Thoughts on NaNoWriMo…

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November fast approaches. Time to decide who’s in…. and who’s out. What are your thoughts and are you ready to buddy up?

Last year was my first encounter with National Novel Writing Month. I’d heard the hype, seen the sponsors and figured 50,000 words in a month can’t be too hard, can it?


 

The answer is absolutely not if…

  • Your story doesn’t die after 10K.
  • Writing is done every day and daily word count targets are met.
  • Accept absolutely it’s first draft mode; no stopping to edit, rethink, ponder grammar or tautology. Nothing matters except words on the page.
  • Plan. Not the novel, but life around the writing. Time scheduling is everything, those groceries won’t fetch themselves and the kids might like to eat now and then.
  • Plan. The novel, if that’s what you need to do. But don’t start November in this phase, that time has passed. Personally I don’t plan in detail, I write. It works or it doesn’t.

 

My own take on the above is subject to variation. We don’t all approach writing the same way. I go lengths of time doing none, but know I can hit up to 5000 words a day when I’m in the zone. I could probably do more if I ignored everything else.

One day I might write that post about how I go about it. I have not forgotten a few people have asked…

Returning to the bullet points.

Never treat NaNo as a win/lose battle. 50,000 words might, or might not, be a full novel. I tend to target mine at around 70 to 90k, so November for me is about getting a book really going. Afterwards there are plenty of CampNaNo months to finish things off, if that’s how you choose to target things. The first one next year tackles editing the November draft and finishing the novel. The great thing here is you set your own goals instead of being allocated one. Used regularly Camps can get you into a consistent writing frame of mind.

Also, be prepared for the story to die on you. I’m not saying it will, but if it starts to lose appeal, NaNoWriMo is unforgiving. Get to 10k and find its going sour and there is no time to start over and realistically hit the magic number. This is where I diverge from it and return to not treating it as win/lose. The important thing is words, any words and manage how you actually think about the process.

Consider a story that flops at 10k. You can drift into a chasm lined with failure, can’t write, lost the challenge, waste of time…

Or, you can turn it round. Better to explore an idea and find it doesn’t hold you sooner rather than later. Personally, I’d like to know that after 3000 words, but 10k is my outer limit. It means I’ve tried something and decided to slush pile it. Pushing on when it won’t gel is about accepting that. It’s actually positve. Exploring an idea, rather than no words at all. A perceived failure is therefore a real writers boon. I don’t know ANY writers of note that start some stories and think, “Nope, this one is not going anywhere.” In NaNo, this does happen. Accept the potential is there because you’ve not written this book yet.

Better still set a personal success criteria. I do this myself. 20k is my target. If I go above this then I’ve “won” in my thinking. If the story is really working then the targets thereafter grow in 10k increments. 50k is just a bonus…although I’d like to have that winners mug…

Planning. Multifaceted this one and not all about wrtiting. Life exists too and curve balls do get thrown into the mix. More so if you have children. I’m sure every parent knows they are silent until you are doing something for you. Never put the writing above them, it ends in disaster on all levels. Flash anger at interruptions, guilt at putting writing first, anxiety at dropping the word count to deal with things…the fallout can be legion and it will affect the mindset making NaNo that little bit tougher. My advice is to plan the day in chunks. Identify the best times to write and work everything else around that. Do not neglect things if life has demands you can’t put aside without feeling guilty for doing so.

Set a daily wordcount and stick to it. Easy to say, but if you don’t then two weeks in will see the required rate rising rapidly. There comes a point where it gets impossible to catch up. Again, not something to catastrophise about. It happens, just keep going and aim for your personal target. In reality the total wordcount is not important. The fact you have one to worry about is. You can’t edit a blank page. Even 10k is better then nothing.

Accept it’s a first draft too. Nothing matters except getting the bones of the story down. You can plan forever, but it’s the words that matter. Remember there is no time to sit and rework material. Plot, story arc and characters are known better at the end than they are at the start. Editing will turn the draft into the real deal. That’s the CampNaNo project. Words matter, thinking about words after the start doesn’t. That moment has gone and it’s time to write.

Buddy up too. This is essential in my opinion. There are plenty of bloggers here that do NaNo so reach out to them. On your dashboard you can monitor their progress too. Some will soar off, some will falter due to reasons above. It helps you stay calm. If you do start dropping off then you won’t be alone. If someone soars it can also motivate you too. Writing alone is tough, buddies are a great way to interact. Use the forums, join the blog hops and do not stress if the 50k begins to disappear into the distance.

The real deal is challenging yourself. Several chapters rather than no chapters, new friends and not looking at any wordcount lower than 50k as failure.

Above all else, have fun and write on!


