NaNoWriMo – Week 1

NaNo tip of the week: If you want to win at NaNo, turn off your inner editor.
The goal of NaNo isn’t to have a great first draft, it’s to get in the habit of writing. So often people try to write, but it isn’t ‘good enough’ so they stop. All of these great stories are waiting to be told, but the person who has them is too scared of doing it wrong. NaNo forces you to write regardless of how good it is. It forces you to get the practice you need to improve. Don’t forget you have as much time as you want after November to edit these words. Right now the goal is to get past the fear of doing it wrong, so you have something to edit later. See my NaNoWriMo tips and tricks for more advice on how to succeed this month.

Don’t worry if you find yourself falling behind, now is the perfect time to get caught up! Check out my How to Catch up if you’re behind post from last year.

My Progress:
Word Graph one week of writingSo far, this year is going well. My plan was to write 2k each week day and 3.5k each weekend day. Saturday was rough, but in the end I made it with some extra words to spare. My biggest challenge right now is a lack of outline. I really need to get moving on the second section of my plot for this year’s novel. I’m almost at the end of what I had plotted out before November started. My writing tends to be faster if I have a decent idea of where I’m going.

Goal for this week:
Keep on track with my word count, and get the next 1/4-1/3 of the novel plotted out.

If you’re doing nano this year, how it is going? Do you have any great tips for new nano writers?


A Decade of NaNo

This year will be my tenth time taking on the challenge of writing 50,000 words in a single month. I’ve won in my previous nine attempts, so I don’t feel worried about winning this year. Today I thought I would recap my last nine NaNo’s. This is mostly so I have all this information in one place, but who knows maybe someone will find it useful.

Before I started – 2006
I first heard about NaNoWriMo in November of 2006. I thought it was interesting, but it was already November 5th, and the idea of catching up was overwhelming. I decided I would put the concept aside and think about it again next year.

Year 1 – 2007
October of 2007 was rough. We got some bad news, and I wrapped up a health issue on Halloween. When November 1st hit, I decided I needed to do something to keep my mind off of everything. I completed my first NaNo on the 30th of the month. It was a YA. Basic plot: women can only have one child before they become infertile.

Year 2 – 2008
My second year I convinced my best friend to join me for the challenge. We spent a fair amount of time writing together. We wrote on her living room floor, in coffee shops, and at my dinning room table. I finished on the first day of validation, which at the time was the 25th. She finished on the 29-30th. My novel was a NA fantasy. Basic plot: woman leaves a society of vampire hunters when she discovers not all vamps are evil.

Year 3 – 2009
My son was six months old during my third NaNo. I thought this would make it harder, but in the end I wasn’t working and he had just discovered how much fun crawling and getting into stuff was. I would set up a bin of toys about ten feet away from him, then write for 30 minutes while he crawled to the bin, tipped it over, and played with everything he found. This year I was on my own for NaNo again. I had my fastest finish ever (the 11th). The novel was a YA (superhero). Basic plot: a high school filled with the kids of super heroes and super villains.

Year 4 – 2010
This year a bunch of people from my knitting group decided to give NaNo a go. I think there was only one other winner, but we had a few writing nights and I started getting to know some of my favourite writing people. I finished on the 14th with a NA alternate history. Basic plot: Women hold the titles. An unknown daughter claims her dutchess title when her mother dies.

Year 5 – 2011
For year five I decided to do something a little different. I made a goal of getting 75k instead of the usual 50k. I figured if I could finish in 14 days, then I would have 14 days at a regular NaNo pace to carry me through to the end of the month. In the end I made it was 80k on the 30th. This was the first year I really felt like I had a NaNo support network. My writing friends had become some of my best friends, and NaNo included weekly writing nights, online word wars, and a lot of laughs. The novel was a NA sci fi. Basic plot: an old earth colony requires mandatory military service. The colony is attacked and forced into war.

Year 6 – 2012
This was the year the group that had started as a bunch of writing knitters broke off and formed our own group. We wrote together online and in person regularly. It was so nice to have people to write with. I finished on the 24th and wrote the YA portal fantasy that went on to win the 2015 YA Atlantic Writers Competition. Basic plot: A girl opens a door and brings her friends to a new world.

Year 7 – 2013
I had the idea for this NaNo while walking to another writers house over the summer. Without that early flash of inspiration I’m not sure how this year would have gone. I was starting to tire of NaNo just a little bit. Not enough to stop. After all, I had a lot of friends that did NaNo together by this point, and that was half the fun. I finished on the 23rd with this NA fantasy. Basic plot: NA murder mystery, a female detective gets assigned to a full moon murder on pack land.

Year 8 – 2014
This was my hardest NaNo ever. I’d won NaNo seven times and wasn’t sure if I wanted to continue, or take a break. I decided to push through because I was so close to year ten. I figured if I won year eight, nine would be a breeze, and ten would be a great accomplishment. I finished on the 20th, thanks to a good friend and my competitive spirit. I wrote a YA Urban Fantasy. Basic plot: Time travel is possible by reincarnation if you have one of the swords.

