Thursday, October 20, 2011


National Novel Writing Month is eleven days away. I vehemently hate November for this month because it keeps getting broken up by end-of-year reports, deadlines and holidays.

But, National Novel Writing Month is still an excellent exercise for both emerging and experienced writers in learning how to discipline yourself and to reduce production time in creating a novel, short story or other piece of narrative fiction. It also helps to demystify the process for many, while helping others see how hard it is to create a truly exceptional novel for the ages.

I would always ask: In the end, have you created a novel you yourself would personally enjoy reading if, say, you were stranded on a deserted island?  I think it's always best to start with the audience of one in mind: Yourself. Do you want to write the Great Lao American Werewolf Supermodel Assassin Time Travel Novel this month? Go for it. Just be sure it's the novel you always wanted to read.

Afterwards, you may ask yourself, what would another person think if they read your work, but for the time being, I wouldn't get hung up on it if it's hampering you from being your most creative.

The Lao have a saying: If you know, teach. If you don't know, learn. During National Novel Writing Month,  this is a good moment to put that into practice. If you don't know how a spaceship or a steam engine works, what kind of slang they used in the 1960s, or how to make a decent papaya salad, look it up or ask someone.

National Novel Writing Month works best when you've decided on a dedicated hour you're going to put into the process and stick with it. I wouldn't spend more than an hour a day on it, no matter what the temptation. Over 30 days at 500 words a day, you would emerge with 15,000 words, which would be more of a novella than a full novel, but it's great progress. At 1,000 words a day, that's 30,000. The key is getting into practice with disciplined use of time and writing through distraction. Even ninjas. Pesky ninjas.

Create a space that's specifically for writing your novel. I could point out the neuroscience theories behind it, but the point is, when you've got a specific space set for a specific purpose, and one that's arranged JUST for that, you'll be more productive than not when you come to it.

Turn off the internal critic. During National Novel Writing Month, the point is really to generate enough of a manuscript that you can trim and massage over time. It's finally committing ideas, no matter how seemingly random to paper. Just try not to sound too much like Charlie Manson or Justin Bieber, and you'll do ok.

I often use the Soup Can metaphor during National Novel Writing Month: A soup can label averages around 200 words with all of the ingredients, descriptions and company information. If you can't write about something for more than a soup can label, I think you ought to re-examine that.

Especially for Lao American writers: We have less than 40 novels and books in our community after nearly 40 years here in the US and over 200,000 us resettled across 50 states. Now is an excellent time to begin turning these figures around, especially as we see many more Lao American and Asian American publishing houses emerging.

Good luck!

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