Countdown to #NaNoWriMo

2013-Participant-Facebook-CoverLess than two weeks to go before NaNoWriNo (or National Novel Writing Month for those who don’t speak writer). That means that all across the world throughout the month of November, thousands of writers will be attempting to write 50,000 words in a month. Insane, you say? Yes. But it is possible. I speak from experience.

Last year was my first NaNoWriMo and I won (meaning, I wrote 50,000+ words in November). It was a crazy, sometimes stressful experience, but one that I wouldn’t trade for anything. It got me into the habit of writing nearly every day, which I didn’t think I could do before that. I also met so many wonderful people, both in person locally and online, many of whom I’ve kept in contact with online.

Out of all of Camelot’s Queen (also known as book 2), the part I wrote during NaNo is the part I ended up changing the least. Maybe I was just lucky that I had a really good idea of what was going to happen in that section, but I think a lot of the quality was due to the need to get out of my own way and just write. During NaNo, there isn’t time for a lot of second guessing. And most of the time, your first instinct is right. But I also had the advantage of having a chunk of the book already written (that didn’t count toward the 50,000 words), so I wasn’t starting from scratch.

This Year’s Book
This year is a whole different story (literally). I’ll be writing a Tudor-era historical fiction (code name: Glastonbury – it doesn’t have a real title yet) that came to me in June while I was in England researching book 3 of the Guinevere trilogy. It’s the story of two people, Isabella and Stephen, whose lives are intertwined with one another and the dissolution of Glastonbury Abbey. It’s part local legend (I don’t want to give that part away yet..let’s just say it has to do with the George and Pilgrim Inn), part love story, part recounting of the Abbey’s final months. I have always been fascinated with the dissolution of the monasteries (even before Nancy Bilyeau’s books) and when I stood in the ruins of Glastonbury Abbey, I knew I wanted to try to imagine what it would have been like in its heyday and what brought about its tragic end. The fact that local legend ties in with a bit of romance just sweetens the plot.

If you want to get an idea of what’s going on in my head and what I’ll be writing about for the next two months (hoping to have a draft done by year-end), take a look at the book’s Pinterest board. If music is more your thing, here’s the beginning of the playlist:

  • Lana Del Ray, “Born to Die” (Isabella and Stephen’s theme)
  • Lana Del Ray, “Off to the Races”
  • Brunuhville, The Eternal Forest (I’ll be using this whole album and all of his music as my main writing music.) 

Want to keep score at home? There’s a handy little word count tracker in the menu at the right that will update automatically as I log my words. And if you’re following my ROW80 posts on Wednesdays and Sundays, you’ll find out more there.

(And don’t worry about Guinevere. I’ll be getting back to book 3 as soon as I can. She and I just need a little distance. 14 years is a long time to put up with someone and that’s how long she and I have been telling her story.)

NaNoWriMo Resources
In case you want to join in on the insanity, here are some resources that helped me in planning my book. (And no, it’s not to late to join. I know people who have started in mid-November and still managed to win.) 

Good luck to all my fellow NaNo-ers out there! Come find me on the NaNo site and mark me as your writing buddy.

Do you have questions about NaNo? Are you participating? Let me know your user name and I’ll add you as a writing buddy. What do you think about NaNo? I was a huge skeptic before I did it.

Lessons Learned from National Novel Writing Month

50,000 words in 24 days. It can be done! Yes, I’m bragging – just give me a moment to pull myself together. *Ahem*

I’m not going to lie, winning National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is HARD! A lot of things have had to go by the wayside (exercise, cooking, house cleaning, social life – oh who am I kidding? I never had a social life.) So I’m looking forward to poking my head out of the writing cave and rejoining the world. Well, at least partly. I’m still hoping to have a draft of Book 2 finished by the end of the year.

But I digress. The real reason for this post is that you can’t go through something like this without learning a thing or two. Here are a few unexpected things that NaNoWriMo taught me:

