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If you haven’t even touched your novel yet, don’t panic! Welcome to week one.
As an eight-year veteran of this insane writing challenge I can tell you there always comes a moment when I want to give up immediately, and it almost always happens in the first week. The problem lies in the fear of the blank white page.
You know what I’m talking about. You flip to that fresh page in your notebook, or open a crisp new Word document, put fingers to the keyboard poised to begin your noveling adventure, and…nothing. Absolutely no words come out and your mind has gone as blank as your page.
You are not alone.
What is happening is that you haven’t quite gotten away with that perfect murder of your inner editor. It is still around, letting you know that you better have one hell of a perfect first sentence if you are going to write a novel, and that is paralyzing you with fear. Send that inner demon packing, offer it a nice vacation in your subconscious and all the margaritas it can handle, and then tell yourself that whatever your first sentence may be, it doesn’t need to be perfect. To conquer NaNoWriMo you just need to get words on a page.
Put any and all words down that pop into your head, and if you must eliminate some of them do not delete! Highlight, italicize, or
strike through but do not delete. This is a mind-over-matter game and seeing those words on the page, even in a crossed out form is going to help your brain know that you are in it to win it. Even if it is as simple as writing out:
This is the phenomenal opening sentence to my soon to be critically acclaimed debut novel, and I will return to this place later, at another date, when inspiration strikes to mold this sentence to my every whim, and leave an impressive hook for readers just embarking on this reading adventure.
Not only do you have words on a page to visually reinforce that, yes you are capable of writing something, but you also have already knocked out 50 words! Highlight what you want to revisit, ride that momentum and keep typing until story starts flowing.
Don’t be afraid to leave out important details like character names, locations, or dates. These details will come to you later and as long as you leave a placeholder you can go back and fill them in later.
“One of the best pieces of advice I ever got was from the amazingly talented Billeh Nickerson. I was talking to him about the trouble I was having getting through my first draft, because every time I started writing I would go through everything I’d already written. Which was giving me less and less time to move forward. And he was basically like, ‘Move on. Don’t look back yet. Get it done.’ And it’s true. You have to get to the end, first. Then you fix it.”
Our next blog post will delve into finding the optimal writing time to hit your stride, and how to get away with writing at work (eek!).
You will hear these two terms thrown around NaNoWriMo possibly more than any actual writing takes place. The great plotting vs. pantsing debate has been raging since there have been stories. If you want to participate in November’s festivities but don’t know how to even go about trying to write a novel in an appropriate amount of time let alone 30 days, here are some options for you to consider.
Plotters are people who sit down and really plan out their novel before they start. They have fleshed out characters, story arcs, sub plots, and world building under their belts before they even begin to write. They use their notes like a skeleton and build their novel from the meticulous notes they’ve made.
Plotting your novel necessitates prep time to research, contemplate, and properly plan your novel chapter by chapter. Since NaNoWriMo essentially robs you of any luxurious prep time you might have counted on and demands you devote all waking hours to writing for the next 30 days, plotting becomes difficult, but not impossible.
If you feel you need to have a plan before you can begin writing, here are some tried and true methods favoured by WriMo’s and professional authors alike:
Was all that a little overwhelming? Then you might want to try:
Also known as just winging it. Pantsing involves various degrees of preparedness (usually little to none) and Pantsers may sit down to write without having any of the above mentioned elements like plot, characters, setting or even the vaguest idea about what they want to write. They put fingers to the keyboard and words come out.
There are pros an cons to each method, being a plotter involves having a roadmap to the finish line, but many Pantsers feel that laying out what happens scene by scene leaves no room for spontaneity or creativity in the writing process. Likewise, Plotters feel that people who sit down to embark on a novel with plan but a story in their hearts and the will to write it must be senseless, especially to enter into a month long challenge to write a book.
Plotting and Pantsing are not mutually exclusive, however. Often Pantsers will find their inspiration half way through their work and map out a loose structure for the rest of their novel, while Plotters may find they have written themselves into an inescapable plot hole of doom and find it necessary to throw caution to the wind and abandon their coveted plan. You can use any of these methods in combination with each other.
If you truly don’t know where to start, take inspiration from an author you admire. Brilliant author A.L. Kennedy has collected all of her thoughts about the craft in her book On Writing, as have many other authors.
