NaNoWriMo 2017 – I did it!

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Taking part in this year’s National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) hadn’t even crossed my mind – until the author Susanna Bavin suggested it.

Susanna, who has appeared in my Behind The Book series, wrote a blog post featuring quotes from her writer friends about their experiences of NaNo. Having completed it in 2015 (just), I added a comment and thought that was the end of it.

It wasn’t until a Twitter conversation later where Susanna invited me to be her buddy this year – and some of her friends and mine encouraged me – that I first thought ‘maybe I should do this?’ I talked it through with Mark because I knew from last time that I would need his support if I was going to manage it. He was all for it (I moan about him but he’s a good one really), so I signed up.

Did I mention it was already October 22nd and NaNo starts on November 1st? Not only that but I was just about to head off on holiday for half term week so not much time for prep. I decided to continue with the book I’ve been working on for Friday 500 – and luckily I convinced my writing buddy, Kate, to join in.

We began our Friday 500 project in September 2016 (the idea was that we would email each other a minimum of 500 words each week of our respective novels). It’s worked really well. I’ve had a lot of fun trying out different things. I’m writing third person but alternate between characters. I started with two main characters, went up to three, went back down again and then tried writing first person. I also realised that I really REALLY needed to have some sort of plan. So I stopped and spent a solid couple of weeks plotting and then I started again, almost from scratch.

By October, I had two chapters and a really quite detailed idea of where my story was going but I would have happily continued to plod along had Susanna not offered to be my buddy for NaNo.

I was really excited to get started. I didn’t include any of the words I had already written but, because I had spent so long thinking about the story (even dreaming scenes some nights), the words really flowed. I was still getting up at 5am and writing some days so I could get my word count up but, unsurprisingly, having Freya at school all day this time was a big help.

Nano stats

As you can see, some days were better than others. I realised at the start that I really needed to get some words in the bank because there were days, particularly weekends, where it would be a struggle. Once I had that safety net it pretty much sailed along. I even managed to finish a couple of days early – unlike last time when I was almost still typing up to deadline.

I actually found it quite emotional writing the final chapter, maybe because I had actually written all the chapters before it (I only had six and an ending last time and the rest were scenes).

What’s also been really great this time is having a supportive group of writing buddies to talk to via Twitter DM every day. Writing can be a lonely pursuit but they always gave me something to smile about.

And here it is, my certificate (isn’t it nice that it goes with my blog colours). I think even those who didn’t reach the 50k are winners. We all had our own goals but more importantly we all wanted to write – and that’s what we’ve done.

NaNo-2017-Winner-Certificate 2

Thank you very much to everyone who has supported me – and especially Susanna. I’m very excited to have an actual draft. Now on to editing.

Did you take part in NaNoWriMo this year (or in the past)? How did you get on?

 

 

 

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My Top Five Tips For NaNoWriMo.

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“There is no perfect time to write. There is only now.” – Barbara Kingsolver, author.

This quote is certainly true when it comes to National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), which kicks off again on November 1st.

I took part for the first time last year… and I’ve just about recovered. I’m kidding, sort of.

There is no doubt that writing 50,000 words in 31 days fried my brain (and it was probably January before I even attempted anything creative again) but when I re-read it I actually quite liked what I had written – although it is not a novel by any stretch of the imagination.

Mind you, I didn’t do myself any favours having signed up (it’s free) almost at the last minute with no plan, hardly any prep (unless you call designing a front cover prep *shakes head at my own stupidity*) and a non-sleeping two-year-old as my support crew.

Having said all that I do think every struggling writer (and maybe even some non-struggling ones) should try it once – and if you are going to do it, my advice would be give yourself the best chance by starting your prep now, if you haven’t done so already.

I’m no expert, of course, but here are five things that would have helped me:

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PLAN: You might not be able to start writing until November 1st, according to the rules, but you can certainly start planning – and now is the time. I’m not saying you need a chapter by chapter outline (although that would be amazing) but at least an idea of what you’re going to write and where it’s going would be a help.

DON’T EDIT: Once you start writing there is no time to go back and edit – or at least I didn’t have time. Most people are doing it as an extra to their day jobs, which leaves maybe a couple of hours each day to knock out 1600 (ish) words. So you just need to KEEP WRITING. Because I hadn’t taken my own advice and planned, I ended up writing scenes, which didn’t entirely fit together but which could be worked in later.

