NaNoWriMo and improving my prose

NaNoWriMo and improving my prose

I did it! I won my first NaNoWriMo. (Which you win by writing 50,000 words between November 1st and 30th.) And I now have a first draft of my very first novel. It’s 105 single-spaced pages in Word, which is longer than anything I have ever written.  It needs a LOT of work, but it exists.

I started out with no plan. Before November, I had been outlining a novel using the snowflake method. It was very slow going and I kept getting stuck. For NaNoWriMo, I decided to put my outline on the shelf  and start from nothing on a new project. The first day was a stream-of-consciousness mess. By day 3, an actual story emerged.

I didn’t think I would be able to come up with an idea good enough to sustain my interest for an entire novel. That was the problem with my WIP outline — I kept getting bored. I am not a dramatic person. Adding tension and conflict does not come naturally to me. I think NaNoWriMo worked so well for me because I didn’t keep stalling, trying to come up with a better story. I just forged ahead.

I also doubted I would have time to write 3-4 pages a day. Like most people, I am overcommited. But as I’ve found in the past, I have time to do just about anything that I really want to do. Every little chunk of time I could find, I wrote.

Weeks away from giving birth to my first child, I broke open a cookie and got this fortune: “When you are squeezed, what is inside will come out.” He did. And over a decade later, so did my novel.

I have a lot of revision work to do, and I plan to do that in January and February during the “Now What?” phase of NaNoWriMo. But before that, in December, I want to work on improving my prose. My writing is flat. I’m good at getting my point across, after years of lawyering, but my powers of description are weak and metaphors never leap to mind.

Here are some resources I found online that go beyond “write more, use prompts, show don’t tell”:

  1. Writer’s Digest: Poetry Exercises to Help You Write Better Prose. The author suggests taking a page from poets, who use vivid imagery to convey ideas in a few words.
  2. Copyblogger: 6 Simple Exercises to Help You Write Better Short Sentences. These are useful! Like eliminating the verb “make” from your writing.
  3. Ghost: 10-Minute Writing Workouts. These are more about boosting your creativity, like combining random words and using the combination as a prompt.
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