Been here before? Skip the intro and head straight for the main piece of work then 😁
I’ve been asked by someone for a post about how I did NaNoWriMo.
Firstly, I’m a newbie when it comes to writing. My 2017 NaNoWriMo project was my first one and I had no plan and no clue what I was doing or should be doing. Since then I have done plenty of research, attended classes, practised, read my work out loud, workshops, and more research.
This blog series will be about my journey to creating a story from idea to the first draft via NaNoWriMo and beyond. Hopefully, you will get some ideas too on how to do your project. The series will go every Monday from the 16th September all the way up to the start of NaNo with the last post on the 28th October just in time for the start of NaNoWriMo.
I plan to go through all the major aspects of storytelling: the idea, the world-building and plotting, outlining and writing. In all these, I will share how I did it and all my resources. I will move on to how to prepare for NaNoWriMo, how to complete NaNoWriMo and how to get un-stuck. The series will end with me sharing the first 800 words of my NaNoWriMo 2018 projects, slightly edited and spellchecked.
- The Idea – NaNo 2018 experience + resources for 2019 NaNo – 16th September 2019
- The world and character – NaNo 2018 experience + resources for 2019 NaNo – 23rd September 2019
- The outlining and writing – NaNo 2018 experience + resources for 2019 NaNo – 30th September 2019
- NaNoWriMo prep – How I prep for NaNoWriMo 30 days of writing 50k words – 7th October 2019
- Strategy for completing the 50k words for NaNoWriMo 2019 – 14th October 2019
- How to get unstuck when writing – 21st October 2019
- First 1200 words of my 2018 NaNoWriMo project – 28th October 2019
Disclaimer; I have no background in writing and I do not know what I’m doing, but I’m enjoying it and that’s what’s matters. I’m also getting positive feedback on my writing which should indicate that I’m doing something right.
4.1 Prepping for NaNoWriMo
To spend your time more efficiently during NaNo and to be able to reach 50k, you need to prepare for everything.
4.1.1 the writing
During my prep time before NaNoWriMo last year, I sat down to write up the steps of my story and tried to outline the story. I took everything I had learned from the Brandon Sanderson lectures (only watched 6 of them), the Stephen King book and all my worksheets and got an outline that was fatter with more interesting bits and pieces than the first outline a while back.
I wrote down the main event for each chapter and added bullet points about what needed to happen during the chapter. I did this for each chapter. I still don’t know what a chapter is, but I divided it into what felt natural to me or where a natural break occurred.
I had a worksheet for each scene too. It’s one of E.A Deverall’s worksheets (link at base of post) and it very useful. It asks who as in the scene (characters), where it takes place (settling), what happened (events) and why the scene is needed. That last part is very important. The scene needs to add something to the story otherwise it’s a waste of space. It could be that the scene adds a character’s side story, or illuminates a character decision. Or it can introduce the villain or the sidekick. But it can also be about causing drama. So even if the scene needs to too to the story, it can add to the story by taking something away. In that case, it adds tension to the story. For example, it can remove their mode of transport, or their hope, or their romantic interest. All of these add tension to the story and add hinders which the character needs to overcome.
I had 21 chapters all revolving around one event each (a scene?).
Chapter 1 was Jac, Cora and Kin sitting around Jac’s desk talking about what she had just done (accepted a high-risk trade contract without consulting her partners) when they get attacked by an enemy ship. Jac goes to fight but recognises the captain on the enemy ship and she has a flashback to when she was a child which introduced her mentally abusive father. It ended up being three scenes (as far as I understand): chatting in the cabin, fighting on deck, and flashback to Jac as a child.
Chapter 2 would be the survival and docking at the port in Dima for repairs and a trip to the pub. Again several scenes; floating into Dima and docking, market trip, and pub trip. The events of the first chapter caused a delay and chapter 2 gave me a chance to do some character building and slowing down of the pace from the intensity of the fight in the previous chapter. It was the beginning of the body part of my story.
Chapter 1 was basically the introduction and the head of my mouse.
I’m still fuzzy on the subject of a scene and a chapter but I’m getting there. I think. Practice makes perfect.
4.2 being shit
Also, I prepare for being shit at writing. For losing my ability to spell words for a month. For being unable for formulate sentence. And for spelling my name wrong several times… And to accept that. I better be prepared for the worst and except them now rather than be surprised when it happens.
