writing life, writing process

NaNoWriMo What Now?

I’m going to try NaNoWriMo this year.

That sentence is terrifying.

Well, not if you don’t know what the abbreviation stands for.

It’s National Novel Writing Month, which is November 1-30 every year. Basically, a bunch of psychos try to write 50,000-word novel drafts in a month. There’s a little more nuance than that. But it’s essentially a month of crazed word production. You can sign up for a free account and use their website (https://www.nanowrimo.org/) as a platform to connect with other writers and report your word count, maintain accountability, stuff like that. I did make an account (search me: awritingwall), but I’m not sure how much I’m going to use the site yet.

I tried to do NaNoWriMo some years back, but it didn’t pan out. I produced like 2k+ words a day for a couple of days and burned out. Like, supernova burned out. My pantser/gardener/exploratory drafting style was NOT compatible.

Since then, I’ve shaken my head in nervous awe at those who participate. I assumed it wasn’t for me.

I generally label myself a “slow” writer. But I was at this conference (Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Conference) back in September 2019, and was struck by the writing schedules of the novelists getting published on a regular basis, and who receive steady income through book sales. They write fast. They write, like, a book a year. Like, 12 literal months.

I was like, “Shit.”

So I’m going to try NaNoWriMo. To speed myself up. To challenge my word production.

I think there’s some things I did “wrong” last time, and I’m going to try to fix those before November 1, 2019. It boils down to…


Here’s how I’m (TRYING) to prep for NaNoWriMo 2019.

  1. Character development. I’m taking more time up front to write notes about my characters. I’m naming them, and jotting down their central desires, details about their personalities, physical characteristics, and for those who will be more important to the plot, what their arcs, or patterns of growth, will be. That way, I have something to shoot for with each character. I’ll also have an idea of how each character might behave in different situations, how they’ll talk, who likes who, etc. I’m also trying to make this list comprehensive, so I know exactly who all will be included. Backstory also tends to influence the story of the novel itself, so I’m trying to flesh out a little backstory for each character. For one in particular, who believes she knows what happened to her, but has been lied to, this will be a huge plot point.
  2. World building. I always seem to be attracted to stories that require intense world building. This one is no exception. I’ve done some research, and started a world building bible: basically a massive Word file with all kinds of info on the world from geography, to countries, to cities, and the history of those cities, neighborhoods, politics, and etc. There’s a good list of world building questions by Patricia C. Wrede here. It’s geared toward fantasy novels, but I’ve used it with sci-fi, too, and am sure it would work with just about any genre of book.
  3. Point of view decisions. I’m making a conscious choice to go for a distant, third-person narrator. My last project was in first person, and I want to try something different. I also think I need to not be tethered to a single POV character for this story to work. I also don’t feel strongly drawn toward any of my characters so far, so for this first draft, I think a distant POV will help me see all the action and get to know everyone.
  4. Plotting in advance. Like I’ve said, I am really not a plotter. But with word-production targets anywhere from 1,000-2,000 words per writing day, there’s no time to meander through scenes and plots. So I’m actually plotting. I know. This may be what kills me. I’m still waffling between an Excel spreadsheet and a Word doc. Neither of these feels like the right medium, but I need the outline to be flexible up until I start writing, at which point I’ll probably print it out. I’m attempting to go scene-by-scene through the story. I’m never super concerned with chapters–these divisions just don’t feel significant to me.

Writing fiction is all about making decisions, then following the consequences of those decisions to their most logical/interesting/dramatic conclusions. The more decisions I make up front, the more time I’ll have for straight word production.

I think plotting as far out as I can, in as much detail as possible, will be significant in order to actually get through the month. I do worry that I’ll start to “feel wrong” about things as I go. I’ll just have to try to make things work. It is supposed to be a rough draft, after all.

I’m also going to do most of my actual word production on my typewriter (a gorgeous 1964 Olympia SM9), which (in addition to just be fun) will keep me from wrist-soreness/carpal tunnel, screen-tired eyes, and, more importantly, help me break the urge to go back and edit as I write. It may also make it harder to keep track of my word count. Hmm. Will have to think on this…

Anybody else out there taking the November plunge?? What are your pre-NaNoWriMo-craziness strategies???? ANY TIPS?????????

2 thoughts on “NaNoWriMo What Now?”

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