Thursday, November 2, 2023

NaNoWriMo '23 -- It's All About Me! (And You Too!)


So here we are again: November and National Novel Writing Month and the eternal question: Why am I doing this??

Because I love it, I suppose!

Whatever the reason, this year has found me throwing myself into creative challenges with more than reckless abandon. I had barely recovered from July's Camp NaNoWriMo when I decided to go for Inktober '23 (31 days of daily ink drawing with mandatory social media posting) and then the next thing I knew I had to do "the real" NaNoWriMo . . . and off we go.

When I first thought about signing up for NaNoWriMo 2023, my intention was to simply continue the story I had started in July. Although I had reached my 50K goal, the manuscript was in no way complete, so it made sense to think November would be a good time to write another 50K to finish things off. 

That all changed several weeks ago when I couldn't sleep one night and got up to write instead. Suddenly I was immersed in a new story, one I hadn't expected to write and one I didn't really want to write. Working on a "shiny bright idea" with so many other projects calling for attention felt like a very bad idea. But there it was and it wouldn't go away so I thought, use it for NaNoWriMo!

While it was easy enough (maybe too easy) to switch gears into a new plot and theme, the abruptness of the change didn't give me any time to assemble my usual scrapbook-style journal of prompts and photo references. I had a great journal full of mood boards and creepy settings to use back in July, but there wasn't a single item I could use toward my new story. Very quickly I had to come up with an entirely fresh approach: rather than rely on my usual magazine cut-outs, I could dive into my own life and make the prompts all about me! (Sort of.)

I was inspired by the example set by one of my Twitter (X) friends, writer and poet, Janis La CouvĂ©e, who is currently exploring memoir writing. Her recent tweets on the subject reminded me of a workshop I had taught while I was living in Carrollton, Georgia: "Write Your Memoirs, You're Never Too Young To Start." It was a fun class and I know of several full-length manuscripts that were written for both family record-keeping as well as more general publication. However, other than a blog post with the same title, I haven't thought of memoir for a long time until it occurred to me that using prompts from my own daily life and memories could be what I needed for NaNoWriMo. 

In other words, I'd be "memoir writing" but with a twist. I could assign my memories to fictional characters who could take them wherever they wanted to go. For instance, as a small child I wanted to be an archaeologist, something I obviously never did (unless you count Albuquerque yard work as a trial run), but a fictional character could actually work for a museum.

With that direction in mind, I've made a quick 30-day list I'm happy to share for any kind of writing you might be doing this month yourself, whether it be NaNoWriMo, a genuine memoir, or even a month of poetry.

Taking the words: "base a scene on," or "your main character remembers (something from the list) which then triggers (action or emotion)," try:

  1. A favorite song.
  2. A disliked poem.
  3. Most hated childhood food.
  4. Most frightening moment.
  5. Happiest day.
  6. Three items inside your handbag or pockets.
  7. Three items of clothing you love.
  8. Three items of clothing you never wear.
  9. Favorite pet.
  10. Worst day of school.
  11. Your best childhood friend.
  12. A letter you never wrote.
  13. Favorite book: go to page 93 and use the first line you read.
  14. A restaurant you would never go to and why.
  15. Your attitude to shopping.
  16. A hobby or skill you would love to have.
  17. A place you have always wanted to travel to.
  18. Favorite color.
  19. Most disliked color.
  20. Your last argument.
  21. Something you're allergic to.
  22. Your car (or lack of one).
  23. An item in your house you wish you could get rid of.
  24. An item you wish you still had.
  25. Greatest fear or phobia.
  26. Housework.
  27. Favorite movie.
  28. What you are wearing this very minute.
  29. What you really want to say to your neighbor(s).
  30. Your daily routine as it is now, or how you'd like it to change.

And there you go: 30 prompts for 30 days! Feel free to use them in daily order or for a more spontaneous writing session, mix them up and use at random. Or add your own ideas; after all, you know your own life best!

Tip of the Day: Although NaNoWriMo requires both planning and organization, you can still start a day or two late and be a winner. One way I'm focusing on writing, and writing only, is to clear my work space and limit my writing tools to the basics: my Alphasmart; a lined notebook for writing in cafes, parks, or the middle of the night; and a new sketchbook with a small number of my favorite pens and pencils. The sketchbook is for visual brainstorming in between writing sessions and to keep the creativity flowing whenever I need a break. Now to go write my 50,000 divided by 30 equals 1666.666 words for the day. Happy November! Happy Writing!