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  • Jeff Somers 4:00 pm on 2019/11/08 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , national novel writing month   

    Finding Your Pace: National Novel Writing Month Executive Director Grant Faulkner on How to Make Writing a Priority 

    It’s that time of year again—no, not Thanksgiving planning prep, it’s National Novel Writing Month (also known as NaNoWriMo). Every November, thousands of writers at all levels of experience and publishing success challenge themselves to write an entire novel—50,000 words—from start to finish, in just 30 days.

    Far from a stunt, NaNoWriMo has encouraged many writers to complete novels that were eventually professionally published—not to mention countless others who have self-published their work. But even if the end result is only a sense of accomplishment, it’s still a viable way of instilling the habit of writing—and as most any successful writer will tell you, the one way to learn how to be a better writer is to write. Plus, NaNoWriMo provides added incentive in the form of message boards that offer a supportive and encouraging community to burgeoning authors who might otherwise lack one.

    Grant Faulkner has been executive director of NaNoWriMo since taking over from founder Chris Baty in 2012. Faulkner is also the founder of the online literary magazine 100 Word Story and the author of Fissures, a collection of his 100-word short stories; Nothing Short of 100, an anthology of the best stories from 100 Word Story; Pep Talks for Writers and co-author of Brave the Page. He recently took some time from his busy November writing schedule day to chat with us about the power of NaNoWriMo, the advantages of short fiction, and why everyone should probably try to write a novel this year.

    You’re best-known for your books on writing and your flash and micro-fiction, but you just finished a novel (The Letters). Have you ever done NaNoWriMo yourself?
    Yes! I’ve actually been participating in NaNoWriMo since 2009, before I took on my current position. I did NaNoWriMo because I asked myself if I’d decided on my creative process or if it had decided on me. I was in a creative rut, in short, and NaNoWriMo is a great way to get yourself out of a creative rut, to shake things up and push yourself into new creative directions, because it’s a creative experiment by definition. I participate every year, without fail.

    How should writers ideally approach NaNoWriMo in terms of mindset, prep, and expectations?
    One thing I would strongly suggest is that you think about the time factor—how are you going to come up with the time you’ll need to write? Think about whether you need to block off big chunks of time on the weekend or if you have nooks and crannies of time throughout your day to dedicate to your novel. I know I need about two hours a day to write 1,667 words. Again, there’s no right way to do it, but it’s important to have a plan, to think about how you’re going to open up time in your life to write and make creativity a priority for a month. The most frequent reason I hear that people say for why they can’t do NaNoWriMo is that they don’t have enough time, but I think most of us can find the time if we analyze what our priorities are and then make a plan to execute them.

    Beyond a time management strategy, there are various approaches to preparing to write your story. We have Pantsers, who just charge into the story and write by the seat of their pants, and we have Plotters, who like to map out their story first—and then we have what we call Plantsers, who combine a little bit of plotting and pantsing, or switch back and forth. What’s great about NaNoWriMo is that it’s the perfect time to experiment, to try something new—if you’re a Pantser, for example, why not try Plotting? Me, I used to be a dedicated Pantser, but as I’ve progressed in my writing career I’ve become more of a Plotter. Writers are like a basketball player in that sense—they need to learn how to dribble with both hands, shoot different kinds of shots.

    One final bit of advice is to not get lost in your prepping for NaNoWriMo. Don’t focus so much on getting ready that you forget about the story you want to write, or forget to have fun. Also, we have people who sign up for NaNoWriMo just before midnight on October 31st and pants their novel. We also have people who sign up later in November and write furiously to catch up. Honestly, there’s no ‛right’ way to do it. Any way that works for you and your schedule, your writing process, is fine.

    Is it true, the saying that everyone has one novel in them, and a very few have two or more? Should everyone write a novel?
    There’s a theory that many writers only have one great novel in them, and then they write variations of that novel for the rest of their career. Most writers have a lot of ideas for books, though—more than they can ever get to in their lifetime. I do think that everyone should write a book, though. I recently read that 81% of Americans said they wanted to write a book someday. Someday when everything is perfect. Someday tends not to happen, though, which is why NaNoWriMo exists—to make someday today with the help of a goal and a deadline. One of the great things about NaNoWriMo is that it helps you make your creative dreams a priority.

    One of the great things about NaNoWriMo is that it helps you make writing a priority. And there are so many benefits to writing a novel. We are meaning making creatures and our stories are the way we make meaning in the world. Writing is our most effective critical thinking tool. It’s a way to explore ourselves, see the world through others’ eyes, and imagine other universes. Writing stories helps us build empathy and tolerance and connect with others. There’s a saying that the world isn’t made of atoms, it’s made of stories, and there’s some truth to that. So don’t wait to write your story—write it today!

