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October 29, 2012 / Daniel

Nanostratmo – Strategies for Nanowrimo

Nanowrimo is pizza.

The options are limitless. You could call ahead, let someone else do it, then stop back by in a month and pick it up. You’ll be famished and it’ll be nasty. Conversely, you could jump the countertop and get yourself into the kitchen. Either way, there’s no wrong way to do it, but not all of the ways layer those flavors, and if you don’t layer the flavors, my friend, you’ve lost it all.


Preheat the Oven:

Can’t cook, kiddo, if you haven’t stoked the fire. Find yourself an idea, and it has to be something you love. If you don’t love it, you’re not going to change its diaper all month, and if you don’t do that… oh wait, Nanowrimo is pizza. If you don’t love your idea, you won’t be able to get that oven hot enough to cook for a month at 535 degrees. Gotta get that crust crisp, or you’ll be cleaning cobwebs off the buffet by 12:15.

Tell everyone, now, that you’re sure you’ve lost you mind, and that it’s going to get worse before it gets better. They need to know that you will be arguing with invisible people at the supermarket, jotting Sharpie notes on your arms, and, they may notice pencil shavings in the linens some mornings. This is normal behavior for… shit, none of that preheats an oven. Still, doesn’t matter, all that gets fixed during editing in December. Fix it in post.


The Crust:

This is my third pizza, um, third year attempting Nanowrimo. Both years I decided I’d just expand on an idea I’ve been working on, and it’ll be great. Guess what? I didn’t finish either year. The first I got maybe 5000 words in, and the second I got closer to 15000. Not shabby, but I’ve logged better rates writing in short form, personal pan pizza style.

This year, while I’m going to lean on a universe I’ve already created, I’m not going to pick up an existing chain of storyline. My oven is preheated with my existing universe, but I’m starting from scratch on this pie, without pre-kneading mother-dough of any kind. (Hence, my new go-to cussing phrase will be “pre-kneaded mother-dough”.) I don’t recommend you do this, but it’s my kitchen, so, if I want to peel potatoes with a French horn, then, that’s exactly what I plan to do. And deftly frisbee the dough overhead, since, Nanowrimo is pizza. Get that junk round, son.


The Sauce:

For Pete’s sake, get up in there and layer the flavors. Characters. Oregano. Marjoram. Setting. Crushed tomatoes. Tomato paste. Plot. Basil. Minced garlic. Get ’em in there and simmer, but do NOT use a hand-blender; that just makes a mush. Did you sautee the plot in butter and olive oil first? No? Rookie. THOSE FLAVORS ARE NOT LAYERED. Get ’em in there! People are STARVING in the dining room!

A hateful evil character makes a hero powerful. Meanness makes love. Jealousy makes loyalty. Stress makes salvation. Put your characters, young lovers in heat, on a flavorful waterfall at sunset and shove them off with a cold breadstick of malice (my new band name “Cold Breadstick of Malice”; we gig Edmonton in the fall, going to the show?). They will get through this, together, and they will splash down in the beautiful misty pool at the bottom of the ravine… which is sauce, since N.I.P.


The Cheese:

If you’re not holding it together, you’re serving nothing but soup-on-bread, Little Chef. Get that cheese out there, and don’t be shy about it. I don’t care if everyone does it, I don’t care if everyone’s done it better, I don’t care if it’s bland and adds no color to the dish; it’s what the people want. NO, it’s NOT a sellout move, IF you want your story read. If you put nothing in it that people want, who’s going to read it? Yep, math wins this one: NOBODY. “This pizza with no cheese is superb!” said no one, ever. “This book about every single one of my disinterests is a real page-turner!”, said everyone, that ever stopped by your shop for a slice, IF YOU DON’T CHEESE IT.

Write about things people can relate to first, THEN you twist it, pull it out of shape, make it stretchy and ponderous, cut it through with a hot spatula. But don’t leave it off entirely. Hungry readers need something comfortable and satisfying to bite into.


The Toppings:

Are you a cheeser; eating cheese-only-and-nothing-else on your novel draft? Are you sweeping-the-kitchen for add-ons? Better yet, what about that gal at the table, waiting for her slice? Look at her and her lustrous flowing locks (I just backspaced over “licks” right there). That’s who you’re cooking for; what’s she hungry for? Talk to her. Get to know her. What’s she craving, deep in her bones? If you’re not cooking for her, then what are you doing? Wake up! Distribute those toppings evenly. What? She wants mushrooms on half the pie? You’re customizing as a direct result of her preferences? My work here is done, Nigella.


The Slicing and The Serving:

You’re done except you’re not. Get the drink order, ya slouch! Napkins, knives and forks. You DID refill the parmesan shaker, yes? You checked both the salt AND the pepper to be sure the last mook didn’t loosen the caps? Setting, man, setting! That’s what we’re dealing with here! Set the stage, you may WRITE in a vacuum, but your characters don’t LIVE in one, and Sally Merkinshotz out there isn’t eating your pizza, hot and saucy, in a vacuum; SHE.WANTS.ATMOSPHERE. Get the smells in there. Get the details. Details fill the reader’s hungry soul, and you’re covered in chocolate, Jacques Pepin. Except that it’s marinara, and we’re still making pizza. Triangles or rectangle strips? MAKE A CHOICE, WOLFGANG PUCK, AND CUT IT UP – FOLKS ARE STARVING.

So. Who’s hungry for some wordcount?

Share your recipes in the comments.

Bon Wordppetit.

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