Year 9 – 2015
This year was our first NaNo writing retreat! That experience alone made NaNo worth it. I won our first night at the cottage (the 20th). We had quiet hours, good food, and an amazing time. My novel didn’t inspire me, but it got to the job done. It was a YA Urban Fantasy. Basic plot: a girl is supposed to get the power to save the world. Something goes wrong and her friend gets the power instead.

This year is Year 10 and my novel is a YA space opera. Basic plot: a girl finds out she is on a prison colony, and if she doesn’t get back home soon she will lose her crown.

What does your NaNo history look like?

Getting Ready for NaNo

NaNoWriMo is just around the corner and it’s time to get ready. I need characters, a plot, and a setting. I’ve had the basics for quite a while, but I need to get down to the nitty gritty. I need more than this person did this thing, then a bunch of stuff happens, and this is the end. In my current outline I have over half the novel sketched out as “Insert Adventure here”. That isn’t going to fly when it comes time to start writing out that adventure.

Yesterday I found some time at a coffee shop to sketch out the history of this particular character. It was very helpful, and necessary work, but it hasn’t helped advance my plot at all. I also spent a bit of time sketching out the motivations for some of the minor characters. Again, necessary work, but it isn’t helping to advance my plot outline directly.

Tonight I plan to finish sketching out the minor characters for the first location in the novel. Then I’m going to plot out how the Main Character and her frenemy get off the first planet and started on the main adventure. All that really means though is that the hard work start tomorrow. Because that is when I have to solve the question of what does “Insert Adventure here” mean in this particular novel.

Have you got your novel all planned out for NaNo? Are you someone who uses placeholders like “Insert Adventure here” while plotting out a novel?

Trying to Develop a Novel Outline

Last night I was struck by how different my two main hobbies are when it comes to designing and creating the final product. In my case my two hobbies are making a quilt, and writing a novel.

When I’m designing a quilt it requires creativity, but is also very straight forward. The pieces need to fit together without any gaps. Since a quilt top is (usually) two dimensional, you can draw it out on a single piece of paper. Once you know what you want it to look like you break it down into pieces. With each piece you know how big the finished piece needs to be. With a bit of math you can easily figure out how big you need to cut a piece of fabric, so it is the size you need in the finished quilt. Deciding on the layout of a quilt might be tough, but once you have the layout the rest is math and time.

With a novel things aren’t so straight forward, and there is no simple math to get from an idea, to outline, to final written novel.

My idea for NaNo is beginning to take shape. I have the starting characters, the setting, the basic plot, and the technology of the world. I even know how the novel ends. The middle, on the other hand, is giving me a heck of a time. How can it be so hard to get from point A to point B?

One of my goals for this month was to have my NaNo plot set up and ready to go before November 1st. I wanted a detailed outline, so I could hit the ground running on my tenth NaNo. So far I’ve got character descriptions for two of my major characters. I know of at least 9 other characters. I think four of those are going to be minor characters instead of just background folks.

I have the outline ready for the first scene. Then I know how things are going to go until the big get things going twist. So maybe I have the first two chapters outlined? After that it is all tumbleweed and crickets until the big reveal at the end. My notes literally say “insert adventure here” right now.

How do you fill out the middle of your novel? Are you a plotter or a pantser?

NaNoWriMo – How many Words per Day?

Deciding how many words per day to write during NaNo isn’t always straight forward. Not everyone can write everyday, some people don’t have the same amount of time everyday, and others need words put away ‘just in case’. Below are a few different plans for how many words to write each day.

The Usual
The traditional method of winning at NaNoWriMo has a plan of writing 1,667 words per day, every day. For many people this works wonderfully. It helps them set a daily writing habit, and encourages them to write more words than they would on a normal writing day. If you are someone who works well with consistency, is dedicated, and likes linear graphs, then this is the method for you.

I Need a Day off
Sometimes you end up with a schedule that no matter what you do you just can’t write everyday. Maybe you have a class that eats up your free time every Tuesday, or you need a day once in a while to give your brain a break, or your spouse has declared Friday night date night. No matter the reason, if you need to be able to take one day a week off writing, then you need to write more than 1,667 words per day. My recommendation is to write 2,000 words each day. This gives you five days off through the month. That is one day a week (for that Friday night date), plus a bit of wiggle room. If you just can’t write everyday, but are also intimidated by large single day word counts, this is the method for you.

The 9-5
Sometimes having the same writing goal everyday of the week doesn’t make sense. For example, I have a Mon-Fri job. When I’m at work I can’t write, because I have to, duh, work. Then when I get home I need to prep for the next day, spend time with the kid, and feed the family.

On the weekends though, I can be a lot more flexible with my time. I still have to do all the usual stuff, but I don’t have my job taking up such a big block of time. If you want to offload some of your writing to your weekend (or any two days of the week) you can easily do that. You might decide to write 1,400 words each work day, then 2,500 words each weekend day (1.5k and 2.2k also work well). This method is a great choice when you have time to write everyday, but you have more time some days than others.