    Tell us about 100 Word Story and the Flash Fiction Collective; what does it take to found a lit journal in the modern day?
    I’ve had a passion for 100-word stories for a long time. I think I’m addicted to them, honestly. When I started writing them back in 2010, not many publishers were publishing such short fiction, but I thought there was a market for it, so my friend Lynn Mundell and I launched the journal by recruiting our writer friends to contribute stories. Stories began to flood in, though. I can’t believe how much our submissions and readership grows each year. What’s wonderful about starting a literary journal these days is how the Internet helps on all fronts. For example, back in the old days, an established literary magazine might only have a few thousand readers. Today, with social media, we have a huge readership compared to that. Technology has given a journal like ours reach that was impossible before.

    What’s really been satisfying is hearing from teachers who are using 100 Word Story in the classroom. The form is accessible to all, and it allows teachers to do focused lessons around 100-word stories in ways that other forms don’t allow because they’re longer. I’ve heard from college professors using it to teach MFA writing classes, teachers using 100-word stories to help prisoners earn their GEDs, and teachers teaching 100-word stories in grades K-12 as well. In fact, a teacher and YA author, Kim Cuthbertson is now writing a book about how to teach 100-word stories in high school. It’s incredible.

    Your book Fissures is a collection of 100-word stories. What are the challenges and advantages of extremely short fiction?
    There are so many advantages. I always compare a 100-word story to a Rubik’s Cube; you’re constantly turning things around and adjusting the little cubes (or words in the case of a 100-word story) in order to get them all to line up. A 100-word story is always a puzzle. You’re always shaving away words and then adding words and then massaging those words to get the story to exactly 100 words.

    Writing within constraints, with brevity, is challenging because most people are taught to write more in their writing instruction, not less. Aslo, I think writers like to flex their writerly muscles by writing more, by putting in those like nice lyrical flourishes into their stories. When I was getting my MFA, for instance, people in workshops would often write in the margins, ‛I want to hear more about this.’ What we forget is that that so much of a story is told through what’s left out.

    When writing 100-word stories, I often think of the Hemingway principle of storytelling where he compares a well-crafted story to an iceberg: about 90% of it is under the water and only 10% of it is showing. That’s what you want to do with your short stories—only show the tip. So a story can be told through well-crafted hints that both create suspense and allow the reader to fill in the gaps. As writers, we have to trust the reader’s imagination. It’s their story as much as it is our story. So I think writing 100-word stories is a wonderful exercise to teach you how to write less. It’s as much of an editing exercise as it is a writing exercise, because while you’re writing, you’re always editing at the same time in order to to get the precision that’s required from the form. So just as every writer should do NaNoWriMo to learn how to write with abandon, to write with an improve mindset, every writer should write 100-word stories to learn the art of compression.

    A lot of writers, especially young writers, tend to think in terms of long-form, in novels. But the more constrained you are, the more challenging it can be.
    Yeah, there’s a famous quote attributed to Mark Twain, who said, ‛I would have written it shorter if I’d only had more time.’ Writing shorter definitely takes more time because fewer words have to do more work. The challenge for the writer is to capture the essence of their story. I love the story of Japanese writer Yasunari Kawabata’s novel Snow Country, which was cited when he won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1968. Years later, he re-wrote Snow Country as a short story titled Gleanings from Snow Country, which was only 13 pages. He didn’t summarize the novel, he just captured the essence. That’s the question every short story writer must ask: what is the essence of this story, and how can you tell it in as few words as possible?

    What tips would you offer to a writer attempting their first novel? Are there different tips for their first short story or piece of flash fiction?
    I think a lot of people hold themselves back from writing because they tell themselves they’re not “real” writers. That’s very unfortunate, because everybody who writes is a real writer in my book. The definition of being a writer is to write, and the way human beings make meaning in the world is through stories, and everyone has stories to tell. So the very fundamental thing is to believe in yourself, believe that you are a creator, believe you’re a writer, and write down your story.

    Another big thing to be a writer is commitment—to not wait for those moments of inspiration to strike in order to write, but to set yourself up with a plan and make writing a daily practice if possible. If you aspire to finish a novel or to publish it, it’s going to take a lot of commitment, and you’re going to go through a lot of moments that will feel dark, when you’ll doubt yourself or your story, so you just have to really believe in yourself, and develop a community that will help you believe in yourself, a network of other writers. We break down the mythology of the solitary author in NaNoWriMo by the various ways we provide community, both in person and online.

    In the end, the advice for writing a novel and writing a short story is very similar: believe in your story, follow your passions, and listen to what the story is telling you. Don’t think about what you should write but what you want to write. Just trust that in the practice of showing up every day, you will make the story better and better, and you’ll become a better and better writer.

    Aside from your own Pep Talks for Writers and Brave the Page (co-authored with Rebecca Stern), what books about writing do you routinely recommend?
    I am usually reading a book about writing, so I’ve read plenty of them. I find that just reading about writing on a regular basis helps feed the creative juices.

    =But there are three that I turn to the most. One is Annie Dillard’s The Writing Life, which is almost like a poem. Stephen King’s On Writing is wonderful because it’s one part memoir, one part writing tips and then he’s just a fabulous storyteller and wise about writing. And the small press Graywolf has this wonderful series called The Art of … and they’ve probably published 15 or 20 short books written by authors on different aspects of writing, such as ‛subtext’ or ‛suspense.’ They read like long essays or meditations. I find them wonderfully inspiring, so I oftentimes turn to those. And Chris Baty, the founder of NaNoWriMo, wrote a book called No Plot, No Problem that’s essentially the bible and the instructional guide to NaNoWriMo.

