NaNoWriMo – What Next?

November is well and truly over, which means this year’s NaNoWriMo is now at an end. If you were taking part, how did you do? Was your novel a runaway success – or a complete flop? This year, I managed to stay on target right until the very end, squeaking over the 50,000 word mark on the 29th and taking a well-deserved break the day after!

Now that NaNo’s over though, what next? If you ‘won’, of course, now is the time to give yourself a pat on the back and probably catch up on some sleep. If your novel is actually complete, putting it aside for a while before revisions is always worthwhile. If, like me, that 50k was only a part of your estimated total, there’s obviously a lot more work to be done. I’m dialling back my daily word count for December, aiming for 1000 words a day instead of NaNo’s 1667 – but I’ll also be catching up on my serial fan-fic, starting on the editing notes for another novel, and posting the first few chapters of another serial story (more on that soon!).

So, what if you didn’t win? What if 50,000 words still seems like a dim and distant dream? The simple answer is: it doesn’t matter. It can be easy to get caught up in the fun and excitement of NaNoWriMo, but at the end of the day it exists to serve a single purpose: getting you to write. I get frustrated when I see people sharing NaNo ‘tips’ online, which essentially amount to easy ways of reaching 50k and nothing else. Spending pages and pages describing your character’s dress, or hair, or the view from their window is all very well when it comes to churning out words, but what use are those words going to be when November is over?

NaNoWriMo, then, is just an added incentive to write in November, not the ‘be all and end all’ of the writing year. Even if you managed just 500 words last month, those are words you didn’t have before, and now is the time – as it will be for next month, and the one after that, and so on – to add a few more to the total, with or without the forums, badges and shiny little graphs to keep you going.

I don’t begrudge people whose only interest in writing is to take part in NaNoWriMo every year and never touch a keyboard for the other eleven months. However, if it’s the writing you’re passionate about, not the competition, open up that manuscript again or pick up that pen. December is here – and we’ve got writing to do.

NaNoWriMo Week 2

I’m a bit behind with these weekly posts, but that’s all just part of the general NaNoWriMo craziness! Now, let’s get to it.

Words      I’m past the halfway mark! Hurrah! In fact, my total word count is now creeping close to 30k, and I remain a teeny bit ahead of the target word count for this point in the month (more on that in a sec). However, I’m now reaching the point where my planning mostly runs out and I’m going to be winging it when it comes to ‘what happens next’. I reach this stage with every novel, of course, but the added pressure of needing to write every day to stay on track means finding the time for further brainstorming might be tricky.

A day off     In the middle of last week, I took a day off from writing to engage in a bit of early Christmas shopping. Now, I could actually have fit in my writing as well and I really wish I had. Although I was far enough above the target word count at the time to never drop ‘below par’, as it were, having a day off made it much harder to get into the writing groove the day after, and I feel like I’ve been trying to catch up ever since. I’m back to around 1000 words above the target at the moment, but it’s really felt like a slog to get there. However, I also need to blame…

The day-job     Didn’t I say my day-job was likely to be quieter in November? Who’s going to be looking for a B&B in rural Yorkshire at this time of year, I thought – and in this weather! Apparently, I was dead wrong, and November has been just as manic as the preceding two months. Whilst that’s great for the business (and our bank balance!), I’ve frequently had days where I’ve cooked, cleaned, baked, written and done nothing else. Of course, day-job + writing is the formula for the days of many writers who don’t write full-time, so I’m not complaining, but it does make me realise how much gaming, reading and TV watching I was managing to fit in before. I really wasn’t working as hard as I thought!

Week 3 is now upon us and I’m already wondering what it’ll bring. Will it be all downhill from here to the finish – or will something else crop up first?

NaNoWriMo Week 1

We are, believe it or not, now a week into November, which also means a week into this year’s NaNoWriMo. It’s been a bit of a strange week for me, as I’ve rearranged my time around fitting in so many words. I’ve been, for the most part, very successful, so here’s what I’ve found so far:

Progress    Good, overall! I’m about 1700 words ahead of the target for this stage of the month, the equivalent of being a day ahead. Unlike previous years of NaNo-ing, this hasn’t incorporated any major spurts – instead, I’ve simply aimed for 1800-2000 words a day, instead of the required 1667. I’m obviously pleased with this, although I do foresee days later in the month when writing every day will be a challenge. I’m also pleased with how the start of my novel’s shaping up. I’m enjoying the characters I’ve brought together, the world-building keeps nicely complicating itself when I’m not looking, and I’ve just about reached the point where all the characters are introduced and the plot can start getting properly moving. I pointed out in an earlier post that the 50k words of NaNoWriMo is actually only about 41% of my projected total, though, so I’m in this for the long haul this year.