Check out this great post from the NaNoWriMo Blog about the Plotting/Pantsing Debate, and prepare yourself, whatever method you choose, because NaNoWriMo kicks off at midnight.
Yeah, we’re going to need you to sign this form.
While this seems like a trivial exercise, remember that you are signing a contract with yourself to allow your creativity to flow unhindered for the month of November. You are allowed to produce bad writing, flat characters, uninspired dialogue and any number of potential writing sins. It’s okay, we promise. NaNoWriMo is about quantity over quality, and we are going to hold you to that promise. This contract also reminds you of your looming deadline (November 30th!).
Print this document out, sign it, and post it in your writing space as a daily reminder.
You are going to need some supplies before you set out on this manic journey but first, you are going to have to kiss your loved ones goodbye. You are going to have to cut back on the time you spend out and about with your friends and family. Our solution to this problem is to obviously trick them into participating in NaNo with you; however, this venture is not for the faint of heart so don’t be surprised if they laugh at your proposed November activity.
That doesn’t mean they won’t be useful during the month though! Recruit friends and family to hold you accountable over the month. Humblebrag far and wide that you will have a completed novel in 30 days and in doing so you can bet your loved ones will hold you to that claim. The most common phrase you are going to want them to repeat to you this month is “Shouldn’t you be writing?” – chances are you probably should.
Decide how you want to log your words. While there is something romantic about a fountain pen and a roll of parchment or trendy about the travelling typewriter, both are impractical for NaNoWriMo. There are WriMos who choose to use both of those tools, but we recommend a word processor. Choose whatever software you are comfortable with: Word, Pages, Open Office, Scrivener, each have their own pros and cons.
Though we just mocked doing it the old fashioned way, do keep a pen and notebook handy at all times. Inspiration, as a rule, strikes when you are trying to do anything but write. Authors have reported plotting whole chapters in their heads while taking a bath, coming up with the best character while skydiving, or thinking of some majorly epic dialogue while driving. Use whatever tools at your disposal to get those ideas down. Scribble down your ideas on whatever is available, and if your hands are not free, use your phone to record your notes.
You will also need a reference book. Here at Anansi we use The Chicago Manual of Style. You could also use an online reference, or pick up your favourite book and look to it for answers on formatting or style (we recommend Girl Runner by Carrie Snyder).
In his guide to NaNoWriMo, Chris Batty recommends you have a writing totem, and we agree. A writing totem is an item you bring out when it’s time to get down to serious business, and it is the most fun when it is an article of clothing or something you can wear on your person that will not inhibit your ability to write. For example, our marketing intern wears her R2-D2 socks when it’s time to put words to a page. Your totem could be something as simple as socks or as elaborate as a Viking helmet, or a cape, or a wig, as long as it makes you feel powerful and creative like a writer.
You are going to need to eat at some point over the month, and in times of stress you are probably going to want to eat a lot. Take a trip to your local bulk food store and stock up on snacks that are easy to reach for while typing. Prep your veggies ahead of time so you just have to pop to the fridge to be in snack city. Above all try to make meals that will yield a lot of leftovers so that all you have to do is quickly warm up something and spend less time cooking and more time writing.
While we are on the subject of consumables, you are probably going to want to arm yourself with the caffeinated beverage of your choice. Be it coffee, tea, something sugary and carbonated, you will need it in mass quantities.
One of the most important steps in preparing yourself for the month is plotting the perfect murder. Unfortunately we are going to need you to kill off that nagging voice inside of you that haggles you when your sentences are not perfect or flogs you with self-doubt. This person is your inner editor and it wants to waste your time this month fiddling with sentences or making sure things are grammatically correct. Ain’t nobody got time for that. You have to write 50,000 words in a month, there is no time to continuously go over what you’ve already written and try to beautify it. Press on! So do whatever you have to do to get rid of that little voice for the month (we won’t turn you in we promise); there will be plenty of time to resurrect it in December when it is time to edit.
We’re sorry we didn’t leave you much time to prep this month, but the supplies for NaNoWriMo are not difficult to amass. All you really need is your imagination and a way to write. For more inspiration check out what others include in their survival kits.
In the next blog post we will get into writing methods (plotting vs. pantsing) and which one you should go with this November.