    There’s a long list of published novels that began life in NaNoWriMo (The Night Circus, Fangirl, Wool, Water for Elephants, Cinder, to name a few). Are there any lessons for aspiring novelists from these success stories?
    There are many lessons. Marissa Meyer has written many of her novels during NaNoWriMo. She told me that now that she has a publishing schedule, she can’t always do NaNoWriMo during November, but what I think is interesting is that she does her own private NaNoWriMo for every one of her novels. She sets aside 30 days and she writes as much as she can, and just gets the rough draft done and then goes on to revise it later. I think that’s a really good lesson—remember that you can make NaNoWriMo your own creative process beyond the events we host.

    Erin Morgenstern participated in NaNoWriMo way back in the early 2000s. And one NaNoWriMo, she took a fanciful detour in her novel, and that detour led her to The Night Circus, which she finished in a couple of the following NaNoWriMos. So be open to the detours.

    And then Gennifer Albin wrote Crewel during NaNoWriMo, after her husband joked that her obituary would read ‛the author of the most first chapters in the history of the world.’ She was an expert in writing first chapters, but she couldn’t go further, and that’s one of the premises of of NaNoWriMo, to write to the end. Don’t worry about making that first chapter perfect. You’ve got to write the whole novel first, and then you can go back and revise.

    On that note, Joyce Carol Oates has this great quote, ‛You can’t know the first sentence until you’ve written the last.’ So it’s not worth spending too much time laboring over the first sentence or the first chapter in the first draft because you’ll go back and change it anyway.

    Are you aware of National Novel Editing Month (NaNoEdMo)? Is it a good next stop for folks who succeed at NaNoWriMo?
    We actually have an initiative ourselves called I Wrote a Novel, Now What? It takes place in January and February, and we provide a lot of the same things that we do for NaNoWriMo, but focused on editing. We actually have tools on our websites so that you can set revision goals. So, say you wanted to spend 50 hours revising in the month of January, you can set that goal and track your progress to build in accountability and motivation. We also provide a number of editing and publishing resources through webcasts, podcasts, blog posts, conversations in our online forums, and more. We are big believers that rewriting and revising are very important,. The magic of NaNoWriMo is the goal and the deadlines—we say that a goal and a deadline is a creative midwife—and that applies for editing as well. Otherwise, editing and revising can go on forever, just as researching a novel can go on forever and prevent you from actually writing the novel. It helps for people to have really tangible, daily goals in order to stay focused on progress.

    What’s next for you in your own writing?
    I’ve got a few books in motion. I have a collection of short stories, All the Comfort that Sin Can Provide, that is with a small press right now. I’m nearly finished with my novel The Letters. And I am working on a nonfiction book on rejection, 13 Stories of Rejection, which will include profiles of different notable authors and their stories of rejection—how they faced the crisis of rejection, how they got over it, how they kept believing in themselves, and how they eventually published a book.

    13 Stories of Rejection sounds like a very useful book—it’s great sometimes to point out that everybody struggles; everybody faces rejection.
    To be an author is to be rejected. And, honestly, the interesting thing is that a lot of those best-selling authors continued to get rejected even after they became successful authors. So you just have to to develop the mindset that rejection is just an ongoing part of being a writer.

    If you’re participating in NaNoWriMo—or if you’re a past winner with a story you’re ready to share with the world—B&N Press is the easiest way for you to get your writing into the hands of readers. With a simple interface and customizable options to fit any project, you can take your writing from a text document to a finished ebook or print edition with ease, even if you have no prior experience with self-publishing tools. And within days, your book can be listed for sale right here on the Barnes & Noble website. To find out more about B&N Press, click here, and happy writing!

    The post Finding Your Pace: National Novel Writing Month Executive Director Grant Faulkner on How to Make Writing a Priority appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
  • Jeff Somers 4:00 pm on 2019/11/08 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , national novel writing month   

    Finding Your Pace: National Novel Writing Month Executive Director Grant Faulkner on How to Make Writing a Priority 

    It’s that time of year again—no, not Thanksgiving planning prep, it’s National Novel Writing Month (also known as NaNoWriMo). Every November, thousands of writers at all levels of experience and publishing success challenge themselves to write an entire novel—50,000 words—from start to finish, in just 30 days.

    Far from a stunt, NaNoWriMo has encouraged many writers to complete novels that were eventually professionally published—not to mention countless others who have self-published their work. But even if the end result is only a sense of accomplishment, it’s still a viable way of instilling the habit of writing—and as most any successful writer will tell you, the one way to learn how to be a better writer is to write. Plus, NaNoWriMo provides added incentive in the form of message boards that offer a supportive and encouraging community to burgeoning authors who might otherwise lack one.

