Welcome home, villains!
So the silly season is once again upon us, that time of year where all sanity and reason abandon those writers possessed of the notion that committing fifty-thousand words in a single month is a good idea. What folly, to bleed upon their keyboards through November, as if their souls ache for torture like that willfully sought by those sinners hurling themselves into Dante’s sixth circle of Hell, intent on the corruption of that sacred process of creation known as writing.
But if ya gotta, ya gotta, I guess.
Last year, I wrote a piece offering suggestions on how one might make
novelist torture porn National Novel Writing Month easier on themselves. If you didn’t read that post, the villainous premise is simple enough:
#NaNoWriMo is not about writing a good book, it’s about getting 50K words into your document. Winning is all that matters, and you do that not by being a good, honest writer, but by hitting your daily word count, plain and simple.
I shared some villainous tips (as in things other
suckers writers won’t think “honest” or “scrupulous” or “fair”) on how to get your daily word count swole, but surely you didn’t think I gave away all the dark secrets in that single post, did you? If so, surprise, fools! Here are some additional rules for cheating winning NaNoWriMo.
Embrace the dark side, kids. We have better toys.
Rule 1 – The sky is not orange above dark cliffs and the crashing sea. It is a glorious, brilliant, multi-layered lemon, pineapple, and orange peel sorbet, stretching to the waking horizon, the gentlest and most shocking sunrise in all of history, above swelling and retreating waves the shifting, swirling, dazzling hues of emerald and sapphire glass, somehow clear and mysteriously opaque at the same time, beating like a god’s drum against gargantuan, monolithic obsidian cliffs razor-sharp and jagged from the billion-year-old war with the never-relenting azure depths.
Purple prose, ya’ll, or as I like to call it, adjectives-pa-looza. Normally you’d want to avoid this kind of embellishment because it slows your story down and overemphasizes something that has no real bearing on the scene, but during NaNoWriMo it’s good because you’re looking to get as many words on the page as you can. Who cares if your character is just driving by, pondering something unrelated, and will never return to that spot? Purple the Hell out of that stupid sky, cliff, and ocean. Devote three-hundred words to that shit if you can, and add some people, too, if you want. Then you can take advantage of Rule 2!
Rule 2 – Over-describe the ever-loving-crap out of your characters.
In most scenarios, giving your reader just enough description to kick their imagination on so they form their own picture of a character is what you want to do. Some common choices are height, body shape, hair/eye color, clothes, posture, etc., and of course any distinguishing characteristics like a spatula-for-a-hand or third nostril. That less-is-more nonsense doesn’t fly in November, though, at least not for us short-cut-seeking villains!
Gimme shirt buttons, shoelace length, what belt notch is, um, notched I guess, tie knot (yes, there’s more than one, heathens) fingernail status (neatly trimmed, chewed, Nosferatu-long), ear hair, nose hair, arm hair, facial hair, unibrow, hunch, eye glasses, contacts, jewelry, stance, armpit sweat, tattoos, piercings, moles, suspect moles, hairy moles, hand gestures, accents, amputations, affectations, salutations, and anything else you can think of. Make that initial description a page long, and then keep mentioning those things again and again. If yours was a published book, people would want to skip ahead every time you mentioned the guy spun his pinky ring, but the NaNoWriMo website doesn’t disqualify repetition when counting your words (more on this in Rule 5), nor will it give you a shitty goodreads review. Go nuts.
Rule 3 – Back story = winning.
Developing characters’ back stories is an essential part of rendering three dimensional characters for your readers, but most of that backstory should not make it into your book. All the reader needs to know are the things that relate to your book’s conflict. Anything else feels like stuff the reader can skip, or worse, filler you added to get to a certain word count. Guess what. During NaNoWriMo, that’s precisely what you’re doing!
Did a bully steal your MC’s moon pie in third grade, resulting in no actual scaring or life lesson? Whatevs, write it. Did they fail a test in junior high that got them a tepid reprimand from an A student sibling, something that didn’t impact their relationship in the slightest? Jam it in! If you’re having trouble figuring out where to insert these elements, just devote entire chapters to those irrelevant bullet points, fleshing them out like short stories. It doesn’t matter, except on the word count front, where it’s pure gold!
Rule 4 – Somebody doing nothing.
I’m going to go ahead and declare this one the villain-y-ist of all my existing rules. It’s the mustard gas of NaNoWriMo cheats, as in it could very easily blow back in your face. No risk no reward, right?
A top reason manuscripts get rejected by agents is the book is boring (fourth on that list). Nobody wants to read about someone sleeping/shaving/making coffee/looking out a window. Dull McDullface. BUT those things are easy to write because we all do them. Easy means fast. Sound like an opportunity for some NaNoWriMo villainy? Now you’re getting it.
Don’t start your scene where you should – with your MC already in his office three minutes before the guys with guns bust in – start it with his alarm clock going off a full two hours before he gets to work. Describe him slapping the alarm clock, rolling over three or four or ten times, having a hard time getting out of bed because Monday, yawning, crawling to the bathroom, emptying his bladder while wondering how much he had to drink last night and whether or not Denise will call, splashing water on his face, stumbling into the kitchen, fighting with the coffee maker, feeding the cat, dragging his stupid ass back to the bathroom, taking a goddamn shower, picking an ugly fucking shirt and OH MY GOD I WANT TO CLAW MY OWN EYES OUT!
Sorry. I told you this one is dangerous.
You get my point, though. This stuff is not fun to write or read, but sweet-merciful-crap! it’s perfect for NaNoWriMo. Do it right and a huge chunk of your fifty-thousand words will be stuff that would make any editor worth their salt jump out a window, but also help you dance your way to sweet, sweet victory.
Rule 5 – Alternate POVs for the same scene.
50K words sound like a lot? That’s because it is. To prepare, tons of writers
waste spend hour upon hour in October creating outlines and character diagrams and daily plans instead of putting out Hallowe’en decorations like they should (think of the children!). And why? Because they think they need to write an actual, you know, story. Nonsense! You don’t need a story, you need, once more, FIFTY. THOUSAND. WORDS.
So how do you reach your goal without having a complex outline or big idea? How about writing the same scene over and over again, but from different points of view (POV)?
Most scenes involve more than one character. Those characters interact with each other and their environment, and each will perceive all of it differently. Normally, we only get a single character’s impression of what happened, which is enough. This is how a story moves forward. That’s a good thing, except during NaNoWriMo where it’s entirely meaningless. We don’t need flow or pace or logic, we need words! So, instead of mapping out your magnum opus, go all Rashomon and tell the same short story (scene) over and over and over again.
I know, right?
If you want to be really crafty (villainous!), copy and paste the scene description and some (most) dialogue across each POV telling. Not in the mood to write? Don’t want to be like your friends moaning on Twitter about being behind? Copy -> Paste and BOOM! Time for Monday Night Football ’cause you done for the day, kid! That’s how you NaNo like a villain right there. *mic drop*
Well, that’s it for this year. I hope you enjoyed this write up and that it helps you on your path to NaNoWriMo success. If not, it’s probably because you ignored my advice because of some cowardly sense of righteousness or fair play or other shortcoming that has no business in winning a blog badge. Meh, it’s your sanity.
Thanks for reading,
(DISCLAIMER – If you’re new to my particular brand of tongue-in-cheek-ery, you may think this guide is serious. Good. Keep thinking that. Bwa-HA-HA!)