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N is for NaNoWriMo

It’s the third week of the month, so it’s time for the Author Toolbox Blog Hop. For details, click on the image below.

I’ve done NaNoWriMo twice now.

The first time was thanks to a link my dad had sent me. It worked out quite well. I finished the first draft of a New Adult novel I had in mind (though that novel is still languishing in the dark recesses of my hard drive, waiting to be edited). And I made a new writing friend. (Only going to one write-in – an unofficial one – probably had something to do with that.)

The second one ended in tears.

“I think the hardest thing to realise after seventy thousand words is that not only will it have to be rewritten entirely, but the two novels that precedes it has to be rewritten as well.”from my NaNoWriMo2016 reflections post.

So why do this challenge?

Writing can be a lonely pursuit, but in November thousands of writers work towards the same goal. And suddenly it isn’t just you and your characters, but others with theirs on the same journey you are. Something about that knowledge, pushes me to be better, to be accountable and to cross that finish line.

The challenge pushed me to finish a first draft in thirty days. It also taught me to write faster.

Plotter or pantser, prep is important.

I’ve learned that with the right amount of prep, I can write close to 20k words a day. So maybe I can write a novel’s first draft a lot quicker if the circumstances are ideal: e.g. 5 days where I don’t have to do anything but write. Though we know that ideal times rarely ever occur and we have to make the best of what we’ve got… That’s the reason I like to write first drafts with pen and paper – even if there’s a storm and the power is out, I can still write. It is less distracting too (there’s no social media to constantly beep and call if the computer is off – I had disconnected phone from all networks too).

The support from fellow writers through sprints and the encouragement they freely share also makes the month shorter and the writing faster.

I’ve made lots of writer friends through this – people willing to share their struggles and triumphs, answer questions (and pose their own), writers who know exactly what you’re going through when you need to kill your darlings and rework a story. (FYI the IWSG is awesome for this too.) Yes, I’ve figured out with the second one how to accomplish all that… Twitter is a great place to find like-minded writers and to start your own chat group on the DM feature.

And though with the last NaNoWriMo I came to the heart-breaking realisation that I have to completely rework my YA trilogy (the end was so close with the last novel), I’m glad I realised it! My trilogy is going to be awesome now. All the writing and rewriting had taught me a lot about what makes a story work – listening to the advice of other writers is also a good thing.

The NaNoWriMo site doesn’t have to be abandoned the rest of the year. Annalisa Crawford had figured out how to make the principles learned during NaNoWriMo work throughout the rest of the year too.

“At the beginning of the year, I decided I was going to write a novel much quicker than I’d ever written one before – in a year. Completed, beta-read, edited and ready to submit.

My WIPs tend to take several years, malingering through many rewrites without much of a plan, and at the beginning of the year, I decided – finally – that this was stupid.

And, coincidentally, at the same time these decisions were occurring, the NaNoWriMo web site announced that people could create their own goals whenever they wanted. So I set up a goal – to write 40,000 words in 90 days.

Today, I finished – 8 days (and 3,600 words) short of the deadline, but the draft is complete, and I am very happy with it, as it stands!”

Imagine being motivated like that… I really should try out the new feature.

What about you fellow scriveners: have you done NaNoWriMo? What has your experience been with writing a novel in thirty days?

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