    Grant Faulkner has been executive director of NaNoWriMo since taking over from founder Chris Baty in 2012. Faulkner is also the founder of the online literary magazine 100 Word Story and the author of Fissures, a collection of his 100-word short stories; Nothing Short of 100, an anthology of the best stories from 100 Word Story; Pep Talks for Writers and co-author of Brave the Page. He recently took some time from his busy November writing schedule day to chat with us about the power of NaNoWriMo, the advantages of short fiction, and why everyone should probably try to write a novel this year.

    You’re best-known for your books on writing and your flash and micro-fiction, but you just finished a novel (The Letters). Have you ever done NaNoWriMo yourself?
    Yes! I’ve actually been participating in NaNoWriMo since 2009, before I took on my current position. I did NaNoWriMo because I asked myself if I’d decided on my creative process or if it had decided on me. I was in a creative rut, in short, and NaNoWriMo is a great way to get yourself out of a creative rut, to shake things up and push yourself into new creative directions, because it’s a creative experiment by definition. I participate every year, without fail.

    How should writers ideally approach NaNoWriMo in terms of mindset, prep, and expectations?
    One thing I would strongly suggest is that you think about the time factor—how are you going to come up with the time you’ll need to write? Think about whether you need to block off big chunks of time on the weekend or if you have nooks and crannies of time throughout your day to dedicate to your novel. I know I need about two hours a day to write 1,667 words. Again, there’s no right way to do it, but it’s important to have a plan, to think about how you’re going to open up time in your life to write and make creativity a priority for a month. The most frequent reason I hear that people say for why they can’t do NaNoWriMo is that they don’t have enough time, but I think most of us can find the time if we analyze what our priorities are and then make a plan to execute them.

    Beyond a time management strategy, there are various approaches to preparing to write your story. We have Pantsers, who just charge into the story and write by the seat of their pants, and we have Plotters, who like to map out their story first—and then we have what we call Plantsers, who combine a little bit of plotting and pantsing, or switch back and forth. What’s great about NaNoWriMo is that it’s the perfect time to experiment, to try something new—if you’re a Pantser, for example, why not try Plotting? Me, I used to be a dedicated Pantser, but as I’ve progressed in my writing career I’ve become more of a Plotter. Writers are like a basketball player in that sense—they need to learn how to dribble with both hands, shoot different kinds of shots.

    One final bit of advice is to not get lost in your prepping for NaNoWriMo. Don’t focus so much on getting ready that you forget about the story you want to write, or forget to have fun. Also, we have people who sign up for NaNoWriMo just before midnight on October 31st and pants their novel. We also have people who sign up later in November and write furiously to catch up. Honestly, there’s no ‛right’ way to do it. Any way that works for you and your schedule, your writing process, is fine.

    Is it true, the saying that everyone has one novel in them, and a very few have two or more? Should everyone write a novel?
    There’s a theory that many writers only have one great novel in them, and then they write variations of that novel for the rest of their career. Most writers have a lot of ideas for books, though—more than they can ever get to in their lifetime. I do think that everyone should write a book, though. I recently read that 81% of Americans said they wanted to write a book someday. Someday when everything is perfect. Someday tends not to happen, though, which is why NaNoWriMo exists—to make someday today with the help of a goal and a deadline. One of the great things about NaNoWriMo is that it helps you make your creative dreams a priority.

    One of the great things about NaNoWriMo is that it helps you make writing a priority. And there are so many benefits to writing a novel. We are meaning making creatures and our stories are the way we make meaning in the world. Writing is our most effective critical thinking tool. It’s a way to explore ourselves, see the world through others’ eyes, and imagine other universes. Writing stories helps us build empathy and tolerance and connect with others. There’s a saying that the world isn’t made of atoms, it’s made of stories, and there’s some truth to that. So don’t wait to write your story—write it today!

    Tell us about 100 Word Story and the Flash Fiction Collective; what does it take to found a lit journal in the modern day?
    I’ve had a passion for 100-word stories for a long time. I think I’m addicted to them, honestly. When I started writing them back in 2010, not many publishers were publishing such short fiction, but I thought there was a market for it, so my friend Lynn Mundell and I launched the journal by recruiting our writer friends to contribute stories. Stories began to flood in, though. I can’t believe how much our submissions and readership grows each year. What’s wonderful about starting a literary journal these days is how the Internet helps on all fronts. For example, back in the old days, an established literary magazine might only have a few thousand readers. Today, with social media, we have a huge readership compared to that. Technology has given a journal like ours reach that was impossible before.

    What’s really been satisfying is hearing from teachers who are using 100 Word Story in the classroom. The form is accessible to all, and it allows teachers to do focused lessons around 100-word stories in ways that other forms don’t allow because they’re longer. I’ve heard from college professors using it to teach MFA writing classes, teachers using 100-word stories to help prisoners earn their GEDs, and teachers teaching 100-word stories in grades K-12 as well. In fact, a teacher and YA author, Kim Cuthbertson is now writing a book about how to teach 100-word stories in high school. It’s incredible.

