Lie–Cheat–Steal: An Outlaw’s Guide to #NaNoWriMo

Follow the adventures of Writers & Books staff member Tristan Tomaselli as he dives into National Novel Writing Month:

November is National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo. It’s a masochistic, tortuous, anxiety fueled, death-race, pitting you against your imagination. It’s worse than a text ending with an ellipsis. The concept is simple enough, but how do you go about doing it? That’s what this blog-series will document: my attempt to hurl 35,000 words onto the wall to see what sticks.

November 1st – 4th, 2018

Day 1–Word Count: 0/35,000

Why did I say I would do this again? Like all blunders committed by humankind, it began with one well-meaning step, followed by another. Identify where it spills into calamity, just try. May as well pinpoint where on the road you fell asleep at the wheel.


Right. Let’s get down to it. If you haven’t had a chance to meet me behind the front desk of Writers & Books, allow me to introduce myself. I’m Tristan Tomaselli, and I claim to be a writer–claim. I seem to be ever chasing some brand of legitimacy, a place where I feel like I can say “I’m a writer” and mean it. I thought my BA in Creative Writing would do it. Wrong. Maybe a job in my field? Nope. Maybe teaching my first workshop? That’s a negatory good buddy. “Well…” I said to the dog one day while feeling guilty about playing video games, “It’s almost November.”


Two bravado-fueled tweets later, here I am.


Okay, we’ve introduced the protagonist, and given some cleverly embedded exposition about the central conflict, but they’re a little thin in the depth department. Lets round them out a little.


When it comes to form and craft, I like fragments, non-conventions, neologisms, the erratic and the dis-familiar. Sci-Fi and Postmodernism is where I feel the warmest. I’ve yet to complete a novel, though like many of us, I have a collection of mutant babies growing superfluous limbs that I call works in progress.


This is dragging a little. Let’s move the ring closer to Mordor already.


Day 4–word count: 23/35,000


So far I’ve pinned down a concept, drafted an outline, and written an opening line I’m happy with–for now. That’s the key to this: done is better than perfect. Yet I’m already falling behind. Advice for next year: have an outline ready by the 1st. It’s good to have a plan and a firm opening move, but it’s time to uptick that word count into the realm of the reasonable. That’s why I advocate for an outline in this process. There’s not much time to ponder the results of infinite outcomes. Solution: steal. No really, writers do it all the time. I took a chapter from factual history, broke it down into bullet points, then crammed in my own setting and characters. I don’t have to mimic historical figures, just move the plot to the same beats. George R.R. Martin took the War of the Roses (1455-1485) and came up with a rough plot for A Song of Fire and Ice, why can’t you?


This probably won’t be the first time I lie, cheat, or steal on this journey. Just remember: there’s a difference between absconding with a framework and plagiarism. You can Bonnie & Clyde your way through #NaNoWriMo all you want. Is there any other way?