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No Plot? No Problem!

Share Your Story: How I Won NaNoWriMo

By timsored

No Plot? No Problem!

Tim in Hell's Kitchen.

Why I Did NaNoWriMo

I had always toyed with the idea of writing a novel. I had always written songs, poems and stories but never anything approaching 50K words. Then in a Barnes & Noble I found Chris Baty's book. NO PLOT? NO PROBLEM! That phrase grabbed me and drove me to the NaNoWriMo website.

My first time was 2006. I did not win that year but it was damn close. The story was about a relationship between a man and a woman. It turned out to be a huge flashback attempting to tell their backstories leading up to their present situation. It was probably too ambitious for my first attempt.

I am located in Manhattan.

How I Succeeded

Not winning in 2006 made me more determined to win the next year which I did. I finished a story called "Red Beret." I was fortunate to have a character in mind before I began.

Helping to get me through, in part, are the inspiring emails that NaNoWriMo send out during November from published authors who know what it takes to complete a book.

But the most important thing for me is a routine. I discovered if I wrote at about the same time each day and had bought my large coffee from the deli as a kind of treat, I was able to set off a kind of Pavlovian effect. My writing 'saliva' would begin to flow. My fingers began to pound out on my keyboard.

There are plenty of 'write-ins' that are scheduled by the local NaNoWriMo representative and plenty of writers take advantage of those but for me the solitary style is most helpful.

In 2008 I attempted an experiment; something I called 'The Movement.' I knew how to be disciplined and I did write many thousands of words but never reached the magic number. The experiment was to just write, push myself, but my characters never fully developed. i never had an overall character idea in mind even though some story did develop there were too many directions in which i splintered off.

Last year, 2009, I won again. With me I have learned that I need to have some clear idea of my protagonist. After one false start I discovered him. Then I used my routine of time and coffee to reach my goal. This book is called "Writing With Wine.' I am more or less in the middle of my second draft at the moment. Which I am discovering is even more of a challenge than the first draft.

Tips & tricks

  • Attempt to discover one clear idea
  • Use the NaNoWriMo site for inspiration and commiseration
  • Discover what routines and treats work for you
  • Dump your inner editor (that's advice from Chris Baty himself, that voice inside that constantly harps at you saying things like: this sucks, you're a horrible writer, stop wasting your time, give up, etc. etc.)
  • If you're not already doing this acquire more novels, many more novels and read, read, read.
  • Don't hesitate to do research on whatever matters might require it. This is time very well spent.
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