    Your book Fissures is a collection of 100-word stories. What are the challenges and advantages of extremely short fiction?
    There are so many advantages. I always compare a 100-word story to a Rubik’s Cube; you’re constantly turning things around and adjusting the little cubes (or words in the case of a 100-word story) in order to get them all to line up. A 100-word story is always a puzzle. You’re always shaving away words and then adding words and then massaging those words to get the story to exactly 100 words.

    Writing within constraints, with brevity, is challenging because most people are taught to write more in their writing instruction, not less. Aslo, I think writers like to flex their writerly muscles by writing more, by putting in those like nice lyrical flourishes into their stories. When I was getting my MFA, for instance, people in workshops would often write in the margins, ‛I want to hear more about this.’ What we forget is that that so much of a story is told through what’s left out.

    When writing 100-word stories, I often think of the Hemingway principle of storytelling where he compares a well-crafted story to an iceberg: about 90% of it is under the water and only 10% of it is showing. That’s what you want to do with your short stories—only show the tip. So a story can be told through well-crafted hints that both create suspense and allow the reader to fill in the gaps. As writers, we have to trust the reader’s imagination. It’s their story as much as it is our story. So I think writing 100-word stories is a wonderful exercise to teach you how to write less. It’s as much of an editing exercise as it is a writing exercise, because while you’re writing, you’re always editing at the same time in order to to get the precision that’s required from the form. So just as every writer should do NaNoWriMo to learn how to write with abandon, to write with an improve mindset, every writer should write 100-word stories to learn the art of compression.

    A lot of writers, especially young writers, tend to think in terms of long-form, in novels. But the more constrained you are, the more challenging it can be.
    Yeah, there’s a famous quote attributed to Mark Twain, who said, ‛I would have written it shorter if I’d only had more time.’ Writing shorter definitely takes more time because fewer words have to do more work. The challenge for the writer is to capture the essence of their story. I love the story of Japanese writer Yasunari Kawabata’s novel Snow Country, which was cited when he won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1968. Years later, he re-wrote Snow Country as a short story titled Gleanings from Snow Country, which was only 13 pages. He didn’t summarize the novel, he just captured the essence. That’s the question every short story writer must ask: what is the essence of this story, and how can you tell it in as few words as possible?

    What tips would you offer to a writer attempting their first novel? Are there different tips for their first short story or piece of flash fiction?
    I think a lot of people hold themselves back from writing because they tell themselves they’re not “real” writers. That’s very unfortunate, because everybody who writes is a real writer in my book. The definition of being a writer is to write, and the way human beings make meaning in the world is through stories, and everyone has stories to tell. So the very fundamental thing is to believe in yourself, believe that you are a creator, believe you’re a writer, and write down your story.

    Another big thing to be a writer is commitment—to not wait for those moments of inspiration to strike in order to write, but to set yourself up with a plan and make writing a daily practice if possible. If you aspire to finish a novel or to publish it, it’s going to take a lot of commitment, and you’re going to go through a lot of moments that will feel dark, when you’ll doubt yourself or your story, so you just have to really believe in yourself, and develop a community that will help you believe in yourself, a network of other writers. We break down the mythology of the solitary author in NaNoWriMo by the various ways we provide community, both in person and online.

    In the end, the advice for writing a novel and writing a short story is very similar: believe in your story, follow your passions, and listen to what the story is telling you. Don’t think about what you should write but what you want to write. Just trust that in the practice of showing up every day, you will make the story better and better, and you’ll become a better and better writer.

    Aside from your own Pep Talks for Writers and Brave the Page (co-authored with Rebecca Stern), what books about writing do you routinely recommend?
    I am usually reading a book about writing, so I’ve read plenty of them. I find that just reading about writing on a regular basis helps feed the creative juices.

    =But there are three that I turn to the most. One is Annie Dillard’s The Writing Life, which is almost like a poem. Stephen King’s On Writing is wonderful because it’s one part memoir, one part writing tips and then he’s just a fabulous storyteller and wise about writing. And the small press Graywolf has this wonderful series called The Art of … and they’ve probably published 15 or 20 short books written by authors on different aspects of writing, such as ‛subtext’ or ‛suspense.’ They read like long essays or meditations. I find them wonderfully inspiring, so I oftentimes turn to those. And Chris Baty, the founder of NaNoWriMo, wrote a book called No Plot, No Problem that’s essentially the bible and the instructional guide to NaNoWriMo.

    There’s a long list of published novels that began life in NaNoWriMo (The Night Circus, Fangirl, Wool, Water for Elephants, Cinder, to name a few). Are there any lessons for aspiring novelists from these success stories?
    There are many lessons. Marissa Meyer has written many of her novels during NaNoWriMo. She told me that now that she has a publishing schedule, she can’t always do NaNoWriMo during November, but what I think is interesting is that she does her own private NaNoWriMo for every one of her novels. She sets aside 30 days and she writes as much as she can, and just gets the rough draft done and then goes on to revise it later. I think that’s a really good lesson—remember that you can make NaNoWriMo your own creative process beyond the events we host.