By being prepared for being shit, you allow yourself to be shit and to be creative and getting those words out and onto the page. If not you might get stuck on small things and continuously edit, which NaNoWriMo does not have time for.
As mentioned writing everyday help no matter how much it is or how shitty it is. To be able to reach 50k words you need a story that is long enough to last for 50k words, but also interesting enough to keep you motivated to write it. And lastly by accepting your shitty-ness you can create a habit of writing everyday without edit-hinders.
A great tip if you struggle to un-see those red squiggly lines under you spelling mistakes is to turn it off.
I make a lot of spelling mistakes and have to go through (quickly) the text before I submit my daily word count. But I also have to edit the text in December to make sure I get the spelling correct and therefore the meaning of the sentence and the story. I can’t leave that till late because I will forget what I meant to say.
4.3 the headspace
I prepped mentally for NaNoWriMo in several ways. I try to prepare for the most intense couple of weeks and if it’s not that intense then that’s fine but at least I’m prepared for it. I make sure the story is outlined and divided into blocks and chapters and scenes. If you like planning this is for you, if not ignore it.
Make sure you get your exercise and brain food to keep your mental health in top shape. Writing can be very isolating which can affect your mental health negatively. So stay on top of that. I have already scheduled in several training sessions for November that I know I like, e.g. Hot Yoga on Sundays 🙂
I made sure I did not have anything major planned. Well, last year I did. This year not so much. Totally by accident. Just re-doing my bathroom… tiny event there, zero noise and zero dust obviously… Oh and field work for my job. 2-3 days a week on site with travel… minor…
4.4 life and social life
This year I will be very busy at work. So I made sure I scheduled leave/time off/holiday but it will not be Wednesdays this year like I did last year. I think I will either have Mondays or Fridays off. I will be away one or two nights a week so I need to have a writing go-bag ready for my days away at hotels.
I will also make sure I have enough exercise planned in. I have at least one session of Hot Pod Yoga scheduled a week and I might make some others. I will also have Pilates and Hiit training scheduled in to make sure I keep my mental health up to scratch and my brain working.
I have office days and site days and I have my writing course ever Wednesday so I will meet other people throughout and have a network around me.
I also have ballet on Thursdays which makes me happy and is a bit of exercise and social.
It is all planned out. I planned my writing days and my social days and my exercise but with room for spontaneity and flexibility. But I have to plan because I will be busy and I will try and reach 50k. No I WILL reach 50k! The plan needs to be in place. I need to know which days are for writing if I’m behind my daily word count and I need to know when I can relax and re-charge.
4.5 food and prep
I stock up on snacks, dry food, and drinks before NaNoWriMo begins. I might not have time (or feel like I have time) to do a big shop once I’ve started so be prepared. So might you. Always buy a little extra just in case.
NaNoWriMo can be extreme and intense so buy brain food and possible lots of coffee/alcohol/whatever-your-poison-is to stay afloat.
Do your laundry and the dishes and clean your house/flat. You might not have time to do these things during November (or feel like you have time) but your brain might want you to do this as procrastination. Having a clean space will also clean your mind and you will sleep better. And sleep is needed during this month. My house is currently in a state and I’m very much procrastinating the clean by saying that the closer to November I clean it, the more positive effect it will have on me during NaNo… If you run out of cloths and clean underwear (likely), do laundry but make sure before November arrives that you have enough detergent for this.
Also, make sure you have enough toilet paper…
The least distractions you have the more efficient your time will be and hopefully less procrastinating. You might even have time to go out for drinks or a meal with friends a few times a week instead of cleaning and shopping.
I personally don’t understand how some people chill during NaNo or how they make it out without any suffering. My social life suffers, I don’t bother too much with the cleaning, my cupboards are empty by the end, I fall back on take away food and chocolate and my diet suffers, but I love every second of it!
Yes, it’s like coming out of a cave. A bit like Penny after her gaming days.
On the NaNo webpage, there is a page for your local writing group. I have not attended before, but maybe this year is the year. I did think that last year too though… But it can be a great way to meet other writers in the same situation as you both to socialise and to get inspiration and maybe some writing is done.
For more tips and skills surrounding outlining, story building, endings and opening lines you can do a google (or any other search engine) search, look at the worksheet I linked previously from E. A. Deverall’s webpage.
There is also tons of information on NaNoWriMo’s Resource page. There is also the forums on NaNo page which is filled with info.
There is also some sessions on outlining, plotting and building the story in Brandon Sanderson’s Web lectures.
Until next time, keep writing 😁