  1. Making writing a priority = more time for writing. During the month of November, my work days went something like this: wake up, eat, go to work (where I write, but it doesn’t count for this), write on lunch break, come home, eat, write for two hours, take a shower, sleep. Repeat. Weekends were simpler: wake up, eat, write, maybe eat again, fall asleep on keyboard. I was exhausted most of the time, but it worked. Those two hours at night usually equalled about 1,50o words and most weekends my word count was around 2,00o-4,000. Now that NaNoWriMo is over, I’m going to try to find a way to write a few nights a week – just not at the breakneck pace I’ve been going at.
  2. There are only so many hours in the day. This is the flip side of #1. When you’re spending all your time working and writing, there’s not much room for much else. In September and October, I trained for my first 5K. In the course of November, I think I’ve lost all the muscle tone I built up (literally no exercising and lots of sitting) and probably gained 10 pounds (eating out and frozen food saves time over cooking). That and my house should probably be cited by the health department (okay, not really, but I’m OCD, so it feels that way). They should call December National Catch Up on Life Month.
  3. Learning to turn off your inner editor is very liberating. I tend to be a perfectionist writer (yes, I hear your sarcastic gasps from here), so the idea of just writing and not going back and revising scared the crap out of me when I first started this. But over time, I’ve grown to love it. Using whatever word comes to mind and moving on is a great way to keep the excitement going (yours and your plot) and it frees you from obsessing over a single word, phrase, or name. That is what editing is for. And that comes after writing. “Just get the idea down and keep going” has become my new mantra. (Remind me how much I liked this approach when I get to the editing phase and wonder “what the heck was I thinking?”) But once you have a full draft MS, it’s much easier to see where you need to edit or cut, versus trying to do it blind with half the book unwritten (trust me, I’ve done it both ways).
  4. The support of a writing community makes a world of difference. I have made more friends during this month than I usually do in a year. Thankfully, most of them are local, so I’m hoping to get together with them throughout the year. The write-ins were a blast (where else do you end up quoting The Princess Bride and Spaceballs with no alcohol involved?) and I’ve never experienced anything like the intensity of a room of writers during a word war. But I’ve also met some amazing people online (thank you, Twitter!) Lizze Vance and I even got into a NaNoChallenge to see if we could finish by a certain date and time (we did!). I’m hoping all of my new online friends with be ongoing support, too. After all, the writing doesn’t end December 1.

I think that about sums up my first NaNoWriMo experience. It was wonderful and I will happily do it again if the stars align and I have a plot ready to write on next November (it very well could be how I finish book 3). To all the other NaNo-ers out there, congratulations for making it. To everyone else, if you’ve ever thought about writing, this is a fun way to try it out.

Did you participate in NaNoWriMo? What was your experience like? What did you learn? If not, would you want to be part of a program like this?

National Novel Writing Month – Who’s With Me?

Did you know November is National Novel Writing Month? Seriously, it is. National Novel Writing Month (or NaNoWriMo for short) is a movement of writers in which participants aim to write 50,000 words between November 1 and November 30. Some writers use this time to begin new works, some aim to write an entire novel in that time, while others use the motivation to finish works in progress. And yes, for the first time, I’m one of them.

I first heard about NaNoWriMo a few years ago and thought it was crazy. Why would you want to try to write an entire novel in a month? What kind of quality could you possibly get out of that? In some cases, it’s gotten a bad rap because of writers who think they’re done after that month, who submit to agents or self-publish without going through the rigorous editing process that turns an average novel into something truly great.

But what I didn’t realize then is that it’s more about the discipline, motivation and the support from your local writing community than it is the word count (in my opinion). I had no idea there were local events and that other writers would be there to encourage me along the way. But so far, so good. Here’s how my NaNoWriMo activities are shaping up:

  • Last Sunday, I attended my local pre-kick off party and met writers who are just starting out, as well as those who have been hammering away at novels for a long time – writers from every genre, including erotica, sci-fi, horror and fantasy.
  • Tomorrow, I’m going to a workshop on Scrivner software.
  • Starting on November 3, I’m going to structured writing events at local coffee shops every Saturday and Sunday. All I know about these is that you write for several hours straight, surrounded by your fellow novelists.
  • On November 17 comes the big “write in,” a seven hour writing marathon at a local library that I’m told is much like lock-ins in high school. You can’t leave, but with that much creativity swirling around, who’d want to?
  • In between, I’ll be writing on my own time, but I doubt I’ll get much done at night during the week. My goal is maybe 500 words per night a few times during the week. (I write all day for my job and when I get home, my brain declares a strike.)
  • In December, after it’s all over, we’re having a party to celebrate everything we’ve collectively achieved.

My goal isn’t as much about the word count (although I love the idea of winning), as it is trying my hardest. My dream is to finish the first draft of Book 2, which means about another 80,o00 words. But as I’ve been outlining my next several sections, the story is getting more and more complex, so I’ll be happy with however much I get done. I’m really looking forward to the extra motivation and having somewhere outside of home means I might actually do it, rather than deciding the laundry or dishes need to get done first. If you want to follow my progress, there’s a little counter on the right navigation that will start counting my words on November 1 and update as I include them in the NaNoWriMo system.

If you’d like to play along, please sign up. You don’t have to “win” (reach 50,000 words) to be successful. Personally, I’m proud of anyone with the guts to try.

Have you ever participated in NaNoWriMo? If so, what are your tips for success? If not, what do you think about the idea?