    Erin Morgenstern participated in NaNoWriMo way back in the early 2000s. And one NaNoWriMo, she took a fanciful detour in her novel, and that detour led her to The Night Circus, which she finished in a couple of the following NaNoWriMos. So be open to the detours.

    And then Gennifer Albin wrote Crewel during NaNoWriMo, after her husband joked that her obituary would read ‛the author of the most first chapters in the history of the world.’ She was an expert in writing first chapters, but she couldn’t go further, and that’s one of the premises of of NaNoWriMo, to write to the end. Don’t worry about making that first chapter perfect. You’ve got to write the whole novel first, and then you can go back and revise.

    On that note, Joyce Carol Oates has this great quote, ‛You can’t know the first sentence until you’ve written the last.’ So it’s not worth spending too much time laboring over the first sentence or the first chapter in the first draft because you’ll go back and change it anyway.

    Are you aware of National Novel Editing Month (NaNoEdMo)? Is it a good next stop for folks who succeed at NaNoWriMo?
    We actually have an initiative ourselves called I Wrote a Novel, Now What? It takes place in January and February, and we provide a lot of the same things that we do for NaNoWriMo, but focused on editing. We actually have tools on our websites so that you can set revision goals. So, say you wanted to spend 50 hours revising in the month of January, you can set that goal and track your progress to build in accountability and motivation. We also provide a number of editing and publishing resources through webcasts, podcasts, blog posts, conversations in our online forums, and more. We are big believers that rewriting and revising are very important,. The magic of NaNoWriMo is the goal and the deadlines—we say that a goal and a deadline is a creative midwife—and that applies for editing as well. Otherwise, editing and revising can go on forever, just as researching a novel can go on forever and prevent you from actually writing the novel. It helps for people to have really tangible, daily goals in order to stay focused on progress.

    What’s next for you in your own writing?
    I’ve got a few books in motion. I have a collection of short stories, All the Comfort that Sin Can Provide, that is with a small press right now. I’m nearly finished with my novel The Letters. And I am working on a nonfiction book on rejection, 13 Stories of Rejection, which will include profiles of different notable authors and their stories of rejection—how they faced the crisis of rejection, how they got over it, how they kept believing in themselves, and how they eventually published a book.

    13 Stories of Rejection sounds like a very useful book—it’s great sometimes to point out that everybody struggles; everybody faces rejection.
    To be an author is to be rejected. And, honestly, the interesting thing is that a lot of those best-selling authors continued to get rejected even after they became successful authors. So you just have to to develop the mindset that rejection is just an ongoing part of being a writer.

    If you’re participating in NaNoWriMo—or if you’re a past winner with a story you’re ready to share with the world—B&N Press is the easiest way for you to get your writing into the hands of readers. With a simple interface and customizable options to fit any project, you can take your writing from a text document to a finished ebook or print edition with ease, even if you have no prior experience with self-publishing tools. And within days, your book can be listed for sale right here on the Barnes & Noble website. To find out more about B&N Press, click here, and happy writing!

    The post Finding Your Pace: National Novel Writing Month Executive Director Grant Faulkner on How to Make Writing a Priority appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
  • Jeff Somers 9:04 pm on 2016/11/01 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , , , national novel writing month, , ,   

    Get Ready for National Novel Writing Month with 5 Fictional Authors 

    It’s that time of year again, the magical, horrible month when authors, aspiring and otherwise, attempt to write an entire novel in 3o days. Some do NaNoWriMo for the challenge, some do it to finally check write novel off of their bucket lists, and some do it just for the experience. Whatever your reasons, it’s always one of the most difficult and most rewarding writing exercises of the year.

    NaNoWriMo is like a marathon: it requires a lot of inspiration to get you over the finish line. This can come in many forms, but every writer knows that fiction itself is the most nourishing thing a writer can take in. Here are five novels about fictional authors that have something to teach anyone trying to crank out a novel-length story between now and November 30.

    Atonement, by Ian McEwan
    Lesson: Fiction is Powerful Stuff

    Spoilers ahead!
    McEwan’s twisty novel tells the tale of Briony Tallis, bestelling author. As a child, Briony commits a terrible act that impacts those around her in awful ways. As time goes by, however, the victims of her immature mistakes recover and go on to live their lives, although they refuse to forgive Briony even as she declares her intentions to do what she can to make things right. The final, devastating twist reveals that Briony has been writing the story all along, and rewriting history to make it happier—in real life her victims never recovered and died young, unfulfilled. The lesson in Briony’s deception is dark and powerful: your experiences are just the inspiration for your stories. Dark or not, the things that inspire you to write don’t have to be rendered accurately. As a writer, you can change everything to suit your purpose, so don’t hesitate to embellish, deceive, and omit.

