Thoughts on Success During #NaNoWriMo. It’s Not All About Hitting The Word Count. #ISWG

Let me say it again: You must not come lightly to the blank page.” Stephen King

For the last two years I’ve sacrificed November to that well-known writing obsession known as National Novel Writing Month more commonly known as NaNoWriMo. An annual writing challenge to script 50,000 words in thirty days.

Authors from all over the globe have one target, to write a book in one month. That’s 1667 words a day. Say it fast and it sounds easy. Sit down and write with and it’s less so. It requires determination bordering obsession. Snatching time every day to compose a draft novel in busy lives is not something everybody will find as simple as it might appear. Clearly it can be done as many, like myself, have proved by succeeding.

 

But how do you define success?

50,000 words is an awful lot. Many will find it slipping away within the first week. It’s an unforgiving test of endurance. However, it is also a personal challenge rather than a competition. Yes you get the kudos badge for succeeding, but I feel it more important that a writer finding themselves with a draft heading towards a novel of any length has achieved a great deal. Even if the target ambles off into the horizon by week two that is no need to give up. 20 or 30,000 words is still a huge accomplishment.

Don’t sleight it by looking at the goal post disappearing daily into the distance. Keep going and write as much as humanely possible. Novels don’t write themselves. People have life interludes, illness, children, work and a myriad others things that might strive to intervene time set aside to write.

I’ve seen people on my buddy list stop dead half way through and often that’s because they are so far off target it’s reacted to as failure. I’m unconvinced by that line of thinking.

 

The failing story

If the story ceases to work, then you’ve explored an idea and found it lacking. Sure it’s frustrating, but better explored and found out than not trying. I will wager there isn’t a writer alive or deceased that’s taken every idea started to a full novel. I’d say it’s a positive outcome because you now know it had no legs.

 

Comparative self defeat

Buddy systems are support systems not competitive ones. Don’t watch someone flying past the daily word counts and compare it to your own meagre amount. It’s counterproductive. Grow your buddy list and take heart from a range of counts. Chances are you’re not alone in the stat graphs. Write at your pace, with the time you have and get something down. Any words are better than no words.

 

Over analysis and time-wasting

Remember, this is a first draft. Don’t prevaricate and worry about structure or editing. There’s no time. It’s called a first draft for a reason in the same way editing is called editing for a reason. Proofing too for that matter. If something gets stuck or feels articulated poorly, blow past it and carry on. Fixing comes later.

 

Life and time

Remember too, life for most of us can’t be shut down. Stuff happens, accept it and don’t dwell in frustration that it’s killing your expectations of cruising the 50K. Writing can be a natural source of self-doubt without adding value by getting shirty at interludes that collapse the word count.


 

Life beyond NaNo.

For most, the end of NaNo wont draw a novels conclusion. Even at 50k there is likely to be a fair few chapters left to complete things.

Those not hitting that target should take heart in that too. They also have a few chapters left. Look out for the two NaNo Camps in April and July. These are less combative mentally because the writer sets their own target. This might be editing the manuscript, setting a word count to complete the one started in November or an entirely new project. Use these as completion challenges. They work well for me and help keep writing going. If I hit a lull then I use one or the other to kick-start my writing habit. Any serious writer needs to develop that. Dipping in and out doesn’t develop the discipline to advance their skill set. It also leads to procrastinating and finding reasons to not write. Been guilty of that one too myself.

 

Remember any words, any length, any word count is success.

 


 

AN OPEN INVITATION TO OUR NANOWRIMO FRIENDS

 

If you find NaNo tough and lacking support why not try a sample of your work in this months #BlogBattle? Anything up to 1000 words and any genre. Just keep it family friendly.

We now run this once a month for any writers that want to join in. It’s a good place to share short stories, poetry or samples of your writing. The only criteria is to use the prompt word (EDUCATE) somewhere. For NaNo participants we thought it might be nice to view some samples, spread the word and offer support.

Details below and a fuller post is scheduled for tomorrow. Any questions about it can  be addressed in the comments below.

 

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BlogBattle now live, join us and take part

 


 

 

 The Insecure Writer’s Support Group

 

Insecure Writers Support Group Badge

 

Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

 

 


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44 Comments

  1. As with your other NaNo post, there are some gems of advice here, Gary. I particularly liked the whole over-analysis part: “If something gets stuck or feels articulated poorly, blow past it and carry on.”

