BONUS TIP: Since we are well into November, we’ll give you some bonus tips for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month for those in the dark about it).
by A. Francis Raymond
For those of us accustomed to writing short fiction (such as the 500-word Iron Writer challenge), NaNoWriMo can be especially difficult. A flash fiction writer is trying to scrunch a story down into less than a thousand words — including characterization, plot, etc. But NaNoWriMo wants us to spew out 50,000 words. Quickly. That’s like 100 flash fiction stories! An insane idea, for sure, to those of us used to writing short fiction.
This is my fourth (non-consecutive) year as a NaNoWriMo participant, including this year. I won two of those years so far. The year I didn’t win, last year, I was simply thinking too much and writing too little — a fact I now regret only because I would have loved to write that I won all the challenges I participated in so far.
The point is, I know from first-hand experience what this challenge is like and that we all need coping mechanisms, and even a little help to make it through the month. And as an Iron Writer, I’m keenly aware that writing 1667 words a day is like writing a little more than three complete flash fiction stories a day!
What’s a writer of short fiction to do? Here are 4 tips for when you’re stuck:
1. Indulge your character in a monologue. This can be any character in your story. Or all of them. Give your character(s) the opportunity to stand on a soap box and say whatever comes to their mind. What do they think about the story and what’s happening to them so far? This is material that might not ever see the light of day, but it all counts to the 50k goal and you might even learn something about your characters, too.
2. Write your character’s back story. What were they doing a year ago? 10 years ago? Again, this might not be material for the final revision, but we don’t care about that now. We care about every last painstaking detail. Tell us about the shelf of stuffed animals your character’s mother kept out of arms reach and prompted your character to develop a phobia of furry things. Tell us about your character’s teenage days and every band t-shirt she owned.
3. Dive into any and all descriptive details. Your character is in a room, a foreign country, a starship. What do the surroundings look like? What objects are there? What can the characters see, hear, touch, smell? Get out all those details, no matter how mundane they might be. One might be the key to your story later. Don’t limit yourself to the setting either. There’s still more you can write about your character. What do they keep in their purse or wallet? Their fridge, medicine cabinet, glove compartment, and junk drawer?
And when all else fails…
4. Kill off a character. Remember, folks, it’s all in the details. There’s danger lurking everywhere. Use it to your advantage. Kill off (or at least seriously injure) any character, even your main character. Not only is that going to be a few words, but now you’ve given the rest of your characters a new problem to deal with.
Make sure to keep that inner editor, and even your inner filter, turned off. Verbosity rules this month.
Now stop reading this and get back to the 1,667 words you need to write today!