    Breakfast of Champions, by Kurt Vonnegut
    Lesson: Novels Change Lives
    Kurt Vonnegut was a writer who somehow combined not taking himself seriously with powerful writing that still sparks arguments to this day. In Breakfast of Champions, Vonnegut’s alter-ego, writer Kilgore Trout (who appears in many of Vonnegut’s stories), travels to a low-rent convention in Ohio, where he’s destined to meet an insane fan who believes Trout’s speculative fiction is real. Vonnegut uses this premise, as always, to explore free will and existence in various absurd and darkly humorous ways, but the takeaway for anyone who finds themselves depressed and frustrated on, say, day thirteen of NaNoWiMo, is simple: what you write is like wild magic. Once it’s released into the world, you have no control over how it will affect other people. That sort of crackling, electric possibility should inspire anyone to finish what they’ve started.

    The Ghost Writer, by Philip Roth
    Lesson: Think Before You Write

    Nathan Zuckerman may be Roth’s greatest creation, an author avatar who remains fascinating throughout nine novels. In the first of the Zuckerman Opus, Nathan struggles with something all writers should think about: balancing honesty with artistry. As Nathan struggles with the fallout from writing about his own Jewish community in a negative way (prompting questions of his responsibility to not fan the flames of anti-Jewish sentiment versus his need to be honest in his writing), every author working on a NaNoWriMo book should take the hint and ask themselves some honest questions about their inspiration, motivation, and how their work might affect their intimates and the community around them.

    The Dark Half, by Stephen King
    Lesson: Don’t Shy Away from Darkness

    Writing is confessional. In fact, the more you attempt to obscure the personal demons and angels that inspire your work, the more artificial it will seem to readers. King’s horror novel is, on the one hand, the story of a writer whose public works don’t sell well, but whose trashy crime novels written under a pseudonym sell like hotcakes. When he “kills off” his pseudonym, however, his dark half seems to come to life and launch a violent killing spree. You’ll have to read the book to find out if he’s crazy or if there’s some other explanation, but the takeaway for a NaNoWriMo writer is this: don’t fight your true muse. If there’s daylight between the books you think you should be writing and the books you’re actually inspired to write, use this month to indulge your id and just write whatever your Dark Half wants to write. You’ll be amazed how easy writing suddenly becomes.

    Wonder Boys, by Michael Chabon
    Lesson: Just Finish It

    Chabon, inspired by his own out-of-control manuscript, offers up Grady Tripp, a writer who has been working on his second novel for seven years, amassing more than 2,500 manuscript pages. That Grady Tripp should be the patron saint of NaNoWriMo might not be obvious; after all, the point of this month is to finish a novel. But reading about Grady’s increasingly disorganized and hectic life is precisely the sort of inspiration you need, because in a sense that unfinished novel is the cause of all of Tripp’s problems. Reading Wonder Boys right before NaNoWriMo will offer up all the inspiration you need to ensure that on Day 30, you’ll be typing THE END instead of allowing your novel to spiral off into a madness of endless revisions.

    The post Get Ready for National Novel Writing Month with 5 Fictional Authors appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
  • Jeff Somers 6:30 pm on 2015/11/11 Permalink
    Tags: , , hugh howey, lessons, , national novel writing month, , , ,   

    Great Novels that Double as Writing Classes 

    Think of National Novel Writing Month as the Author Olympics: a crazy event that comes around every year and offers up a challenge that goes beyond sales numbers, advances, or any other data point used to measure success. NaNoWriMo asks a simple question: can you write a novel-length story in just one month? For years now, thousands of people have answered “yes.” True, not everyone succeeds (or likes what they wind up with), which can lead to frustration. The good news? You don’t have to take an expensive course or spend ten years in the desert eating mushrooms to become a better writer. All you have to do is read. For your NaNoWriMo training, here are five books that will teach you incredible lessons you can apply directly to your next work.

    Wool, by Hugh Howey
    Lesson: You can do it
    Howey is the patron saint of both NaNoWriMo and self-publishing. Wool proves to any aspiring author that not only can a great book be written in a month, but that just because a book was written over a short period of time, doesn’t mean it can’t be wildly successful. Howey’s not the only writer with a celebrated novel written in a month or less—Jack Kerouac wrote On the Road in a month, as did Anthony Burgess with A Clockwork Orange—but Howey’s all-in-one DIY aesthetic is the perfect modern-day proof that proves you can write that book this year, in 30 days or less, and publish it, too.

    Get Shorty, by Elmore Leonard
    Lesson: How to write believable dialogue
    To be fair, you could peruse any of Leonard’s books for an example of sparkling dialogue. He was a fount of writing wisdom, famously suggesting the best way to write an exciting plot is to “skip the boring parts,” but anyone tackling NaNoWriMo should take his dialogue lessons to heart because they’re so easy to implement. First, keep your speech tags simple—Leonard hardly ever deviated from a simple “he said/she said” pattern. Second, remember that great dialogue is more about rhythm than grammar. And finally, every word spoken should advance the plot or explain a character’s motivations. Every line should perform some useful work in your story.

