to be 60,000 words. This is interesting but as he wisely pointed out The real target is the act of actually writing.

In my experience this is completely dead on. The most useful part of this whole exercise has been that it forced me to put my butt in the chair and actually write something.

He then told us how he got married at the end of October last year thinking that he could use the time on his honeymoon in Tasmania to write. Ahem. Wonder if he discussed that with his wife beforehand. Of course no one had to guess how that went and how much he had to do in the last week to actually make it. Here’s a tip for the boys: Honeymoons are NOT the time to schedule activities that involve you ignoring your spouse for hours and hours on end 🙂

A few of Ray’s tips and observations:

* We are all excited about our novels when they are working. Not so much when they aren’t.
* Some writer’s write start to finish, sometimes you need to shake that up
* Same time/place works for a lot of writers as it gets their brain in the right gear
* Your NaNo does not have to be a completely formed story, it can be a bunch of stuff you’l fix later (which is exactly what mine will be)
* Writing lets you create and that is a wonderful thing.

I really agree with this last one as I’ve never felt very creative but writing is an artform and it’s one that can be learned and improved over the years. You might not be a genius who turns out a world-stunning masterpiece the first time out but you can learn how to do good solid work you are proud of.

Ray had a number of quotes and here are a couple of them:
“I think I did pretty well considering I started out with a pile of blank paper.” – Steve Martin

“Writing is like driving a car at night. You only see as far as your headlights go, but you can make the whole trip that way.”
― E.L. Doctorow

Ray’s best piece of advice? FINISH! Finishing NaNoWriMo is a special kind of high. The harder the effort, the greater the achievement.

Tony
Tony, a Canadian transplant, has already published and is a NaNo vet. His message was clear:

* Don’t let this be the only thing you write. Even if it’s complete crap, write another and another. That’s how you learn.

If you get stuck: Work out where you want to be and then ask what needs to happen to get there (work backwards if necessary).

We discussed Pinch Points and the point in the middle that changes everything. In fact, he has noticed in several Lee Childs books there is a character that actually says “this changes everything!”

He drew some magical things on the board that I wont’ replicate here because you can find them on his site here.

Snacks!

He also recommended checking out Storyfix.com

Finally Rose, who is both a fellow NaNoer as well as the organise of this gathering spoke a little bit about the rhythm of writing. People think in 3s and 5s so that’s how stories are divided up (I didn’t know this but it makes sense when you think about remembering numbers).

Then we talked about the 4 Act story (5 points breaking down to 4 acts). It was also pointed out that this is a very western thing as Asian fiction is different. Rose (who apparently is a font of knowledge) told us that Chines music has 5 notes in an Octave while Western music has 8. They do not have the lead to a climax the same way that we do. Look at Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon as an example of how Eastern storytelling differs to Western.

If you are interested in plotting, the Sydney Writer’s Centre has a course that covers just that. I happen to be doing it on the 28th so look out for my review in December. (Though based on previous course I’ve done, it’ll be excellent).

After that we somewhat devolved into a discussion about WrittenKitten.net (and LOLCats, which is really hard to explain to someone who hasn’t seen it), munching on snacks and talking about our books.

All in all it was excellent. Thanks to the Sydney Writers’ Centre for Hosting.

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