Wednesday, October 28, 2009

NaNoWriMo & Fast-Draft: You Gotta Have Friends...

I was recently asked about how I stay inspired and motivated through something as grueling as the fast-draft process.

Fast-draft (for which author Candace Havens is a total go-getter and guru--she does workshops--check her out!) can totally tap you out, I’ll admit it. It can be brutal and frankly isn’t for everyone.

That said, here’s my go-to list for things to have ready for all future fast-drafts:

1.) A great AP (that’s “accountability partner” to you laymen out there ;-). An AP is like a cheerleader and a butt-kicker all rolled into one. S/he embodies the force of peer pressure (but uses his/her powers for good, not evil). My AP for my first fast-draft experience was author Ann Aguirre (author of GRIMSPACE, WANDERLUST, DOUBLEBLIND... BLUE DIABLO, HELLFIRE... the upcoming YA novel RAZORLAND...geez, I’m gonna have to stop mentioning her here because she’s so darned prolific—and she also writes under Ava Gray...). Ann was awesome. She checked up on my progress and cheered me on (she was often done with her 5k before I was done with mine—hey, I’m a horrendous typist ;-). She suggested getting a word counter to post on my blog (very good idea). Let’s make that #2...

2.) A word counter so you can keep track of your accomplishments. There’s a good one here... Know you’re going to do 5k each day (maybe a smidge more). As soon as you’re done, take a big breath, update the word counter and give yourself a big pat on the back—one more day down toward accomplishing your goal of completing a novel!

3.) A clear understanding of why you want (or better yet, NEED) to write this novel now. This is your intrinsic motivation. Your AP may be your extrinsic motivation, but let’s be serious. If you don’t want this badly enough you simply won’t succeed at it. My intrinsic motivation was a combo plate of writing weirdness: Pietr and Jess (my MCs) needed to get through book 3 in my trilogy without me losing the rhythm and I wanted to get it roughed out so as soon as my editor sent book 2 back for revisions I knew what I’d need to round out book 3 quickly. Write your WHY I NEED TO WRITE THIS NOVEL NOW reason on an index card or a sticky note (or a few of them). Post it somewhere you’ll see it early each day and use it to psyche yourself up. Read it out loud if it helps. Nod while you read it. These verbal and nonverbal affirmations will help set it in your mind.

4.) The four Cs: Caffeine, Cereal, Casseroles and a Crock-pot. ;-) The caffeine’s for you. I take mine in the form of a fancy coffee when I’m doing a brutal job writing something (it’s like a little treat because you’re settling in to do what you promised). If I don’t have time to make fancy coffee I’ll have a chocolate-covered espresso bean or three. ;-) The cereal’s your easy out for breakfast. Get a “good-for-you” variety and consider passing its consumption off by saying you want a healthier family. ;-) The casseroles and Crock-pot are related to the prep you need to keep your family from the brink of starvation (or from bankrupting you by ordering too much takeout). Find a few simple recipes in advance and keep things simple so you can focus on your writing without skimping on necessities.

5.) The basic tools of a writer close at hand and in good working condition. If you write longhand (bless your heart ;-) have all your pencils or pens (plus a dozen extras) and your paper supply stocked. If you use a computer make sure it’s healthy (and that you send yourself back-up files via email every night).

6.) A box for your internal editor (figuratively speaking). Perhaps some duct tape... You don’t want that pesky voice of doubt anywhere near you during this time. Fast-draft is not a time to second-guess yourself. It’s a sprint all the way to the finish line. So ignore that nagging voice of criticism.

7.) Playlists. I’m a sucker for good music and finding songs that fit a character’s personality, mood or an action sequence just make me eager to write. I don’t always use them as I’m actually doing the writing, but listen to one or two either after I’ve finished a section or before I’m ready to start.

8.) Laundry done as far in advance as humanly possible. This may not keep you motivated, but it’ll keep your spouse from grumbling too frequently. Oh, let’s also add this...

9.) A relatively clean house to start (it will fall into shambles as you reach the climax of your story, so consider what you—and your loved ones—can live with).

Other things I make sure I have on stock for this sort of insanity: salmon (hey, fish is brain food and you’ll be using the heck out of your grey matter—better feed that brain), nuts (also brain food), chocolate (because it’s just goood—and it’s like a mini-celebration).

At the end of your fast-draft experience it is important (so VERY important) to reward yourself. I don’t think people celebrate the small successes in life often enough and you may be tempted to say when you’re done, “It’s only a rough draft...” DON’T. That rough draft shows that you have the passion, courage and commitment to pursue your dream—it’s nothing to dismiss. It says a lot about you.

What did I do to celebrate succeeding at my first fast-draft? I went to my favorite coffee shop ALONE, ordered a Nescafe Frappe Mocha, watched the big screen tv, then went out and bought a Linkin Park CD and a hardcover book. Yeah.

Will you have to edit your fast-drafted novel later? Sure. Everybody winds up editing something out or in to what they’ve written, so suck it up. ;-) And remember to give yourself the credit you deserve for doing something most of humanity will never, ever do—writing a novel.

Everybody talks about doing it, but you aren’t everybody. YOU actually will do it. Now you know you can succeed at this, go out and find a decent AP. They’ll make a big difference in the process. Hey, you gotta have friends... ;-)

Good luck!
~Shannon (Shannon_Delany at NaNoWriMo)


Katiebabs a.k.a KB said...

I made 51k last year in nanowrimo. I am pushing for 60k.

God help me. LOL

Shannon Delany said...

LOL--Katiebabs, I'm glad you succeeded your first time out with NaNo. 60k's even a bigger goal to hit (but closer to industry novel standards), and I'm sure you can reach it. :-)

God help us both! ;-)

SarannaDeWylde said...

I love this Fast-Drafting! I'm a big fan.

All of your suggestions make perfect sense and so far, your great advice has been helpful to getting past that mental block of how much I think I can do in a day or a week.

I'm lucky that my kids and my husband understand my writing bug. Maybe not understand it so much as they are willing to support it.

I'm doing NaNo this year too. I wasn't, but I decided I want to get the new novel done before December so why not? I am hoping to have 20K to start with and then add 60K to it for NaNo and viola, I have 80K.

Casse AKA Catholic Kittie said...

I noticed with me if I don't write it fast, it won't be written. I end up procrastinating myself out of a novel! lol It also helps if you don't have someone asking 'are you planning on showering today?' I warn my friend, writing isn't pretty accept it or see ya in December.

Shannon Delany said...

Saranna--I think having the support (or at least understanding) of family and friends when writing is SO important. It says a lot about a person when they manage to surround themselves with other good people. ;-)Good for you setting such a word goal that stretches before and during NaNo! And--you BETTER buddy me at NaNo (otherwise I shall pout). ;-)

Casse--I love that "writing isn't pretty"! LOL SO true! I agree with you about the writing quickly aspect of all this helping to push us forward. A friend recently presumed that since I'm doing stuff like this (and Textnovel previously) maybe I'm just not intrinsically motivated enough to write. I did NOT snort into the phone, but gently corrected her. I MUST write but I love running (er--writing) with a pack of crazy, howling aspiring authors who've boxed up their internal editors. I think NaNo's going to be great fun!

Now I need to hop back over there and see if you all are on my Buddy list... Bwa-ha-ha!

Anonymous said...

This absolutely rocked, Shannon. Thank you for taking the time to spell out the fast draft process. You opened my eyes to some aspects I'd not considered.

We're already on each other's buddy lists for NaNo (and if not, we better fix that!), so will be keeping each other honest. I'm thinking after this article, you're going to be AP to several wrimos!

Take care,
Jessica Rosen