Ryan Freeman Takes on National Novel Writing Month

Our multi-talented Brand Ambassador Ryan Joel Freeman is a running, reading and writing machine. A few weeks ago he informed us that November is National Novel Writing Month, and that many writers challenge themselves to write an entire novel in just 30 days! We wanted to know more (and we thought you might, too), so we got all the details from Ryan himself, including the whats, whys, and hows—enjoy! 

What exactly is National Novel Writing Month (also known as NaNoWriMo)?

National Novel Writing Month is a challenge to write a 50,000-word novel during the month of November. It started back in 1999 with just a few participants and today there are now hundreds of thousands of writers taking on the challenge each year.

How does it work, and what’s in it for you?

There are several ways to participate in NaNoWriMo. One way is to register on the NaNoWriMo official website and update your progress as you go. The other way is to track your progress and keep yourself accountable. Both are fine, but by using the official NaNoWriMo website you can connect with other writers and claim your “winner” badge at the end of the challenge.

National Novel Writing Month is also a nonprofit – what does their cause mean to you?

I personally believe that not enough emphasis is being placed on the importance of creative writing, especially in middle and high school. Recently, most schools have stopped teaching creative writing as a part of their curriculum despite research showing that the most important time to develop writing (especially creative writing) is in middle school. The National Novel Writing Month nonprofit includes the Young Writer’s Program to help support and encourage both young writers and educators to develop creative writing skills. Not all novels written in the month of November will be published or read by many, but the act of writing can be a very important outlet for people, and that is very meaningful to me.

How do you combat writer’s block?

Some authors say that there is no such thing as writer’s block, just in the same way that some runners do not believe there is such thing as a “wall” when running a race. Personally, I believe it is harder to write some times than others, but not that there is something really “blocking” me.

One of the best pieces of advice I’ve read about not getting stuck while writing (and especially starting to write) is from Ernest Hemingway. He said, “The best way is always to stop when you are going good and when you know what will happen next. If you do that every day when you are writing a novel you will never be stuck.” Sometimes when Hemingway would be having a hard time starting a new story he would think to himself: “Do not worry. You have always written before and you will write now. All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.” That worked for him and I think there is a lot of wisdom in that.

What are your essentials to get you through this month?

My computer, a quiet spot in the library, lots of tea, my VIM & VIGR compression socks, sanity, and telling myself to write fearlessly because later I can edit ruthlessly.

What is your greatest source of creativity/inspiration?

That’s a hard question. I like what Faulkner once said—every writer uses three things while writing fiction: experience, imagination, and observation. I guess that those would be my sources of creativity.

What can you tell us about your novel so far?

Nothing. I haven’t (and won’t) tell anyone about it until it is finished, just so I don’t jinx it. A story never sounds right when you try to describe it.

What is your game plan for finishing your novel?

Keep working on the first draft until it finishes itself. I don’t want to force anything. After that I’m sure I’ll spend a lot of time revising and editing.

Any advice for writers who are just starting out?

At times I feel like I’m still starting out too. What I’m trying to do is study the craft just as a doctor studies his, and then write without judgment because I know that I’ll spend a significant time revising. Oh, I just thought of one piece of advice: have fun. It’s similar to how I approach running. Running and writing are hard things to do and you wouldn’t do them consistently unless you have fun doing them. 

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