How NanoWriMo Hones Your Fiction Skills

Cranky Cat demonstrates Butt in Chair

Cranky Cat demonstrates Butt in Chair

Only a few more days until November, when the 2014 NanoWriMo begins! Maybe you’ve done this before, or maybe you’re thinking about it for the first time. After a recent Writer’s Digest article about nano-ing all year-round, you may even be a little overwhelmed at the prospect. But NanoWriMo can improve your writing!

Writing Tip for Today: Even if you can’t “nano” every day of the year, November can still become a defining month for your writing skills. Here’s how:

BIC and More BIC

Doing Nano can help you develop the discipline you need to complete a novel. A lot of what is called “success” in novel writing involves showing up. A novel that’s “all in your head” doesn’t count until you write it down! NanoWriMo can aid in keeping your BIC (Butt in Chair) so you can get your ideas down. Pro writers don’t always “feel” like writing, and the elusive “muse” is often a no-show. But if you commit to sitting down and writing on a schedule, your novel will begin to materialize. Set a reasonable schedule and stick to it as much as possible.

Apply the Formula

Yes there’s a formula of sorts for writing a story of any kind. Usually, about 20% of the total word count is used to: Introduce and develop your lead character, introduce the main conflict and goals, the setting, and introduce at least one of the obstacles your character will face. The next 60% of your story further develops the characters and problems laid out in the opening and also increases in tension as you introduce complications, reversals and losses. At the story climax, you move into the final 20%. Here you have the “do or die” event where the character feels all is lost, until the character ACTS and either secures the goal or not. The denouement or resolution rounds out the story, with only a few possible endings: She gets her goal and is happy, gets goal and isn’t happy, or the opposite.

The More You Know

Finally, the more you write, the more your skills are liable to improve. Make a commitment to the writing craft this November. If you succeed at NanoWriMo, you’ll have at least 50,000 more words to add to your quest to learn to write a novel. The draft you pound out in 30 days probably won’t be polished. But you’ll have something to work on–and you can call yourself a writer.

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About Linda S. Clare

I'm an author, speaker, writing coach and mentor. I teach both fiction and nonfiction writing at Lane Community College and in the doctoral program as expert writing advisor for George Fox University. I love helping writers improve their craft and I'm both an avid reader and writer of stories about those with wounded hearts.

4 comments on “How NanoWriMo Hones Your Fiction Skills

  1. Okay, Linda. You talked me into it. I really wasn’t planning to participate in NaNoWriMo this year. I really wasn’t. Tried it once in the past and did not make it to the end. But after reading this post and most of the linked posts, then visiting the site…well, I’m in. I have only been in the area where I now live since January and I am hoping to connect with other writers, among other things. Moved to a small town from a large city where I was part of a couple of writers groups. I really do need this accountability and support. I need to FINISH a manuscript. Not just think about it. Write it. Thanks, Linda for the kick in the pants to get BIC.

  2. Donna,
    I’m so excited for you! YAY! Yes, use your Nano experience to 1) get a regular schedule down for writing 2)write FAST so you’re more likely to finish it and 3)come out with a lot more writing experience AND a complete draft to revise, rewrite, work on. Remember there are only TWO KINDS OF WRITING: Writing that works and writing that needs work. I’ll be cheering you on!
    Best wishes,

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