Let me begin with a quote from William Shakespeare that I read in an issue of WWE Magazine.
“Be not afraid of greatness: Some are born great, some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon them.”
By now, you may be among those who pat themselves on the back for meeting or surpassing their quota or those who are tempted too smack themselves silly for falling short. Whichever of these two scenarios best fits your situation, you should be glad that you’ve made it this far.
I haven’t always been great at giving advice but here are a few tips to get your creative juices pumping before, during, and after the writing process.
1. Set little personal goals and exceed expectations.
Not only is this applicable in this year’s NaNo, but in anything you do. As for the case of NaNo, most of your fellow participants settle with 1,667 words a day to reach 50,000 at the end of the month. Instead of simply 1,667 words a day for the month of November, try reaching 2,000 words before bed time every day of this month. I did that in my second year and before I knew it, I reached 50k ahead of schedule.
Your personal goal need not be necessarily 2k a day. Your personal goal could be finishing a very important plot-relevant scene before going to sleep. Whatever your personal NaNo goals are, the list is up to you.
2. Don’t fret if you have writer’s block.
Procrastination is the writer’s enemy. If you experience writer’s block, don’t panic. You can draw inspiration from anything of the same genre. For example: If you have trouble coming up with a build-up for your Mexican standoff involving your main character who is a convicted felon, the antagonistic corrupt police chief, and the two-faced hitman hired to kill your MC, get ideas from crime novels or action flicks with a similar plot.
Chances are you might come up with ideas, but moderate your idea-getting. Don’t forget that you have a deadline to beat and, unlike publishers, you can’t cut a deal with Father Time to keep the clock stuck at the 11th hour.
3. Don’t hesitate to ask for help if necessary.
Michael Jackson wouldn’t have been crowned King of Pop without the help of the rest of the Jackson 5. Chuck Norris wouldn’t have been the star of “Walker, Texas Ranger” if Dean Martin didn’t offer him a role in “The Wrecking Crew”. Will Smith would have languished into rap mediocrity if The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air didn’t give him his big break in acting.
In the same way, some of us budding writers can’t achieve the 50k mark by ourselves. We have mentors and fellow PinoyWrimos willing to give you their (hopefully *wink*) unbiased critique, words of encouragement or, in my case, pep talks via mail. In my years as a NaNo participant, I have grown to love each one of my fellow PinoyWrimos as a friend or a sibling.
4. If you fail to win, there’s always next year.
Here’s the dialogue from an old commercial of Michael Jordan for Nike.
“I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times I’ve been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed. I have failed over and over and over again in my life and that is why I succeed.”
If you’re a newbie and you fall short of your quota, don’t worry. Most, if not all, of us have been there. In my first year, I didn’t win NaNo. In fact, I lacked the preparation for the whole month. I didn’t set out specific goals for NaNo that year. Basically, I was just in it for the hell of it. By December 1 at 12 midnight, I was about 8,000 words short of victory. But that didn’t stop me. Writing wasn’t always my forte but it was something I liked to do. My first year of NaNo was responsible for my drive to hone my writing skills.
Always remember, “The first draft is always s***.” You are out to write a 50,000 word novel due November 30th but your English teacher wouldn’t be checking your work. Leave your errors alone for now. Save your editing for later. Let’s say, a phrase doesn’t sound right. If the editing bug continues to bite you on the caboose whenever this happens, a trick of mine is to replace it with a different phrase with the same number of words.
5. Plan ahead of time if you can.
Sometimes, you have to pretend that this is an actual competition among writers. Race car drivers are each others’ friends but once the checkered flag is waved, they outrun each other to win first place. That has always been sort of my train of thought when it came to NaNo. The competitive spirit in me had always revealed itself in contests and sometimes, it pays to be competitive.
Pre-planning can be a tricky process. It’s as if you’re shopping for clothes because a lot of factors should be considered. In the case of writing, the factors are your elements of literature (plot, characters, setting, genre, etc.) and how you can fit your writing time in 30 days.
Planning early has its advantages and disadvantages. When you have a plot set early, you have the “edge” over your fellow PinoyWrimos but you can be confused easily when a new plot idea comes along. A quick suggestion is listing down plot ideas then consulting people near and dear to you on which to write. Best option though is to write what you feel you can pull off the best. Pick the plot where you can come up with the most scenes relevant to it.
Now that I have given you some wisdom about my writing tactics, I hope that this November becomes a fruitful month for pros and rookies alike. It ain’t over ’till the calendar says December 1 but procrastination is not an option. Winning is a primary objective but it’s not always “If you ain’t first, you’re last”.
Now you know and knowing is half the battle.
Emjay Lapus is a college student at the University of the Philippines Los Banos, taking up a Bachelor of Science in Development Communication, majoring in Educational Communication. This is his fifth year doing NaNoWriMo and he has been writing since he was 13 years old. He is known to love food, wrestling, video games, and basketball among other things. He also unofficially represented his alma mater, Claret School of Quezon City, at World Youth Day 2008 in Sydney, Australia and maintains a tumblr at http://hustlinontheflow.tumblr.com/