    This is something I struggle with. I get to a tough bit in the story, try to wade through it, get stuck, and start sinking. There’s another quote I quite like, from C. Robert Cargill: “Stuck in a scene and don’t know where to go next? Do what the pros do: Put what happens in brackets. [Our hero escapes death by doing something clever.] Then write what happens after that. Keeping your writing momentum is key. Often you’ll find the answer later in the work.”

    My first main WIP I got stuck thinking about how *exactly* my protagonist could build an explosive device with the *precise* materials he had at hand, and that was the death knell for my momentum. I really must learn from past mistakes…

    Great tips, Gary! I’ll be keeping these two tabs open, as I attempt NaNo — just to remind me of the dos and don’ts!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Robert Cargill speaks true. It’s also part of King mantra in On Writing. First draft is a skeleton upon which the second draft puts flesh. I know several writers that ask me how to move forward and I always say if you’re stuck getting from A to B in a scene skip it and start at B. Writing can’t stop while an angle is figured out or it turns in procrastinating. Write it, flip the stall points and move on. By the end of draft one you know both story arc and characters way better. That alone might direct the stuck point. If it’s more a tech point like yours then more reason to flip to scenes end and figure out minutia later. There I’d have advised work out the explosive build first then make sure his inventory carries the kit lol.

      Sounds like you’re definitely going for it this year too. I’d buddy up, but I’m not sure I’m ready for November.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, everything you said there is excellent advice — the sort of things I wish someone had told me back when I first dared to put word on paper! Alas, I may have learned the lesson now. Although it may have taken a while 😉

        I think I’m just going to throw myself into it and see what happens. As you said on the other post, it’s all about mindset. If it doesn’t work out, I won’t beat myself up about it too much. I just really wanna see what comes of it!

        Liked by 1 person

        • I think we can all say that! Writing buddies are hard to come by when you start this caper. Then again maybe you learn more the hard way…or…does that make the journey longer until you vaguely know what’s what?

          I think you’ve already decided to give it a go by the sounds of it. Nothing to lose and words to gain. What can possibly go wrong with the right mindset 😳

          Liked by 1 person

          • I think Chris from Mused.blog is having a go, and maybe a few others from BB — I’m very glad I stumbled across BB, it’s a lovely little writing community you have built/are building.

            I have a feeling that both statements are correct, a long and hard journey, but the things you learn during the arduous trek you’ll never forget. I know I read some tips before I really started going for it, and I now know I didn’t fully understand them, until I had made the same mistakes, so… Who knows? 😀

            Yes, I think I’ll just have a go and see what happens. I’m not approaching it lightly, but I won’t punish myself too severely if I fail. If I can get a decent chunk of the story done during November, I’ll call it a success!

            Liked by 1 person

            • That would be excellent! More folk from diverse blogs can help spread the word! Mind you, that means more reading which is a great assist to not writing 😂😂

              Sometimes the adage can’t put old heads on young shoulders holds true. It’s easy to give advice and often harder to take it. Lessons learned yourself stick and then comes the epiphany of what the advice actually meant in the first place! Then again there’s chatting about things that turns into advice and lobbing it into someone’s face. I find the former way better myself. I guess that’s the beauty of writing buddies!!

              There is no fail! Any words are a bonus. If it doesn’t pan out to 50k remember the camps! You set your own target in them. I’m definitely up for those next year too. Aim will be to tackle NaNo again after. I’m just not ready this time so might use that month to revamp my blog instead 😱

              Liked by 1 person

              • Haha, true! More reading means less time writing, but I am enjoying branching out and reading genres I wouldn’t normally!

                Yes — the epiphany bit is so true! I’ve had many “Oh, so *that’s* what they meant…” moments! Maybe I’m just stubborn, and have to run into the pitfalls on my own! 😂

                I will be up for the camps next year too! However NaNo turns out, I think I’ll give them all a shot. A little bit of peer pressure from buddies can’t hurt!

