You Too Can Write A Novel

The buzz for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) is in full swing on the writer’s blogs and chat groups.  I’m torn about participating this year. I probably will not because Book Two of The Black Wing Chronicles is in its second draft now and I really won’t have the time to crank out 50k words for fresh novel.

It’s a little-known fact that SOVRAN’S PAWN was a pinch-hit NaNo Novel. Two family crises in succession took the wind out of my sails for the Southern Humor story I was working on, so I replaced it with a the back story for my REAL novel, a space opera adventure on which I’d written nearly as many words. By the end of the month, I had the first draft for what would become SOVRAN’S PAWN, a novel I never intended to write. I mentioned the project in my personal blog that has pretty much sat disused since SOVRAN’S PAWN was released this past spring.

I considered the substitution cheating, but my NaNo buddies encouraged me to count it as a win since word counts had been comparable and I’d finished the first draft of the novel in the process.

NaNoWriMo is a wonderful exercise for writers and wannabes. I strongly encourage anyone who has entertained the idea of writing a novel to give it a try. The discipline needed to simply sit down and write to a goal, with no self-editing is an invaluable experience. So many writers get into the habit of not finishing things because they don’t finish a first draft, but continually revise and edit.

I learned several important things from my NaNo experience last year:

  • The first draft is a free-for-all death match between writer and self-editor. Anything, no matter how patently ridiculous, should be allowed in the first draft.
  • Daily word goals are important if you hope to make forward progress on a project.
  • It’s vital to be accountable to someone for your progress on your writing.
  • Don’t spend a lot of time rereading what you’ve written until the end of the first draft. It’s not supposed to be perfect. It’s supposed to tell a story.
  • It’s important to do as much advance planning and story mapping as possible before writing the first words on your first draft.
  • The outline is a suggestion, a guide to keep you from wandering too far into the wilderness, and it’s okay to stray a little if you discover something interesting.
  • Writers MAKE time to write, they don’t fiddle around wishing it would appear.

So if you’re planning on participating in NaNoWriMo this year, here are some links I’ve found helpful:

And, of course, here it is again:

Have You Played the Letter Game?

Have you ever heard of “The Letter Game?”

It’s very easy to play and a lot of fun. Anyone can play, writer or novice. Any number can play as well. It involves an exchange of letters or emails. The first player establishes his or her character, their situation, why they’re writing letters or emails and the identity of the person or persons with whom they are corresponding. Each player is responsible for developing their character and telling their part of the story. Plot, conflict, setting, and characters can all be developed this way.

The Letter Game has been used as a form of collaborative fiction or as writing exercises. Some books have even found publication after being written this way. In fact, that’s how I came across this game – I read one of the books!

The book was SORCERY AND CECILIA by Patricia Wrede and Caroline Stevermer. I was captivated by the idea of telling a story in that fashion. I’ve since played the game several times, with friends who were writers and friends who were complete novices, but possessed of excellent imaginations. One of those books has formed the basis for a SF adventure I’ve got simmering on the back burner, UNDERNEATH DEAD STAR. If the title sounds familiar, it’s also the title of a Blade Devon holofeature.

Yes, I do like things all neat, tidy and intertwined.

The great thing about using The Letter Game to tell a story and exercise your writing skills is that the setting and elements are virtually unlimited. DEAD STAR is set on a deep-space outpost on an asteroid near a star that is in its death throes at the edge of the known galaxy. SORCERY AND CECILIA is set in Regency England in an alternate reality in which magic is not uncommon.

Think of all the possibilities!

One of the most frustrating things for writers is the solitary nature of writing. The Letter Game provides a wonderful opportunity to interact with others within our own medium – kind of like a literary jam session, if you will.

In fact, this gives me an idea that I need to pitch to some of my sf writer friends who have suggested we all find a way to collaborate…


Have you ever tried a collaborative storytelling game?