No, this isn’t a book review, but it’s directly tied to parenting, books, and writing, which is all I’m thinking about these days. November (which is VERY soon!) beings NaNoWriMo, which, for those not in the know, is National Novel Writing Month. I’ve wanted to try this for awhile, but alas, this is not the year for me. While I think it can be good to put down something you’re working on and trying something new for awhile, I need to finish the first draft of the book I’m on.
HOWEVER, it might be for you–or for your kid! They have a young writer’s NaNoWriMo as well, and you can find it here: http://ywp.nanowrimo.org/. If you have a middle school or high school-age kid that loves writing, they might enjoy this challenge. It sounds like a lot: 50,000 words in one month? But that is the whole point, and it is certainly doable. Of course, you are sacrificing some quality, but that’s also the point, to get kids writing, to get them to see their ideas (both good and bad) in print and to get past those demons that stop you and make you edit so much along the way that you never finish what you are doing. Of course, editing is good. And that is something that you can never pound into a kid’s head enough times. But in this case, at least, editing waits. At least until December.
Tips for doing this with a student or child:
- Don’t start with a blank page–start with a list of questions. Here are some examples:
- What kind of book do you want to write (adventure, scifi, romance, realistic fiction about school or life, etc.)?
- Think of three characters who will be in your book. One should be a main character. The others can be friends, parents, teachers, pets, enemies, friends-who-turn-into-enemies, enemies-who-turn-into-friends, etc.
- Give your characters names. I think this makes them easier to visualize and helps you refer to them. I love looking at baby-naming websites to help me with this. You can search for popular names or rare ones, for boy or girl names, for names from different countries of the world for international characters.
- For each character, think about who they are. What do they like to do in their free time? Do they like school? Do they have friends? Do they get along with their parents? What is their biggest wish in life (this might be the plot)? What are they really good at and what are they really bad at?
- Where will the story (or at least the first scene) take place? In a house? Bedroom? School? Sports field? Dark forest? Other planet? Write down a few descriptors of what it looks like.
- At some point, you just start writing. Visualize your main character and talk about what he or she is doing. And then see what they want to do from there. Often, they will tell you. DO NOT worry if you don’t know what the story will be or if you don’t know the ending–that will come organically.
- When you get stuck, check out the young writer’s NaNoWriMo site (linked above) for help!
- Recognize that it’s meant to be fun (although challenging). Don’t worry when the novel sounds terrible (it WILL; you are writing 50,000 words in one month!), and don’t worry when you get stuck. Just write. Hang your word count somewhere prominent in the house so that you know just how much you’ve done!
And when your classmates whine about the next 1,000-word essay they have to write, laugh in their face!
In honor of NaNoWriMo (although not as an official participant since I’m not following the rules), I’ve decided to try to write 50,000 words of my current book in the month. That should give me a finished first draft, if one that needs a lot of editing. But I’ve done a TON of editing on the first half of the book, and I won’t have anything to edit for the second half if I don’t write all those terrible sentences in the first place! In fact, I might finish before 50,000 words, but since I delete two or three for every one that I write, I’m not really worried about ending up with too many!
So wish me luck! And if you DO try this at home, have fun!