                Hm, I may need to restructure my blog at some point too, even though it only started this summer. Trying to categorise all of the short stories I’ve written for various prompts (BB, Reedsy, CarrotRanch, etc.) — it’s getting a tad messy…

                Liked by 1 person

                • Essential stuff Joshua. I’ve proper diverged my reading from YA through fantasy, sci-fi and, of course horror…not going Mills and Boon though. I do draw some lines!!

                  I think pitfalls are probably the best learning tools to make us fully understand advice given. Otherwise it’s just words 😂

                  Too right. I actually see it more as support and encouragement. Self motivation in solitary might be good for some, but often others it is a serious issue. I’ve come to realise I’m the latter!

                  I’ve had my blog for some time, but not being over savvy I’ve left it as is. Now it’s well outdated and needs a way better feel. I’ve found a theme though so it’s a case of stepping into the fire!

                  Liked by 1 person

                  • Haha! I think we have a similar approach. I try to branch out into many different genres, but I just cannot get through some of those romance novels. Not to say I don’t enjoy romance, but I mostly like it when it’s packaged within another genre.

                    Yes, I’m really glad I’ve embraced the online writing communities — here on WP, over on Reedsy’s forums. It’s great to motivate others and to receive motivation. We’re all in the same boat! 🙂

                    I must admit, I’m not too savvy myself! My partner made my blog for me, and I have simply handled the stories and writing! 😂

                    Liked by 1 person

                    • Absolutely must be packed inside another genre! That said two of my own favourite characters are Ade and Rowena the goth. They belong in the Archie storyline that is a working title called The Bequest and follow up Black Marsh. They have a little romance going on as teenagers lol Nothing lurid mind…unlike the other one I mentioned somewhere else!

                      I’ll have a look at Reedsy next year as part of the habit generator too. I’m working on mental preparation to kick start in the new year properly. That gives a couple of months to tackle the blog. Might have to find a go to person for that though 🤔

                      Liked by 1 person

                    • A good romance between characters can really add to the story — like the husband-wife dynamic of Pet Sematary, or doomed romance in Salem’s Lot. I just can’t read something that’s purely romance, unless it’s truly exceptional…

                      I really recommend it — they also give out cash prizes, too! I’ve won it twice now, which was quite a nice confidence booster. Put some wind in my sails, as they say.

                      If you don’t know anyone who can do the blog for you, I’ve heard good things about Fiverr for freelance services. Perhaps someone over there can do something pretty for rather cheap? I’ve heard it recommended for graphic designers for book covers, and whatnot. Never used it myself, mind you.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    • In the right setting yes, but as with all human traits it’s getting the right combination of characters that sets it up. Forcing anything usually goes wrong with mine!

                      I think new year might be a better time to try those. Too much happening at present, which I’ve just added to with the NaNo rush of blood. So not sure that was wise!!!

                      As for the blog, I probably could do it myself. Artwork aside although Rachael did me some really cool logos a few months ago. Pretty sure they will work. It’s that arm of uncertainty with new things that keeps diverging into procrastinating. I’ve considered that re publishing too. Do it once and the process will be known and thus easier next time.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    • I agree, forcing never works. It always reads a bit stunted. Let the characters tell their own tales! 😉

                      Ha, yes, I think we’ve got enough on our plates with NaNo. I’m not sure if I’m going to maintain the Reedsy entries for this month… If I get my NaNo writing done for the day, maybe I’ll try and sneak them in, somewhere.

                      The fear does contribute towards procrastination. I know I had crippling writer’s block during my BSc, due to worrying about the possibility of bad grades and such. Ripping the band aid off. I know it’ll look amazing once you’re finished with it! 🙂

                      Liked by 1 person

                    • It does for me. That said many writers work from character sheets and pre-planned arcs. I’ve tried that and it became too convoluted. Again it was King and On Writing that got me nodding when he talked about knowing both areas way better after a first draft. I’m not sure, but D&D gaming might have influenced my style in that I see things unfolding as I write. If I have a storyboard it diverges rapidly and I feel things are stronger that way. Characters flow rather than being jerked back on course unnaturally.

