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
- Undertaking the challenge – 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.
5 Doing NaNoWriMo
5.1 the headspace
The main point for me was not to do it perfectly the first time around. For me, it was all about getting it done. I plotted the way I felt was natural to me and natural to the story. I didn’t worry about getting my chapters wrong or right, or my scenes wrong or right I just plotted and wrote. I clearly had no idea what a chapter was nor what a scene was. I still don’t. I’m still learning. But I keep going.
The less worried I am about getting it right, the more I get done and the more I enjoy it.
Getting it right is for later. The first draft is for getting a story told my way and for me only. During the writing session, I might re-plot or uncover something new. Plotting is an ongoing business and might never end, same with world-building and character-building/arcs.
The second draft is for rewriting the first drat for an audience and make it into a proper story. Until then, there is no need to worry about getting it right.
5.2 staying on it
I take leave/holiday for at least one day a week and some extra at the end just in case. I do spend most of my days off writing. For the weekdays I go to work and the gym etc and I might not write much, but I try to write every day even if its just one sentence or 14 words. It’s still progress.
In 2018 I had Wednesday off work to write along with Saturday and Sunday. On Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Fridays the word count was really low. I think Tuesdays was the lowest. The graph below was my daily word count for 2018. The spikes you see are Wednesday and Saturdays. It clearly shows the usefulness of having days off to write. But even in the flat days I tried to do something. I this my average word count for Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays (which were my worst) were around 14 words a day for the whole month.
Having an outline really helped if I got stuck or if I got bored writing a specific thing. This year I’ll be doing the same thing and I’m already knee deep into two different story plots. With an outline I can just skip the current event if I’m stuck or bored and start on the next step/event in the story. Or jump about. Write number 34 then 28, then 4, then 16! I can do what I want and so can you. Do what you feel like. As long as you keep going! Just keep swimming!
The first year (2017) I did NaNo I didn’t have an outline just and idea of where it started and where it ended. The story meet the word count, but it’s horrible! I enjoyed the meandering writing without a massive end goal. It was fun and I figured out some random stuff. But for me, this process doesn’t work if I want to feel successful for NaNoWriMo.
For a few more ideas the video below was make by Kat Cho (the author of Wicked Fox published 2019) in 2017 about drafting your novel for NaNo.
Keeping motivated can be difficult especially if you don’t like your story. It’s not cheating if you start a new story or if you skip a few chapters. All words count towards the challenge. Doing two stories instead of one is called being a NaNo Rebel. I have yet to be one, but it sounds inviting.
Staying motivated in your story is all about liking and enjoying your story and wanting to figure out where it’s going. Or that’s what it is for me. As long as I like what I’m writing I keep going. But I can imagine when the story is good and you still don’t want to write. It’s bound to happen.
If you need some extra motivation here is a 3ish minute video John Green (author of multiple YA contemporary novels made into films) made before taking on the challenge back in 2009. Its quite old, but kind of funny and still relevant.
5.4 planning and getting things done
If I don’t allocate writing time, I wont do it. And not all the writing time ends up being writing but is somewhat related to it. I plan two writing sessions a day; morning before getting out of bed and one in the evening after dinner. I like to get up earlier to do some writing to wake myself up. I feels its refreshing and I feel I’m looking at my work with new eyes. I don’t even get out of bed! I might not have time to do a proper writing session. I might only have time to read what I wrote the night before and then make some notes to where it will continue on from there but at least I feel more prepared for the afternoon session.
The evening session can be a slug, but if I have notes from the morning session ready it makes it all easier.
I try to make notes after every session so I know where I plan the story’s direction. That way I don’t have to spend too much time in the beginning of every writing sessions figuring it all out. But this doesn’t always work.
I find that the less I think about things that need doing (cleaning, shopping, etc) the less likely I’ll be able to talk my way out of it. But maybe that’s just me. Just move the dirty dished further along the kitchen counter… right?
5.5 writing with others
Writing can be a lonely business and loneliness can affect your mental health. Keep on top of your social life and maybe try a writing group and virtual write-ins. I have several ways of staying social, but then I’m an introvert and don’t need much to fill my quota. I have work and work friend, I have the writing group and I have ballet 🙂 and then I call my mum every now and then.
NaNo provides you with your local writing group. Some of these do meetups, writing sessions and/or write-ins. They are not there to teach you how to write, they are there for you to meet like minded people who are in the same situation/dump as you. We are all struggling together. If you have a problem, reaching out to your local group might help. Turning up to a writing session and brainstorm with someone. This year I will make an effort to attend some of these meet ups. So far they have only scheduled prep-sessions on the days I’m busy…
Some people also hosts virtual write-in on youtube. These get announced on twitter by NaNoWriMo twitter account usually before NaNo starts so you can schedule it in your calendar. These are sessions for you to join other writers and write together.
I haven’t checked out my local group but I have participated in a virtual write-in session and really enjoyed it. Typing while you listen to other people type is great lol
Lastly, share with others! It could be anything; your characters name or a chapter. something big or something small. It’s exiting for others to get this information too, especially if they are the ones holding you accountable for your writing, or have to deal with you on a daily basis during NaNo. Writers can be grumpy.
This week I will share my outline for my story to my writing group as part of me sharing with others. I know we’re not in November yet but this is a part of my Preptober. I also thing I need some input into this story as I’m not sure what I’m doing. I’ve never written a cosy mystery before…
5.6 the start
When 1st of November strikes, I will dig in straight away and not wait! The momentum might not last and I tend to feel fresh and excited for the first few days. Therefore I like getting the most out of them by writing as much as possible.
By the 3rd week, my motivation and momentum dip critically low, but I have always managed to climb back up for week 4. We’ll see how I do this year.
5.7 hands, wrists and fingers
Lastly, take care of your hands!! And don’t forget the posture.
The last thing you want is a wrist problem or RSI (repetitive strain issue) as I have. Writing with RSI can be a strain. It affects everything I do not just writing; holding mugs, glasses and cups, holding utensils for eating and cooking, holding pen, steering or driving for long times, holding a boo. It effect everything and I can’t do anything about it now. BUT I can tell you how to take care of yours so you do’t end up with what I have.
Here are a few wrist, hands and finger exercises you can do while you think about your story 🙂 or to stretch after and/or warm up before a long writing session.
I will be warming up and stretching after every session I have and do my exercises.
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.
There is also tons of information on NaNoWriMo’s Resource page. There is also the forums on NaNo page which is filled with info.
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 some sessions on outlining, plotting and building the story in Brandon Sanderson’s Web lectures.
Until next time, keep writing 😁