Time management    Perhaps not surprisingly, I quickly found that I have a lot more time in my day than I assumed before the month started. Partly that’s because my day-job is genuinely quieter this month, but I also seem to have rearranged my days to allow more time at my desk. I think finishing most of the video games I was playing in October definitely helped!

RSI    Less positively, it became clear to me within the first two days of November just how much difference spending less time writing was making to the RSI in my hand, wrist and arm. I’ve been doing what I can to mitigate this, but there simply seems to be no way around the fact that the longer I spend writing, the worse my RSI becomes. However, the further I get into NaNoWriMo, the more I expect this to ease, because of point number four (and because my RSI is worse the longer I spend at my desk, not the more words I type).

Writing speed    The first few chapters of a novel always take a bit of getting used to, which has meant it’s frequently taken me a good few hours to produce those 1800 words a day. However, I’m becoming more accustomed to my world and characters, which means I’m starting to pick up pace. I’ve also noticed one very pronounced aspect to my NaNoWriMo this year: in my morning writing session, I tend to hammer out 1200 words, and then come to a halt. The other 600, typically, gets written later in the day. Quite why 1200 words is my comfortable limit for a single session, I’m not sure, but I’ll see whether it changes as the month goes on.

So, there’s my first week of NaNo progress. Let me know in the comments if you’re taking part – and how well it’s going!

This Writing Life: Here Comes NaNoWriMo!

It’s been, amazingly, a full month since I last posted on the blog. October seems to have been the month that got away: I’ve been busy with day-job stuff, more home improvements, writing, gaming and even spending time with friends. Not much opportunity for blogging, in other words! It hasn’t escaped my notice, though, that with October nearly over, November is upon us – which means only one thing. NaNoWriMo!

In my last post, I mentioned I was thinking of taking part in NaNoWriMo this year, for the third time. Since then, I’ve been um-ing and ah-ing over whether that’s really a good idea. I could certainly do with getting 50k words of a new novel down, but I’m also insanely busy. Maybe, I kept thinking, I should stick to a smaller daily word count. Maybe I’m just too busy for NaNo this year.

And then I realised that perhaps I could do with the challenge. I’ve managed around 150k words this year, which isn’t bad, but I don’t really feel like I’ve pushed myself as much as I could have. Additionally, my previous two attempts at NaNoWriMo were both successful, but under pretty relaxed circumstances. In both cases, I had plenty of time, and that 1667 words a day target wasn’t particularly onerous. This year… I have a feeling that won’t be the case.

But isn’t that the whole point of NaNoWriMo? Pushing yourself to write more than usual whilst life carries on around you – the day job, the kids, the family, your hobbies (I don’t think it’s a coincidence that NaNo takes place in November, either, which carries the twin pressures of Thanksgiving and being close to Christmas for the US). It’s when you’re pretty sure you don’t have time to write that NaNoWriMo is so valuable, providing an incentive and a network of support to push you to greater lengths of productivity.

In the past, 50k words in a month was no great challenge for me. This year, I think it’s going to be a monumental struggle – and that’s exactly why I’m taking part in NaNoWriMo. There’s every chance this’ll be the first year I don’t ‘win’, but writing anything at all will be a victory this year. Who’s with me?!

My NaNoWriMo Week Comes to an End

So, my five days of NaNoWriMo – all I’ve had time for this November – have come to an end. Tomorrow it’s back to work for me, and my writing time goes back to its usual limited self. So, what have I achieved in just five days?

I set out to write 10,000 words, at 2k a day. It was a big task, particularly as my daily word counts have been much lower than that of late. My final total is now in, though. Did I do it?

Yes, I did! I’ll admit, it’s been really quite tough for me to write so many words this week, particularly as I started yesterday with no clear idea of where the plot of my novella was going. Once I’d got that sorted though, it was full steam ahead, to the total you see there.

Will I be writing so much in a week again, any time soon? It’s unlikely, unfortunately. Only otherwise empty days give me the time to write 2k words. However, that 10k has been a great boost to a novella that had been moving very slowly previously, and I’m now confident I’ll be able to finish it before Christmas.

So, if you’re doing NaNoWriMo this year, in whole or – like me – in part: how are you getting on?