GET SOCIAL: I joined local Nano-ers, if that’s the correct term, via Facebook and it was great to hear how they were getting on/not getting on and offer help and support. There were also write ins (or meet ups) throughout the month and, if Freya had been a bit older and sleeping better, I would certainly have tried to get along.

MOTIVATE: My motivation was obviously the fact that I wanted to see if I could write a novel in a month. When that soon wore off, I needed a couple of other little rewards to keep me going. Be it chocolate, wine or a trip out, I would give myself a little treat after a set number of words.

BE REALISTIC: It might be called novel writing month but what you end up with is nowhere near a novel – or at least mine wasn’t. But if you’ve managed to write 50,000 words in at least some sort of order then you’ve made a great start, in my opinion.

I’d been nowhere near that word count before – in fact, I’d never written beyond three chapters. So, for me, NaNo was more about showing myself that I had the stamina to write that number of words, even if they weren’t all very good ones. It felt like I had opened a previously locked door so from that respect it was really worth it.

Are you taking part this year? Good luck if so. 

 

NaNoWriMo – I’m a winner.

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Saturday was officially a good day.

Not only did I complete Couch to 5K (finally) but I also filed my 50K to become a NaNoWriMo2015 winner. I was (and still am if the truth be told) unashamedly proud of myself for both, which I know is a bit uncool.

There is no way I could have written 50k if fate hadn’t played a hand though, there simply wouldn’t have been enough hours or energy in the day otherwise. When my wart turned out not to be a wart I decided, with encouragement from Mark, not to accept any more freelance work for November. The last thing I wanted to do was take a job and then have to cancel it because the consultant appointment or operation date had come through. It meant that when my mum and dad visited twice a week (barring my dad being poorly, a visit to the dentist, a hospital appointment and train disruption) and for an hour or so at night I was mostly able to write for fun.

That doesn’t mean it was all plain sailing. A couple of days into week three and I was ready to give up, sure that I would never make it. Freya had been up in the night even more than usual and the last thing I wanted to do when she went to bed (for a couple of hours) was sit down and write.

With the deadline looming though the journalist in me kicked in. MUST NOT MISS A DEADLINE. So I ploughed on. I was still unsure right up to Saturday whether I would be able to do it or not but running the 5K with ease (a post on that coming up) gave me a much-needed boost of confidence.

I thought it would be fun if I did a Q&A with myself about the experience.

So, Tara, this is your first NaNoWriMo. What are some of the key things you have learned?

  • TheWeddingFLING-4Planning is a must – I would certainly have more of a plan for my story if I did it again. This time I took two characters who had been sitting around in my head for a while and a basic plot and just let them go for it. I really enjoyed this at the start but I was about four chapters in when the story took a turn which really needed me to rewrite parts but, of course, there isn’t really time to rewrite.
  • It was never going to be a complete novel – I started off thinking I would write it in order but that just wasn’t possible. As well as six pretty solid chapters at the start and two at the end I spent the rest of the time writing scenes, which may or may not make the final cut but were really useful in getting to know my characters better.
  • New software love – Scrivener is now my software of choice. I joined a NaNo Norfolk Facebook group and some of those taking part mentioned they used it so I took a look about a week into writing. I’m really only using the basics, which was all I had time to learn, and I already find it so useful. I was enjoying the free 30 day trial and was about to buy it when I got an email saying because I had completed NaNo I had a nice discount available. I would have paid full price.
  • I can do it – I suppose that’s the biggest lesson. The most I’ve ever written is three chapters. Then all the doubts about not being a very good creative writer, about my plot being weak and my characters not believable bubble up to the surface and I stop. A few days or weeks later the need returns and I start a new story (and repeat). Now I know if I set my mind to it and ignore all the negative voices, I have a book in me. Whether it’s a book anyone will want to read is another matter but I think I need to write for me first.

What were the hardest things?

Finding time. Even with my mum and dad looking after Freya for (roughly) two days a week I still struggled to meet the target every day. When I got behind it would feel like the mountain was too high to climb but it helped that I was enjoying seeing where my story was going (and that I’m paranoid about deadlines). Clearly I was lucky to be able to take a month off (part time) work but it did feel a bit self-indulgent even though I did it for reasons other than NaNo.

What about the book then?

As I said, it’s not quite there yet. Some rewriting is needed and then I need to finish the middle. My plan is to let it sit for a while because the strange thing is it’s made me more focussed on the previous story I was working on.

Would I do it again?

Hell yeah (providing I have the time).