Tuesday, November 19, 2013

NaNo Update & Tips

Days spent writing: 13
Words written: 57,136
Goal - 100,000 words in 16 days

I'm happy to report I finished writing the first book out of my 2 book goal last Thursday.

How I did it:
1 - I had a brief, loose outline of the key scenes.
2 - I didn't write in order, or linearly, I jumped around depending on what scene was clicking through my mind.
3 - I jumped into scenes in the middle of them. I didn't worry about a transitional beginning or scene setting.
4 - I jumped out of scenes when my inspiration slowed down. I had written the essentials. I didn't bother with transitions for the next scene or closing-style stuff.
5 - I followed tangents, especially ones characters led me on. I learned some fascinating things about my characters that I didn't before.
6 - I didn't go back and edit anything. I pushed forward. If a later written scene had something that contradicted a scene I wrote earlier, that was okay. The 2nd draft I'll slow down and make things align.
7 - I tried not to think about my word count while I was writing. Surprisingly, it's easy to write more when you're not stressing about meeting a specific goal.
8 - I wrote more days than I planned by snatching an hour or two here and there, whenever I could.
9 - When I wasn't actively writing, I was prewriting in my mind so when I'd sit down at my computer I could hit the ground running.
10 - I don't give a care what anyone else might think of this story. I didn't think of my beta readers. I didn't think of my target audience. I didn't think of anyone except having a good time on my own, and of course, the journey of my characters.

And I'm grateful for that journey now. It was a rush, it was emotional, and personal.

So now I'm into writing the second book I planned. I'm approaching this one a bit differently.

How this one differs:
1 - Since this story has multiple POVs, I chose one person and am writing chronologically in his head. I also chose the POV I had put less prewriting thought into so that way I could be surprised as I charged forward writing. When I get through his POV I'll go back to the beginning and write from another character's POV.

I already know this book will extend beyond NaNo and 50K words. I'm not stressing about trying to cram it all in the last two weeks of November.

Some of the reasons for failure during NaNo:
1 - Finding time and taking the time to write. The idea that you need to block out half a day is just that, an idea. Maybe that's how you work under normal conditions, but for NaNo, the game is different. Grab time, a little bit here, a little bit there. Write a snippet of conversation. Write a setting description. Write an action scene. Don't worry about having an entire chapter in one sitting. You can always splice things together later.
2 - Lack of preparation. You can't just sit down in front of that computer and expect a story to magically appear in your head. You have to know what you want to write about ahead of time. Prewriting and outlines are your friends.
3 - The internal editor is still in command. You have to truss, gag, and drop him with cement shoes in the bay. First drafts aren't about getting the story perfect. This is where pantsers have more of an advantage, they know you just run along and write what comes to mind. Prepare like an outliner, write like a pantser. Do not go back and edit. Get the story written down.
4 - Distraction. Okay, so we all like to check our email or keep up with the news. But tone down your social media during NaNo. Avoid social media sites, unless you go there as a reward after you've hit your daily word count. Sure, you'll miss out on what your friends are saying and doing. That's okay. They'll still be there when you get back. And if they are real friends, they'll understand why you've gone silent and be glad to welcome you when the month is over. It's okay to blog less, to skip out on posting status updates, to refuse to critique for someone else, or even read a single book for the month. It's okay.
5 - Family. Family is important and I certainly don't believe you have to shun your loved ones for a month. The first day of NaNo, at breakfast, I had a talk with my family about what I would be doing and my goals. I explained that there would still be time spent with them, but when I go into my office to write they need to respect that time and leave me alone. It's hard with little children, I know. Naptimes are a great, so are early bedtimes. Some people get up extra early in the morning to write. Family distractions will most likely happen than not. Again why it's important not to have that internal editor going or to be more spontaneous when you start or stop a scene.
6 - Unforeseen circumstances. That happened to me last year. I'm getting plenty of that this year, too. Each Sunday I sit down to look at my calendar for the week and it fills up pretty fast. Health issues, disasters, trips (Thanksgiving anyone? Yep, I'm going out of town for a few days, too.) Don't beat yourself up if you find you had fewer days to write or if you came short of the 50K goal. If you didn't give up, you still deserve a pat on the back.

There are many other reasons. Sometimes it's just a matter of sacrificing some of your daily pleasures and luxuries. Instead of watching TV and looking at someone else's productivity, choose to be productive yourself. If your writing goals for NaNo are a true priority, you will be able to find ways to head toward them, or finish them. Self-discipline is the key.

How do you keep on track for NaNo? What are your biggest struggles?

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