                      As for NaNo…err must update proceedings as it looks like I’ve done nothing so far! Tomorrow I’m moving it all into DropBox so I can work between devices and still access my manuscript template. So far it’s been quite disorganised 😱

                      Fear is a great adversary I agree. I guess that’s a causal agent in low self esteem or belief that what we do is not half as bad as we think! Therapists call that un-evidenced internal thinking. Not that knowing that stops it 😂

                      Liked by 1 person

                    • I have “sort of” sketches of my characters’ arcs, but I leave myself plenty of wiggle room, to allow for sudden fits of creativity. I like to have a vague destination, so that I don’t write myself into a corner, which I have done before… Halfway between planning and just making it up on the go, I think!

                      So far, so good for NaNo! I’ve got to head back to the UK tomorrow for my brother’s wedding, so that *might* disrupt things a smidge…

                      Haha, yes, I’m well aware of the nagging voice at the back of my mind, but I can’t seem to silence it…

                      Liked by 1 person

                    • That’s what I find fascinating about writers I know. So many different approaches. I’m totally a pantser. No plan, just dive in kind of thing. Mind you I think I mentioned before that my characters really dictate things. I do follow a flow though. Editing closes down zones that could have wandered, but I leave some in for subsequent stories to link to.

                      NaNo is going OK here too…even if it’s only day 6!! Good luck with the wedding too. I can’t see writing being up front there 😂

                      Like

                    • I know, it’s very cool to see the different journeys we all take to arrive at a finished story. I do know what you mean, though — I sometimes have to surrender to my characters’ will, and let them go where they want to go. The best laid plans, and all that!

                      Thanks, we’re all very excited, now! I managed to do a fair bit of writing at airports and on planes (thank you technology — my tablet is a marvellous piece of kit). Slightly over the needed amount for NaNo, so I’ll allow myself the time off for the wedding! 😉

                      Liked by 1 person

                    • That’s a pretty good punch Joshua. Dropping to 10k behind can be very intimidating, but dragging it back to 5k is huge. 2.5k a day is a good target too. Be nice if we could nail that 5 days a week all the time.

                      My stats are pretty solid as you’ve seen. If I hold up I’m looking at 60-70k. Experience tells me once I’ve stopped it will really catch up with mental fatigue. Thing is I’m now looking forward to the camps too. Even Rachael wants to join in those now.

                      Thanks for the mojo too. I’m not updating every day so tallies spike a bit. I think I’m about 2k short now and the story is holding up ok.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    • Apologies for the silence, Gary! I shunned my blog and social media for a bit, and focused solely on writing. I managed to pass the 50k mark last night. 🙂 Quite proud of the accomplishment, considering how far I was behind, at one point! I know now that I can hit 2k easily in a day, and if I really go for it, 5k is doable. It all depends on motivation and distractions, I think!

                      What dizzying number did you hit in the end? Did you reach the 60/70k mark? I’m also looking forward to the camps as well! This year’s NaNo was a great success. Bring on the camps!

                      Liked by 1 person

                    • Same here re silence…I’m totally fluxing between reality and fiction worlds now though! Awesome on hitting it too Joshua, we’ll proud of you there and I agree 2000 a day is easy to reach with a disciplined approach. That will flux up or down depending on flow of story. And those accursed distractions!

                      I hit it with 64k early last week. I’m now up to 70 and in the end game. Well, book one end. This is the one that links those I’ve written with this a sketch prior to this. Rachael is up for setting up a BB camp and I’m already reaching out to folk to try and get recruits. We got this!

                      Liked by 1 person

                    • Thanks, Gary! Was super-pleased with myself. Definitely found this one easier, now that I buddied up with several other writers. Now, to just maintain it! No excuses now, the story’s in its final act.

                      Wow, that’s some going! Like lightning. Well done, Gary! Keep going! 🙂

                      Like

  2. Pingback: Finished or Thought About NaNoWrMo? Ever Considered What Makes An Author Prolific? #ISWG | Fiction is Food

  3. I find just being in a community for a month keeps me focused. Even if the majority are people I’ll never see I know they are there. So true just keep writing. A scene, describe a character, someone unexpectedly walks into the room. Just explore and keep writing. Thank you for always being supportive. I know your on my team!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you. I didn’t know about the springtime NaNo activities. I didn’t sign up but I’m using the NaNo vibes floating around to make myself write on my new manuscript each and every day this month. (Historical, so it’s slow going with research every other paragraph, but better than I’d be doing without the NaNo in the air!) The starting is always the toughest, anyway!

