NaNoWriMo 1: The Rules of Writing

NaNoWriMo has become a venerable tradition, almost a holiday of sorts collectively celebrated by writers around the world. Its rules are straightforward: Participants are challenged to write 50,000 words of a new novel in the month of November.

You can sign up “officially” at the NaNoWriMo site and thus participate alongside hundreds of thousands of other writers. You can participate unofficially, just trying to make word goal or with your own somewhat altered goals (you might be working on an already started novel, for example). Some people love the idea, others scorn it. My own view is that the month itself can be a catalyst for some people, and I see that as a plus.

In fact, it’s what I’m doing. July 2013 through October 2014 have been a blogging hiatus for me (despite my seemingly constant presence on Twitter!) due to personal family reasons. However with three releases currently scheduled for 2015 I need to ramp up my online presence and get back into the habit.

Why? I don’t know. Probably no good reason except as a change of pace from writing fiction and because it makes me feel as if I am doing something productive.

Honestly, writing fiction in the privacy of my home (or at the anonymity of Starbucks) passes in a cloud of invisibility until there is a book on the metaphorical table. There’s nothing wrong with that. In many ways it is to the benefit of writers to not be constantly taking the temperature of the outside world (see this beautiful essay by Tricia Sullivan on the writer as amphibious).

To those who prefer to avoid this more plugged in and connected world I would say, Excellent! Do what is right for you!

For me, I need to talk a bit right now.

So for the month of November I’ll be writing up short blogs about writing and narrative, inspired by a Twitter conversation I had some weeks ago with Mahvesh Murad and Sunil Patel about the most basic building blocks of story and how to go from idea to narrative.

That means TODAY I will start with my RULES OF WRITING.

We must always start with the RULES OF WRITING, correct? Murder your darlings. Write what you know. The first sentence is the most important sentence. And so on.

I don’t really like “rules” of writing so I would rather give you Four Observations I have found valuable.

1. You can do anything if you can make it work.

2. As for writing process: Figure out what works for you (and then what works for any given individual project, because not all projects will process the same way).

3. Write what is in you to write.

4. Be persistent.


I’ll give each of those “observations” a separate short discussion in future weeks.

Meanwhile, whether you are participating in NaNoWriMo or not, if you are writing and whatever it is you are writing: Good luck!