November is a month of many events: Guy Fawkes Day, Remembrance Day, a month of moustaches grown aplenty. But no other event is more exciting for those of us up to our elbows in books and pens than National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo).
This November, House of Anansi is taking the plunge and challenging ourselves to knock out a 50,000 word manuscript in just one month, and we want you to join us!
Started in 1999 by visionary/madman Chris Batty, NaNoWriMo is a way to challenge yourself to sit down and write the book you think you never have time for. Starting on November 1st, challengers will have the 30 days of November to compile 50,000 words. Sound easy? Well it is and it isn’t…
We know, it sounds crazy. How can anyone expect to write a publishable novel in only 30 days of break-neck, caffeine-fueled writing? But NaNoWriMo isn’t really about that. WriMos (participants) around the world find that forcing themselves to actually sit and put words to a page on this kind of strict deadline allows them to tap into the crazy well of creativity that has always been bubbling just below the surface. The goal is just to write; not edit, not judge, or criticize; write, and see what you can come up with in 30 days. The only stipulation is that you must start from scratch on November 1st. You can bring research or notes with you that you have compiled before hand, however you must not have any words of your actual manuscript written.
In order to arrive at 50,000 words by November 30th, you must write 1666 words a day. Many participants like to use the naive exuberance of the first week to build up a healthy cushion of words before hitting the second week mental block. You are more than welcome to write more than 1666 words per day, in fact it is encouraged and recommended, and in some cases absolutely necessary if you fall behind.
While NaNoWriMo seems like an insane venture in masochism, it is actually quite fun! We’ve heard all manner of excuses, from not having enough time in the day to write, to not having any research or plot. Lucky for you the official motto of NaNoWriMo is “No Plot? No Problem!” – WriMos are encouraged to let their creative imaginations guide them and to not get bogged down in problems that can be fixed during the editing process. Once you start, you will discover that writing is an addicting process and you will find time in the day to do so when you previously thought writing wasn’t possible for you. You will write during your lunch hour, you will write on the train to work, you will write on the toilet, and you will write when you previously would have been spending time with friends and loved ones. NaNoWriMo requires you to sacrifice your free time but rewards you with a life-changing experience of witnessing your own authorly potential.
Over the course of the month, Anansi wants you to take this writing adventure with us. We’ll be helping you along with tips and tricks, motivation from your favourite Anansi authors, Twitter writing parties, and even a few book giveaways!
If you want to learn more about NaNoWriMo, we recommend the resources on their official site, and that you join the forums where you will find a community of thousands of other participants around the globe who are supporting each other. For more local support, you can follow the Toronto gathering of WriMos (@TONANO) using the hashtag #TONANO, or go out to some of their write-ins and get the most out of your NaNoWriMo experience! Also, keep an eye on the Anansi Twitter for the writing events we will be holding online.
Let’s all write a novel, it’s going to be amazing fun!
Halloween is just around the corner, and though horror movies get all the attention this time of year there is nothing like a spooky, gut-wrenching read on Halloween night to make an adult sleep with all the lights on and huddle under the blankets with all their limbs tucked in. I’m talking about the truly disturbing novels, the ones you couldn’t sleep with in your room and would creep downstairs to stow in the freezer overnight, you know, for safety purposes. Here are three of Anansi’s most sinister reads:
Walt by Russell Wangersky
Walt is a grocery store cleaner who collects the shopping lists people leave in the store and discard without thought. In his fifties, abandoned, he says, by his now-missing wife Mary, Walt is pursued by police detectives unsatisfied with the answers he’s given about her disappearance.
Almost invisible to the people who pass him every day, the grocery lists he collects, written on everything from cancelled cheques to mortgage statements to office stationary, give him a personal hold over those who both ignore him and unwittingly disclose facets of their lives to him.
When a new cold case squad is formed in St. John’s to look into Mary’s disappearance, the detectives begin to realize that Walt may be involved in more than just his wife’s disappearance.
Set in modern-day Newfoundland, after reading Walt, you’ll be sure to never let your shopping list fall to the floor ever again.
Die With Me by Elena Forbes
Die. Die with me. Be mine forever. That’s what he had said.
