The month of November is not only known as the month that kicks off the holiday season but it is also National Novel Writing Month. What does that mean? In short it is a month where writers sit down with their ideas and try to produce 50,000 new words for their novel. 50K words in 1 month is not an easy task, or at least it isn’t for me. The whole exercise is a challenge for me because I can not self edit during the writing process. I tend to write the same sentence over and over until I “get it right”, this is a slow a aggravating process that burns me out before I have written two or three chapters. I am not really sure why I fall into that style of writing, it clearly doesn’t work for me. NaNoWriMo forces me to just keep writing over the speed bumps.
This year was my third year taking on the challenge. My first year I completed the first draft of a 51k word novel, to be honest it wasn’t the best work I have ever done but it was a novel with a beginning, middle and end. It even had a pretty good story. It needs a second draft and I am remiss to admit that I have not gone back to it. The second year I was all gun-ho, I had an idea that was pretty good and was ready for November 1st to roll around. I admit I was over confidant. After all the previous year I finished with a handful of days to spare. Within three days the wheels flew off the car and I was completely stymied. I couldn’t write a sentence, it was more than just writer’s block it was as if the ability to write was stripped away from me. I gave up before week one was even over.
I was so discouraged that I wasn’t interested in trying again and it wasn’t until my wife stepped in that I settled myself in to try again. This year I was able to blow it out of the water, I finished the month with over 60k words! Here are things that I did different this year that really made a difference.
- I spent the month of October getting my Scrivener project set up. That means more than just creating a new project. I explored the application tips and tricks to find out what really worked for me and set up the project to reflect what allowed me to get the most out of the tool.
- I also created (in Scrivener) an outline of the entire story from beginning to end, and allowed myself the room to change that outline during the challenge.
- I spent time writing character sketches for all the major characters and one sentence summaries for most of the minor ones.
- Then on October 31st I looked at a calendar and based on work and family commitments I scheduled time allotments for each day. I was realistic with each day, some days I was able to set aside a few hours and there were days where I could only set aside 30 minutes. But every day had some writing time. My wife was great and understanding when it came to my writing time, she even allowed me to squeeze in a few extra hours here and there.
- Because I am a bit of an analytics geek (day job influence) I created an Excel Spreadsheet to track writing session rates and metrics that actually made it a bit of a game for me, I even built in rewards for every 5k words written.
- Each day when I wrote, I found a quiet place to write where I could stay focused.
That looks all fine and good but at the end the reason I was able to write so much in such a short amount of time was that I really became attached to story and the characters. I spent a lot of time getting to know them during preparation, I knew where I needed the story to go and was invested in the journey.
Now for the sad part. While I finished the challenge with a rate of just over 2k words per day, I was unable to keep up the pace and when November ended I fell off the writing train. My manuscript has sat for a month and a half almost untouched. I am now trying to set up a new calendar (just like I did going into the challenge) and a new spreadsheet that can keep the game going. I am kicking off in February with a goal of another 30k words (estimated to complete the first draft), I just need to get a rate of just over 1k words a day.
If you are interested in learning more please check out the official NaNoWriMo site