    Liked by 1 person

    • The camps are a better way to start if the main event is daunting. They get you used to how it all works. Much less onerous too, although that really depends on the target you set yourself! I guess if you were mad enough you could set 50k in those too!

      I think using it outside of the hub is also a good goal too. So many bloggers post about their journeys it’s hard not to get inspired. I always say any writing is better than none too!

      Many thanks for the comment.

      Like

    • Thanks Alex, I’ve seen too many of my buddy’s dropping back and then finding they’ve struggled with the failure aspect. I seem to bang the drum on this annually now! Words, writing habit and personal challenge. Any words better than none. Also I’m very surprised at how many don’t really know about the Camps too. For many they might actually work better by self setting your own targets.

      Thanks for popping over!

      Like

  5. Such a thoughtful post – and I don’t know about anyone else, but it’s quite timely for me as I’m starting to feel the newness and the excitement of those first few days wearing off ever so slightly.

    In my state’s NaNoWriMo Facebook group, an author posted that he’s always seen National Novel Writing Month as “a rush to get something done instead of just focusing on a good pace and what [people] are doing.” Then asked if someone could explain it all to him. I don’t think he was being critical, just inquisitive. Or maybe he was and I’m just choosing to assume his tone was inquisitive. 😝

    Anyway, the responses were so positive and uplifting, and many of the group’s members responded with comments about how NaNoWriMo creates an opportunity for writers of all experience levels to connect with each other, bounce ideas off each other, and support each other in the overall goal as well as with personal goals. Basically, knowing that there is a community of people out there can (and does) boost motivation.

    Liked by 1 person

    • And a very considered comment too! NaNo proper is a beast if it’s the first time anyone tries it without working to a tight time constraint. Most new writers take far too long to finish first drafts because they overthink and keep going over things that should be left to a first edit. Often you know the characters, story arc and plot way better at the end so that provides the necessary means to go back to change things. Newness can soon end in despair too if you see the word count growing exponentially. That happens fast too, I explored that in posts last year too.

      A lot of people often say the November event should have a more flexible goal too. I’ve considered that and concluded it would detract from the event for established writers. It’s the challenge that drives many to adopt a writing habit. King, for example, churns 2000 words a day. Granted that’s too end productivity, but NaNo gives a taster of what it takes to produce manuscripts at pace. I also often point out the two NaNoCamps are the places for people who want a slower pace. They run exactly the same as this event, but writers select their own targets at the start. I think that authors comment might have been better answered by referring to Camps. He sounds new to the concept and many people don’t even know they exist. Communities exist in both and have all been in the starting blocks at some point and are often willing to share advice, experience and support too. I think creating a blog based NaNo group might well prove popular too. A place to ask questions, share writing samples and so on. One reason the invite to BlogBattke was included. Although I’ve considered setting up a dedicated group several times where bloggers can link in and buddy up.

      Thank you so much for this wonderful comment Kelsey 😊

      Liked by 1 person

      • This is the first year I’ve been prepared and truly enthusiastic for NaNo, and I’ve surprised myself by how well I’m doing with avoiding edits and proofreading. I have gone over what I’ve written, but only if I’m finding it difficult to extend a particular scene I’m working on. I’ll look back to find a detail that I feel I can develop further, and then run with it!

        You are so right about the Camps! The availability of those in conjunction with the main event really highlights what NaNo is all about, beyond word count: developing (and/or improving) writing habits, writing every day, sharing tools and advice, etc. And I like that group idea; it would certainly lead to some helpful and fun conversations. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

        • Enjoy it Kelsey, I am actually missing not doing it this year! That said I also used the A to Z theme as back story for another project. That generated 40k words too. It was the intention to write the first book of that story this November, but life threw a curve ball and I knew I couldn’t embrace it properly.

          The hard bit in NaNo is resisting edits and re-reading. Both take time out of writing and often cause people to start lagging behind. With me, I tend to just write flat out. I know if I pushed things properly I could hit full first drafts every three months, maybe less. I need to develop the habit again in the New Year methinks! I’m aiming to use the first NaNo Camp too. We should link up!

          I’ll give the group idea some serious thought too. Maybe instigate it in the New Year too. Might make these conversations easier lol

          Liked by 1 person

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