When fourteen-year-old Gemma Kramer’s broken body is found on the floor of St. Sebastian’s Church in a quiet London suburb, the official ruling is that she jumped to her death from the organ gallery. But when a witness claims to have seen Gemma kissing a much older man outside shortly beforehand, and a toxicology report reveals traces of a date-rape drug in the girl’s system, a murder investigation is launched.
At the helm is Mark Tartaglia, a stubborn detective known for following his hunches. It’s Tartaglia’s first time in charge, and he walks right into a political minefield as the murder squad turns up three more suspicious deaths — all originally ruled suicides — involving vulnerable young women falling from high places.
Can Tartaglia and his team connect the dots between victims in order to find a serial killer with a chilling predilection for lonely girls and deadly heights?
Weirdo by Cathi Unsworth
Weirdo is an atmospheric thriller about a teenage girl convicted of murder in a 1980s seaside town and the private investigator who reopens the case to discover that she may not have acted alone . . .
Corinne Woodrow was fifteen when she was convicted of the ritualistic murder of her classmate in a quaint seaside town. It was 1984, a year when teenagers ran wild, dressed in black, stayed out all night, and listened to music that terrified their parents. Rumours of Satanism surrounded Corinne and she was locked up indefinitely, a chilling reminder to the parents of Ernemouth to keep a watchful eye on their children.
Twenty years later, private investigator Sean Ward — whose promising career as a detective with the Metropolitan Police was cut short by a teenager with a gun — reopens the case after new forensic evidence suggests that Corinne didn’t act alone. His investigation uncovers a town full of secrets, and a community that has always looked after its own.
We’ve all been there: you have three condiments and an old zucchini in the fridge, and somehow you have to turn that into a viable meal. You want to try out a recipe that is Pinterest worthy, but you can’t find any of the bizarre ingredients listed and, frankly, the instructions are so confusing that you may as well give up before you even start.
You are in a codependent relationship with your delivery guy and it just isn’t healthy anymore.
If you saw this week’s post from editor Meredith Dees, you know that excitement levels for our new cookbook are at max. We’ve been cooking like crazy in the office, and it has been yummy and fun. Cooking at home shouldn’t be an endless struggle. It should be delicious, healthy, and easy. House of Anansi and Thug Kitchen want to give away four copies of Thug Kitchen: The Official Cookbook, so you can start eating like you give a f*ck.
Each Friday for four weeks, we will release a new recipe from the cookbook. We want you to cook it, eat it, tweet or Instagram a picture of your sweet, delicious victory, and tag @HouseofAnansi and #ThugKitchen.
You have from now until Thursday at 5pm to enter. When the contest closes, we will draw a winner from that week’s entries. The winner will be announced on Friday along with the release of a new recipe (and a new chance to win!)
If you don’t win the first week, you’ve got three more chances, so keep checking the blog! The contest is open to Canadian residents with the exception of Quebec (sorry guys).
One copy of Thug Kitchen: The Official Cookbook, two decals sporting your new cooking manifesto, and one badass tote so you can grocery shop like a champ. We’re going to give one of these prize packs away every week for four weeks in a row.
“Grits don’t get enough love at breakfast. They are creamy, slightly sweet, and full of fiber. You’ve had enough oatmeal; it’s about damn time to try something new.”
Makes enough for 4, or a solid solo breakfast for 4 days
2 cups water
2 cups almond or other non dairy milk
1 cup stoneground grits (not that instant bullshit)
¼ to ½ teaspoon salt
1 to 2 teaspoons maple syrup or your favourite liquid sweetener
Your favourite jam
1. Grab a medium saucepan and bring the water and milk to a boil over medium heat. Gently whisk in the grits and ¼ teaspoon salt. Don’t just dump it all in and spill water everywhere – show some fucking care, man. Bring it all to a boil and then reduce that heat to low. Cover the pot and then let that deliciousness simmer for 20 minutes. Stir the fucker on occasion while you sip your coffee and troll the Internet, ‘cause you don’t want anything sticking to the bottom.
2. When the grits have absorbed most of the liquid and are tender, turn that flame off and add 1 teaspoon of maple syrup. Taste and add the rest of the salt and syrup if you think it needs it. That’s on you. Serve with a small scoop of your favourite jam on top and some fresh berries so it looks all classy as fuck.