Today I’m back with the final NaNoWriMo-related book review I’ll be doing this year; if you missed the first two you can find my review of Fast Fiction by Denise Jaden here, and Book in a Month by Victoria Lynn Schmidt here. Today we’re going to look at Write-A-Thon by Rochelle Melander; this book is a better fit for the ‘pantsers’ or ‘discovery writers’ out there among you.
If you’re new to NaNoWriMo, you may not yet have heard the terms ‘pantsers’ and ‘plotters’ yet. ‘Plotters’ is fairly intuitive—it refers to people who like to plot at least the basics out before they begin writing. ‘Pantsers’, on the other hand, are people who like to just dive in, or write by the seat of their pants. Another term for this (one I prefer) is ‘discovery writers’, because you’re discovering where your story will go as you write.
So if you’re a just-dive-in kind of person, there’s not really much prep to do, right, and what help can a book be? First of all, wrong. There’s all sorts of prep you can do, but it’s more along the lines of getting past your writing demons and making sure you schedule your life to set yourself up for success during NaNoWriMo. There are also lots of tricks and tips that can help you keep going while you’re writing your book, so you’ll successfully reach the end. These are the kinds of help you’ll find in this book.
Write-A-Thon has three parts. The first takes you through some training: attitude training, writing training, course training (plotting your book—don’t worry, this is in a very basic, pantser-friendly way), and life training. Each of these will help you find the time, energy and head space to help you succeed when you do sit down to write your book. The writing training session will also introduce you to some basics about writing a book, with the assumption that you’re fairly new to this.
The second part of the book is designed to be a companion during the writing process; Melander suggests you use it as a ‘writing coach’ of sorts. It’s broken up into 32 vignettes with different tips; you can read them all before you start, read one or more a day to get your mojo flowing, or she suggests you can even just flip at random when you need an extra push and see what you get. If you have an ereader this part is a bit hard, but you can always use a random number generator as a way of flipping through. There’s a lot of good wisdom in these sections, from avoiding ‘monkey mind’ to overcoming perfection, to ways to get past writer’s block.
The final part, ‘Recovery’, focuses mostly on why you should revise what you’ve written during your write-a-thon, and gives some basic suggestions for beginning that process. It also talks a little bit about editors and queries.
This book is particularly well-suited for people who’ve never tried to write a book before, and are thinking of getting their toes wet in the NaNoWriMo pool. It’s very user-friendly and terminology-friendly for people who haven’t really thought about doing something like this before, and for whom the thought of plotting or outlining an entire book makes them break out in a cold sweat. It’s also a good resource for people who have tried NaNoWriMo before but had a hard time seeing it through—it gets to the root of a lot of those problems that can derail you. I wish I’d had something like this my first year to use as a daily mojo-stoker.
Another thing this book has going for it is that it's designed to help writers of all sorts. It has a dedicated section on non-fiction books, and the advice it gives applies to all. Increasing numbers of people are using NaNoWriMo to write books other than novels (even dissertations and short-story collections), and this book is a good resource for all, not just the fiction writers among us.
So, if you’re a NaNoWriMo newbie, a pantser/discovery writer, or someone who needs a little extra something to help them win this year, go have a look at this book. It might be just the thing to help you get through those 50,000 words, and beyond.