 

As for me, I have announced my novel on the NaNo site. This post was supposed to do that here, alas I digressed so the next one will do that. I’m still undecided on tackling it this November. I know the novel is ready to speak, and some of you might be interested to know it’s a follow up to last years book The Bequest. Not that I have allowed anyone to read that yet, but some of the characters featured are in my short stories here. The full series never appeared on my blog so the paranormal brothers Carmichael need their tale completing. The short stories need re-writing and their journey must continue.

Anyone wanting to buddy up is welcome to do so. Even if I don’t do it this year, you will be on my dashboard for next time!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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100 Comments

  1. Hey there! I’m new to your blog, and I’ve been just getting back to blogging and writing consistently. This was a very nice post and the comments are cool to read now that I’m doing nanowrimo again too.

    It is an effort to put in the time and *get something written* daily. But I find I like 2-hour word sprints and a good timeline to follow. I still haven’t done 10k Like i thought I would for week 1, but I still have faith that I will reach my target this month for 50k. I don’t know how, but I am committed to making this happen as I have done this successfully twice before with much less time. Thanks for writing this.

    Would you mind telling me about your experience with camp wrimo? I’m not exactly sure how to benefit from it.

    Thanks for sharing your experience!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Apologies for the delay replying Lila, been sacrificing social media time in exchange for NaNo. Doing both is odds on for a grim time! Really pleased you enjoyed the post and great to see new people joining in with comments.

      It is a huge commitment time wise as you well know by the sound of it!

      Camp NaNo’s run very similarly to this. One month with a target or goal except we set that rather than the organisers. The buddy system is replaced by cabins which are regional or created by individuals accessible by friends. They can be used to finish projects, edit, create new projects and so on. I intend to use then more next year because I am a terrible procrastinator. For me, it will help keep momentum and forge a better writing practice. Once I know the date of the first one I will be doing a specific post on it. You aren’t alone in asking about them.

      Liked by 1 person

    • A case of been there and actually did buy the T-shirt! I’ve spoken to a lot of participants, both “winners” and those affected by a dead story or just not enough time to fully complete it. To me it’s about words rather than no words at all. It’s one reason I’m shouting out quite a bit about the NaNo Camps. Less onerous as we can set the target. I aim to use them all next year to get a consistent writing habit and hopefully gather a few buddies for the ride too.

      Many thanks for taking the time to read nd comment too. Much appreciated!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks, Gary. I enjoyed a winning streak for a few years, but always just felt great just getting any words generated in the process. Haven’t tried a Camp, but sure did enjoy the Word Wars during NaNoWriMo. Something about the time constraint and metrics loosened up some writing velocity. What a great program.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Sounds to me like you’re the NaNo pro! Are you doing it this year too?

          I looked at Camps last year, but wasn’t able to participate properly. I’m aiming to correct that next year and make time to finish a few projects. Hopefully combined with the main event it should raise my game. I seem to work better to deadlines. Always have so this certainly fuels that somewhat. That said, it’s day two and so far I’m on track. Just navigating life to open up the best times to write!

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          • Yes, unfortunately I haven’t been able to rejoin for a couple of years now. The way I dove in just didn’t go well with family life. Nice to connect with another deadline writer, though. And to hear you are on track! If you haven’t already, I heartily recommend giving a Word War sprint a try. Hoping some NaNos still run those every 15 or 30 minutes. Fun to see how your word count compares with others. As for making the time to write: that’s an age-old question, isn’t it!

            Liked by 1 person

            • Apologies for not seeing this one sooner, had quite a few email notifications and some slipped the net. Agreed wrt family life. I see lots of posts and very few seem to mention family or life impacts. It’s like they shut everything out and just write. With kids that’s just not possible. Even an event like this has to have life balance…although living with an author is tough at the best if times IMO. You just can’t write solid characters without it affecting your own state of mind for a while. Same with being interrupted when lost in the imagination. It tends not to be received well. Which all goes back to that age old question…time. Odd thing is when I’m not writing there seems to be loads of the blasted stuff!

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              • I agree… Even before parenthood the writing was a strain, not to mention navigating Thanksgiving without fretting family regarded it as an anti-social stunt! The first year was exciting for everyone, but the novelty and the expectations seemed to change places after that. The fact I still want to do it again must say something, right? I’d rely on a few 30 or 15 minute sprints a day in forums to reach 1,700. I do vaguely recall some carpal tunnel concerns after awhile, though. ☺️ What I also want is to edit some of what I came up with during good years. That “time” stuff you speak of would come in handy there!