My Plan
I like to validate early. Often I aim to validate on the first day I can, (usually) the 20th. This year is my tenth NaNo, so I have a lot of practice and a very good knowledge of my writing speed. My plan for the month is to write 2,000 words each workday and 3,600 words each weekend day. With a few extra words here and there I should be done by the 20th. This plan is great for me, but could work for anyone who needs to offload words to the weekend, and likes to finish a little early.

Graphing it out
Here are two graphs to show what these plans look like over the first week of NaNo. The first graph is the number of words each day, the second is the cumulative word count if you follow the plan.

Sample word plan graphs for NaNo

If you found this post helpful, you may want to take a look at my NaNoWriMo Series from last year. It includes a Tips and Tricks post to help you reach your NaNo word goals.

Do you have a plan for how much you are going to write each day in November? Do you aim for the standard 1,667 words per day or something else?

Have you set up your Novel yet?

Bullet Journal in Moleskine CahierNational Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is just around the corner. I know it’s getting close because the NaNoWriMo site has been rolled over for 2016. That means you can now login and create your novel. This year the NaNo folks have made it very easy. When you login you should get a pop up which will take you directly to the screen to input your novel information. So go do that… right now! Yes, now. No time like the present and all that.

I’m slowly working my way through my usual pre NaNo prep. Some of what I like to accomplish before November 1st is listed in my get ready post from last year. The two things I have left to get ready are some meals, and my notebook.

The meals are harder than usual as my son is on a somewhat limited diet. Well not that limited, but tricky for putting things in the freezer. Luckily I’ve been doing NaNo for years and have managed to work my writing into the time after he is in bed, or on weekends when he is at the park with his Dad. I hope the schedule that has worked the last few years will work this year as well. If not I might really be missing those freezer meals.

For my notebook this year I’m going all out. I’ll be making a fauxdori later this week to hold Moleskine Cahier large notebooks. I’ve had trouble in the past keeping my notebooks organized. I often have 2-3 notebooks/journals on the go at a time. Trying to keep track of them is difficult, and I hadn’t figured out a way to easily keep them together or combine them into a single notebook. The solution (I hope) is a fauxdori Travelers notebook cover. In November this will let me carry my Bullet Journal and NaNo notebook at the same time without one spilling into the other. Jumping right into the deep end feels like the perfect test for if I’ll use a fauxdori or not. I need a notebook system that can get me through a busy November without falling apart (or better yet one that stops me from falling apart!).

Have you signed up for NaNoWriMo yet? Are you feeling prepped or already feeling the pressure? How do you handle notes and ideas for your novels?

Five Weeks to NaNoWriMo

Last week I mentioned I had a plot for my tenth NaNo (a teenager, a space ship, a memory storage device, and a fight for the throne). The more I think about this plot, the more I look forward to writing starting November first.

I love the early days of exploring a plot. The time after you have a general idea, but you don’t yet have the entire timeline worked out. In this case I was lucky enough to have a first scene pop into my head and play like a movie. I know what is important about the scene and how each of the characters will behave in it. A few days ago that first scene became the second scene as I solved part of the ‘how to avoid an info dump’ issue. The new first scene brought in a new character. Her creation sparked four other characters, two of whom will probably follow the characters off world eventually.

Each new discovery adds complexity and interest to what started as four simple items on a list. I only have the first third of the novel worked out. Basically I know what happens until the characters get off their initial planet. After that I know there will be adventures and trials, but I’m not sure what they are. For now I’m waiting for that next lightening bolt moment that will start to bring it all to shape the same way the early scenes have taken shape.

With Scriveners new iOS version I’m trying something a little different as I develop my plot. Usually I make my notes in a notebook or two (or on whatever scrap paper I can find).  Then when I need the ‘final’ timeline before I start writing I scramble to pull all my notes together. With scrivener on my iPad I can expand my plot through the corkboard even while sitting on the bus, or waiting in a doctors office. I’m still using a notebook to store random thoughts, or pieces that don’t fit into the main timeline yet. But I think I’ll have a lot less scrambling at the end as things come together.

How to you expand on your initial plot ideas once they come to you? Are you getting ready for NaNo yet?

Six Weeks to NaNoWriMo

Yes, you read that right, NaNoWriMo starts in only 6 weeks (plus a day). This year will be my 10th regular NaNo. I’m feeling motivated to win for the tenth time and have started planning and plotting to ensure it’s a good year.

This year I was struggling to find a NaNo plot. Usually I have an idea of what I’m going to write many months in advance. This year I was still without even a glimmer of an idea in August. At that point I decided I needed to get strategic to find my plot. It worked and finally I began to see my 10th NaNo take shape. My plot idea started with an abandoned space ship, a fight for the throne, a teenage photographer, and a memory storage device.

It is now a month later, and the plot has expanded to the point that I have the first third of the novel plotted. As a bonus I know how it is going to end.  The adventure in the middle is still a tangled mess of ideas and possibilities, but I have six weeks to whip it into shape.

Are you doing NaNo this year? Have you started preparing for a month of intense writing?

If you’re thinking of doing NaNo and don’t know where to begin I have a whole series of posts that might interest you. NaNoWriMo Series