    Great Expectations, by Charles Dickens
    Lesson: Complex plots don’t have to be confusing
    Again, we could choose any Dickens book for this lesson. While a 30-day limit likely means your novel will be fairly short, one mistake a lot of new writers make is assuming that complicated, character-packed plots either have to reach epic fantasy length, or must be incredibly difficult to interpret. (We can blame the postmodernist aesthetic for that.) While there’s nothing wrong with crafting a puzzle-box of a book, Dickens shows us you can have a plot that explores people’s lives and desires deeply and in intricate ways while remaining perfectly clear to the reader. No one ever had to create a complex infographic to explain a Dickens plot, yet his books remain challenging, satisfying reads.

    To Kill a Mockingbird and Go Set a Watchman, by Harper Lee
    Lesson: The power of feedback and revision
    Go Set a Watchman is basically a first draft of To Kill a Mockingbird; Lee’s editor rejected the book and advised her that the sequences where Jean Louise flashed back to her childhood were the strongest, and Lee’s rewrite became the Pulitzer-winning classic we know and love. While Watchman has great moments, if you read both books back to back, it’s obvious how great that advice was: Mockingbird is light years better. It’s a good reminder that just because you type THE END on your manuscript, it doesn’t mean your book couldn’t need some polish, and probably a thorough beta-read by several trusted (and honest) friends. Most importantly, seriously consider the feedback you get, even if it boils down to “only 5 percent of this book is worth saving.”

    The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams
    Lesson: If at first it ain’t a novel…keep writing
    On the other hand, sometimes a story needs to go through several stages before it attains its final form. Sometimes the things we write (especially the NaNoWriMo things) get away from us. Sometimes we can’t finish them, and sometimes we wind up with something that isn’t exactly a novel. As Adams proved with his hilarious sci-fi classic The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, what you start off with doesn’t have to be a story’s final form. Ideas can be revised, reused, and reinvented endlessly. Adams’ book started off as a series of radio scripts, and the basic story and characters were subsequently revised in many different forms before the novel appeared. If your NaNoWriMo book isn’t very good, or isn’t even a novel, don’t despair. Pick up the ideas you like and start again.

    NaNoWriMo is great fun, great practice, and can even result in a great book. Whatever you seek to learn from it, look to these books for the fundamental lessons that will get you over the hump.

     
  • Nicole Hill 4:00 pm on 2015/11/05 Permalink
    Tags: , , , national novel writing month, ,   

    The Book Nerd’s Guide to Failing NaNoWriMo 

    Welcome to the Book Nerd’s Guide to Life! Every other week, we convene in this safe place to discuss the unique challenges of life for people whose noses are always wedged in books. For past guides, click here.

    We’re five days into National Novel Writing Month. Hand check! Are yours glued to your keyboard, or have they wandered off to less taxing diversions, like flipping through the nearest already written book or, perhaps, etching a triptych into a cave wall? I thought so.

    Look, there’s no shame in being a NaNoWriMo dropout, or at least that’s what I tell myself. Sure, it’s still early. There’s plenty of time to get back on track. You can make up those 2,000 words. You’ll just tack them onto your weekend total! You make this vow five or six times. By the weekend, your target number to stay on course is 12,000 words in 48 hours. You write 1,500 and wander off to see if any Halloween candy has escaped consumption. Then you’ll watch just one episode of Gilmore Girls on Netflix.

    You never return to your novel.

    There are any number of ways to end up at this point. It turns out writing a novel is difficult, and time-consuming.

    Now, there’s lots of great advice out there for how to write NaNo into submission—including some of our own. But let’s be real: some of us are just never going to produce 50,000 words we’re decently pleased with in the course of a month. That’s nothing to be ashamed of. You’ve got significant others/kids/dependent mammals/jobs/bar tabs that fill up much of your time. The last thing you want to do at night is sidle up to a computer screen and think up names for a fictional hamster.

    I’m here to tell you that’s OK. As a veteran of such dismal affairs, I can safely say it’s all right if you…

    • Never got past the first paragraph because you couldn’t settle on a name for your protagonist’s love interest. (Marcus? Todd? Callum? Slade?)
    • Became uncomfortable with the degree your main character’s desire for purpose in life mirrored your own.
    • Ordered a pizza and never looked back.
    • Got lost in a “Worst Line I Wrote Today” forum thread for daaaaays.
    • Shelved your novel to write erotic fanfiction about some of the posts in the “Worst Line I Wrote Today” thread.
    • Could in no way come up with an appropriate deus ex machina after charging ahead without an outline.
    • Ended up hating one of your characters as a person so much you couldn’t continue writing her. #UmbridgeSyndrome
    • Found yourself at 40,000 words without a denouement in sight.
    • Spent so much time with Ctrl-F keeping your chief antagonist’s eye color straight that you missed several days’ word counts.
    • Got upset because NaNo has already yielded The Night Circus—so what is even the point—and ordered another pizza.

    All of this is perfectly reasonable. It happens to the best of us. (Well, maybe not the best of us, because, well, Night Circus, but whatever.) The best part about National Novel Writing Month is that it’s surrounded by 11 other months equally suitable for frantic word-slinging. Live every day like it’s the day you could finally sit down and crank out a masterpiece. It may not be how Hemingway did it, but it’s probably healthier.

     
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