Limbering up for a Literary Marathon
October 08, 2012
You may think that aromatic quality in the air is due to the change is season, but really, it's something else-creativity igniting all around you. Next month is November, widely known as National Novel Writing Month or Nanowrimo- the wild literary endeavor where participants frantically write 50,000 words of fiction in 30 caffeine-fueled days (and many nights). In October, writers begin their stretches and breathing exercises in preparation for this month-long marathon of words.
As we limber up for Nanowrimo 2012, October is the time to start some basic preparations. In this week, I recommend creating what founder Chris Baty calls Magna Carta I and Magna Carta II, but I call it the "Do List" and the "Don't List." It's simple. Just think of everything you love in books, and whatever they are, write them down in one list. Then write down a second list of everything you hate finding in books you read.
The list of things you love is the "Do List," as in "Do put these things in your novel." The things you hate finding in books constitutes your "Don't List," as in "Don't waste your time putting these things in your novel." See, you will enjoy writing things that you also enjoy reading, and things that you hate reading about will be painful for you to write and painful for your future readers to read. Things on my "Do List" include: travelers, people out of their element, falling down, word plays, and prophecies that come true. And I have included each of these elements in my novels. Things on my "Don't List" include: violence and sustained, emotional agony. (I would tell you how much I hate drawn-out suffering, but that would sort of defeat the point.)
If you're not sure what to put in these lists, try flipping through some of the books you own, noting which passages you stop at to reread and linger over (these are for the "Do List"), and which ones you skip without even noticing (these are for the "Don't List"). As you generate broad ideas in the next few weeks about where your novel will go and what it will be about, make sure to include things from the "Do List" and banish things on the "Don't List."
So, stick with what you like. There's no need to do a carbo load for this marathon. This is an all candy and ice cream diet with not a hint of Brussels sprouts or lima beans.
Brian M. / wildcaard