                Liked by 1 person

                • That’s where I stumble at weekends, balancing writing against house full of people. That said I usually have a social media routine in the afternoons from a blogging FB group that shares posts and media all over. If I can lose that and write instead it might pay off. Thing is that’s easy to dip out of if something crops up, writing absorbs me too much to permit that. I guess I’m reduced to what you said really, any spare minutes to throw words down. Let’s face it 2000 isn’t exactly a monster wordcount…or so say non-writers. Trying to keep plot flow, consistency, non-naff phrases requires a shade more than just bungling words down. Although, that’s me reducing editing on autopilot methinks.

                  I’m detecting from you that deep down you want to write. Often that comes out as a conflict of interests as a parent. However, if it’s the dream (hobby, publishing aim or otherwise) I’d say do not lose it or give up. It’s who you are so and stopping will fuel problems down the line, particularly regret and self esteem. The wish I’d done that scenario. I’ll throw you a challenge. If you’ve got stuff to write or edit then come onboard with a Camp Nano(s) early next year. Setting your own goals, less intense and such like might help structure time so it’s balanced with everything else. Just a thought. It leaves this side of Christmas to think about which edit to do and mentally gear up for doing it? I’m aiming to post a few things relating to these once festivities are over and may use the #ISWG group to throw it out.

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  3. I have never heard of this concept before this year and I felt I just could not add another 50k words on top of my normal blog posts and writing. Congratulations to everyone who has the tenacity to attempt this. I thought your advice was good and very helpful to people who are participating.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You’re not alone with those thoughts. Many writers drop social media for this event for that very reason. November is the main event with 50K, but also be aware there are smaller NaNoCamp months where it runs the same, but the writer sets a personal target as high or low as they want. I’m aiming to do them too πŸ™‚

      Thanks for your kind words too πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  4. This got caught too so again my apologies. If you want to buddy up on NaNo, leave me your username and I’ll link up. Support is always a useful thing and might help us both with the mind gremlins πŸ™‚

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  5. I have to admit, since signing up for NaNoWriMo (my first time doing so), I have alternated between feeling confident and stressing out. Today was a stress day, so your post was quite helpful with putting things into perspective.

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    • I don’t think, if people are absolutely honest, anyone gets a perfect novel from NaNo. There is simply not enough time to do anything but first draft. Well, for those of us with lives and kids that is. I really do believe its about getting words down that might not otherwise be written. Pushing a project on as you say. Your competitive edge sounds perfect for NaNo Camps too. I’m aiming to do those next year and will be looking for buddies there too πŸ™‚

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  8. Great informative post dear Gary. I’ve heard about this project a few months ago, but didn’t take the time to look into it. Not my cup of tea…yet πŸ˜‰
    Hope all is well at your end. Here enjoying the ‘summery’ days, nature surprised us with πŸ™‚
    XxX

    Liked by 1 person

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    • Crumbs, that’s why I tried hard to emphasise never look at is as win/lose. Self targets and breathe lots. Ever tried NaNo Camps? They are excellent for habit forming and you set the target for you. In fact I’m looking for people to do them next year…

      Just don’t think of that falling behind as an avalanche destroying all hope πŸ˜•

      Liked by 1 person

  10. I admit, I’ve heard a lot about NaNoWriMo, but never knew quite what it was. Your post enlightened me with just that, AND now I know what to expect too. Novels are something I haven’t tackled yet, but I plan on writing at least one in my life. Maybe NaNo can be the beginning of that new journey. Thank you πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I’ve done NaNo for the last four years but I’m having a break in 2017. I’ve got to submit a manuscript on the 10th Nov and I’m doing a Christmas market throughout Dec so it’s too much to take on at the moment. I love everything about NaNo as it offers me the motivation to get that first draft out of my head and down on paper. Good luck to everyone who is taking part.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Wow, maybe next year then Shelley. But fair play re the manuscript. That’s what’s making me thinking yes then no to it. I have a manuscript looking for a publisher and I should be sending it somewhere. If I tackle NaNo then that’s on hold for a month… well, pretty much everything is lol. Must buddy up if you come back next year though πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

    • Umm, I don’t think there was anything on it having to be fiction so… umm… if you have a factual book that needs doing then… nothing I an see that’s says NO πŸ™‚

      You might find, should I do it, that participants drop out of social media for a month or so (often mental recovery afterwards so maybe six weeks in total). It is a fantastic project idea, but under sold are CampNaNo’s that go on throughout the year. They are less intense, but excellent for upping writing rates. You might see a few post event posts knocking about too πŸ™‚

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    • I’m guessing a lot of that is part of blog post writing. Write, edit, post. Short stories too role on that cycle. NaNo and novels (to me at any rate) are get the words down and worry about what it looks like afterwards when the editing to second draft begins. Treat it as a personal goal thing and if you hit 50K then BONUS πŸ™‚

      And if Lorna is in on that promise then, err…umm… I think you just dug yourself a hole and might have difficulty finding the way out now! Go for it and link up with anyone on here that’s also doing it too πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

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