My NaNoWriMo Week Progress

I’m now three days into my single week of NaNoWriMo (5 days, 10k words overall, for anyone who missed my last post), and here’s my progress so far:

As you can see, I’m still on target, with just a tiny margin over where I need to be. However, it was markedly more difficult for me to reach my target 2k today – in fact, I only managed about 1800 words. The reason? I’m absolutely stuck on where the novella I’m working on needs to go next. I have about 30k words written, with a target of 50k overall, and whilst I know the plot of the last 10,000 words, the 10k leading up to that is all a bit hazy.

As a result, I’m not sure what tomorrow will bring. I like to have a plan before I start writing, and with 10k words of plot to come up with before I know where I’m going again, things could quickly get messy, or interesting, or both!

My NaNoWriMo Solidarity Week

It’s NaNoWriMo this month, in which thousands of writers aim to write 50,000 words before the end of November. I’ve already said I’m not taking part this year, but as I have this week off work, I thought I’d get involved in a smaller way – hence my ‘solidarity week’.

Here’s the plan: 5 days, 10k words, and, of course, 2k words a day. That’s a bit above what NaNoWriMo-ers typically need to write (which is about 1667 words a day), but it’s a comfortable, yet challenging, pace for me, and will bring me to a nice round number by the end of the week.

I plan to keep updating about my word count throughout the week, so here are my stats as of Tuesday morning, on the project that is so far cryptically named ‘Alyx and the Wheel’ (I actually wrote this post yesterday, so this is just the count for Monday, before Tuesday’s words):

Not a bad start at all, I reckon, so let’s see how the rest of the week goes!

A Quick NaNoWriMo Shout-Out

I’m not taking part in NaNoWriMo this year, having nothing new to start and a bit of a dearth of decent writing time. However, as ever, I have the greatest admiration for everyone who is NaNo-ing (especially those who do it every year!), and now that we’re a week into November, wanted to offer an extra voice of encouragement.

Keep up the good work, stay off the internet (!) and, most importantly, keep writing! You can do this!

NaNoWriMo 2011: Wrapping Up

Well, November turned out to be something of a crazy month for me, but definitely in a good way. Every time I attempt NaNoWriMo – whether I succeed or fail – it teaches me something new. This year, the following really stood out:

  • If you want to be a writer, make sure you’re WRITING. 2011 has been something of a strange year for me. I’ve been working hard, but there have been a couple of projects that took up far more time than they should have done. As a result, my actual count of new words this year has been relatively low. NaNoWriMo was an excellent reminder that it’s the writing part that I love most, and I need to make time for it no matter what else I’m working on.
  • 1666 words a day isn’t that many. NaNoWriMo and its requisite daily word count isn’t the challenge for me that it once was, which tells me two things: 1) I probably don’t need to do NaNo again (although that doesn’t mean I won’t), and 2) I should be aiming for more than 1k words a day during every other month of the year. That’s a daunting thought, but it tells me just how much I’ve grown as a writer in the last few years.
  • Planning is (nearly) everything. Plotting vs. pantsing is one of those eternal debates in writing circles. I’ve always veered towards plotting, but NaNoWriMo has reminded me how important planning is for me. I would never have been able to produce so many words so quickly (I managed 2000 words in roughly an hour, some days) if I didn’t know in advance what I was going at write. At the same time though, I kept my plans fairly loose, which meant plenty of room for interesting developments as I was writing, without throwing the whole novel off course.
  • Taking breaks. I’ve written in the past about the importance of taking time off, and this month has really highlighted that for me. Writing every day for a month, I can handle, but consistently never getting a single day off? I’m not sure my brain could take the strain. I need time to do other things, or it’s my writing that suffers.

And on that note, I’m signing off. No more writing for me today – I have half a series of The Killing to watch and lots of Mass Effect to play!

NaNoWriMo: Day 30 – Victory! (Or Not)

Well, the last day of NaNoWriMo has dawned, and this morning I wrote just over 1900 words to finish my NaNo 50k. Not to finish my novel, mind you – I still have maybe 10k words left to go on that front. Still, 50k words in a month is more than I’ve written in a long time, and it’s been brilliant to prove to myself I could do it.

I’m going to keep this post short, and lay the floor open to comments (I’ll post a more thorough follow up later in the week). Have you finished NaNoWriMo this year? Are you too far behind to catch up? How many words did you accomplish? Any word count is a victory over the zero you had at the start of the month, so share your counts and we’ll celebrate (or commiserate) together!