It has been said that writers are a breed apart. Some of us who are actually good at their craft are akin to super heroes – wrestling sub-plots like out-of-control fire hoses, lassoing themes before they gallop off into the dark recesses of Never To Return Land, and gently guiding their hero around the spot where the piano’s going to fall even if they whinge about missing their morning coffee, all in order to write the best story they can. Well, not all of us are like that. We can, however, pretend we’re Super Writer, and NaNoWriMo proves to be the perfect Super Writer platform. Lots of Super Writers gathering together in a virtual world racing each other and the clock in their quest to wrangle, lasso and eventually, chain 50,000 words to the pages of their Great NaNoWriMo Novel.
So how can this be done? How can you sneak in the side door of Super Writer-dom undetected by the real Super Writers? By acquiring a few simple tools, and of course, a simple yet cunning Super Writer disguise.
- First, you’ll need a Magic Pen – don’t be fooled by the promises of those cheap ball-points. Yes they may be cheap and get the job done, but do they offer up the extra goodies you’ll need for your quest? Things like smooth-flowing ink and being well-weighted in your hand. Do you have to shake the bejeesus out of it just to get it started in the morning and hence lose a whole paragraph from your mind? Do you think best by “pen-clicking”, like I do? You’ll need a retractable (and a place to work away from people who are annoyed by your incessant clicking). Try everything in the stationery shop – your Pen of Wonders will reveal itself to you, but you may have to gently coax it out – make it realise you’re its writing soul mate and it will do great things for you.
- To go with your Magic Pen you’ll of course need a notebook – yes, you’ll be doing the majority of your NaNo-ing on your laptop/computer (see 3 below) but for all those times you’re at work or shopping or otherwise staring into space, you’ll need a notebook to jot down your ideas and side-stories as they come to you. Don’t ever trust your brain to remember that great one-liner you discover for your hero to say to the villain at the end of your book – your brain is too busy thinking about the washing that needs to be done, the pile of dishes on the sink and other more important things. Your notebook should be sturdy, yet light, so you can carry it around with you. Spiral-bounds are probably not the best for this quest, as the pages tend to tear out. You’ll need something solid; something that says “I carry the workings of a great novel inside”.
- Word Processing Device – this will usually take the form of a laptop, pc or netbook, but some people like the feel of banging the keys of an old typewriter – makes them feel more writerly apparently. Me, I have a laptop and a netbook – I like to hedge my bets. Regardless of what you like to type on, you’ll need to upload your final document at the end of November for word count verification so you’ll need an internet connection and a computer at some point.
- Reference Book – for formatting purposes. You can just as easily google manuscript formatting, or buy something like The Elements of Style. The guys at NaNoWriMo though suggest you have on hand one of your favourite novels. This will give you an idea of what the printed word should look like – how paragraphs run, where indents should be, how dialogue is treated. Don’t forget though, this isn’t a beauty contest, so just concentrate on getting the words on the page. You can get critical of your formatting if you want to edit your novel later into a more presentable format – if you think it’s good enough to go out on its own and seek publication.
- Music – I’ve read that every book has a theme song, or at least some sort of musical score to go with it. I’ve not really found that to be the case myself, but I have found that scenes have popped into my head while listening to a piece of music so there may be something in this theory. To test this one out this year, I’ll work out what type of novel I want to write and fit the music to it. For example, want to write about a Jackaroo out the Back Of Burke? Keith Urban and his ilk are probably your best bet. Is your setting in the 90’s when you were going through Uni? Some hardcore clubbing music might be the way to go. It’s totally up to your own tastes – try a few on for size and see what gets the juices flowing.
- Writing Totem aka your Super Writer Disguise – this is my absolute favourite idea, and as such I will be using the next couple of months to track down the perfect one. This should be more than just some fluffy dice hanging from your computer screen. It should be something that tells you, and the rest of the world, that you are in Super Writer Mode and serve as your Do Not Disturb Sign. These can take the form of hats, gloves, tweed jackets with elbow patches, capes and costumes. Me? I’m leaning towards a moustache at the moment, though I have been testing the Backward Cap Totem for the last week. I also like the idea of a cape – or maybe a combination of a few of them might work – maybe a handle-bar moustache and a fedora? I’ll keep you posted on this one.
There are a few other things you’ll need – snacks, drinks, rewards, and to find a couple of writing hideaways, but I’ll deal with these in another post. For the moment, I’m off to spend some quality time at the stationery shop to track down my Magic Pen and notebook, and a quick trip to the costume shop to see what dastardly Super Writer disguise fits my needs.