For most people, the change from summer to autumn means sweater weather, darker mornings, a chill in the air, and pumpkin spiced everything. But for writers, it means NaNoWriMo is just around the corner.
No, this is not some made up language, but an actual thing. And if you’re a writer, it’s something you should know and try at least once.
NaNoWriMo is short of National Novel Writing Month, and takes place every November, just as it has every year for the past decade or so. It’s a month when writers all over the world commit to writing a 50,000 word novel in the 30 days of November (which comes out to 1667 words per day). By the end of November, if you’ve succeeded in keeping up with your word counts, you’ll have a 50K word novel and can officially call yourself a novelist.
If you’d like to learn more about NaNoWriMo, you can visit my blog here, which will not only tell you some of the history around NaNoWriMo, but also give you 11 ways to “win” the month. Then you should sign up for your own account at NaNoWriMo.org. It’s fun, it’s free, and you’ll be in good company.
If you do sign up, be sure to “friend” me!
For those of you who are crazy enough to commit to the insanity, we only have two weeks left to prepare for November. My suggestion to you is to start thinking about story ideas. If you’re a plotter (vs. a pantser – a writer who writes the story by the seat of their pants), you may even want to start plotting.
It also doesn’t hurt to start prepping your mind for writing. To get you on your way, here are my favorite books on writing and creativity.
No Plot, No Problem, by Chris Baty
Chris Baty is the founder of NaNoWriMo, and this is the book that kind of spells everything out. I read this book before I even knew what NaNoWriMo was, and I loved how clearcut it was. Baty makes writing a novel sound easy. I mean, all you need to do is write every day. That’s not so hard, right? He offers a lot more tips than that, and almost every one of them are tips I employ in my own novel writing process. If you’re going to get just one book to prep you for NaNoWriMo, this is the one I suggest.
Bird by Bird, by Anne Lamott
I’ve read this book so many times, and my copy is always close by. What I love the most about Anne Lamott is how she gives people permission to be human, to suck, to fail, but to also keep going in spite of it all. This book is the birthing grounds of advice about “shitty first drafts” and to take each scene word by word, or “bird by bird.” Lamott mixes memoir with craft in this very conversational guide on writing. It’s like talking about writing with your favorite aunt, the one who loves you and thinks you’re brilliant (not the other one).
On Writing, by Stephen King
You cannot talk about writing books without talking about Stephen King’s memoir on writing. In this book, he pulls the veil back on how he makes each scene so evocative. If you’re looking for a book that will explain “show, don’t tell,” this is the one. Plus, you’ll get a sneak peek at King’s early writing career. Just about every writer I know owns this book. You should, too.
The Artist’s Way, by Julia Cameron
I am actually in the process of reading this book right now with a group of lovely women. I can’t believe it’s taken this long to read it, too, as I’ve owned it for years. My confession is that I thought I didn’t need it since I was already writing and publishing books. Wrong. I’ve learned so much about how to bring the joy back into writing, to play more, to invite more creativity in my life, and so on. This book is set up to be a 12-week course, but my friends and I are taking it a chapter per month over the next year. There’s so much packed into each chapter, I’m grateful to be taking it slow.
Reading Like a Writer, by Francine Prose
If you follow me here, it’s no secret I’m a huge reader. In fact, this year I’m on a 100-book challenge. But I’m not just reading to read – I’m learning about writing at the same time. While I’m reading, I’m paying attention to how the author introduces characters, sets the scene, offers insight and backstory, elicits emotion, and so on. I have Francine Prose to thank for that. This book shares what to look for in the books you read, and guides you into habitually reading like a writer.
Reclaim Your Creative Soul, by Crissi Langwell
This one, written by yours truly, was my answer to everyone’s question about how I’ve been able to write books while working a full time job, volunteering, raising a family, and all the other things that are part of a busy life. I share how I’ve organized my life to make room for my writing, the habits I’ve placed around writing, how I’ve fed my creative spirit, and so much more. I broke this book into five sections that deal with organization, soul work, creative life, writing boundaries, and tying it all together. I also help readers implement the guidelines I’m introducing through three-level challenges at the end of each chapter. My hope is that this book will help grow creativity and provide the permission so many of us think we need when it comes to making our creative lives a priority.
Happy reading, and happy writing!