NaNoWriMo 2015: Week One Check In

November is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) when writers all around the world take on the challenge of penning 50,000 words in 30 days. As a first time NaNo (as we call ourselves), I was eager to learn how other writers tackled the task. I put the call out and found five writers to share their NaNoWriMo journeys. On Friday, they introduced themselves and told Lectito a little about their novels-in-progress and why they signed up for NaNoWriMo.

Last night, I got in touch with each of them to see how their first week of writing went and what they have planned for the week ahead.

Kate Hayford

Writing from: Adelaide, South Australia

Kate Headshot

How many words did you reach in the first week and were you happy with your count?

6288. I’m happy with it, because I only started NaNoWriMo four days ago.

What was your biggest writing victory for the week?

Just getting the words down. It’s been a full-on week with kids and illness. 

Did you run into any unexpected challenges?

Yes, but not writing-related ones. I was provisionally diagnosed with coeliac disease this week and for a while I was really despondent. It took a long time to motivate myself to sit at the computer.

Where do you write?

This week I wrote exclusively at home – I usually prefer to write elsewhere so I don’t notice all the housework I haven’t done yet, but I needed my research books and notes and they’re all at home. I’ve turned our dining room into a study and I work in there.

What’s your best tip for beating writer’s block?

DOSBox. I fire it up and play Commander Keen for thirty minutes. Even if I get an idea, I make myself keep playing until the thirty minutes is up. A tutor of mine at Flinders taught me this strategy – he called it ‘productive procrastination’. Humans are contrary beasts, so of course restricting myself from my writing makes me want to write. Long before the thirty minutes is up, I’m itching to get back to my novel-in-progress. (NB: For anyone who’s keen to try this out for themselves, I recommend starting with something a bit more mundane, like Minesweeper. Play Minesweeper for half an hour if you’ve got writer’s block and see what happens. It worked a treat for me throughout my undergrad years.)

What are you hoping to achieve in the week ahead?

To write 15000 words while still retaining my sanity.

Visit Kate’s NaNoWriMo profile.

Jean Davis

Writing from: Holland, Michigan

Jean Headshot

How many words did you reach in the first week and were you happy with your count?

I started out with a Sunday full of words to build a little buffer and was able to remain on track with my word count for the week. I have most of Sunday available to write again so I’ll be working on a buffer for next week.

What was your biggest writing victory for the week?

My biggest victory was keeping up with my word count. I’m usually lagging the first two weeks of November due to work and kid activities, but I hit the writing ground running this time, having planned my novel a little for once, and it has really helped with maintaining the momentum.

Did you run into any unexpected challenges?

The only unexpected thing I’ve encountered this year (so far) has been my teen daughter really writing with me – as in setting up her laptop right next to mine and wanting to word war nearly every night. She’s usually very excited about Nano and then a few days into it, homework and activities become a huge distraction and she fades away by mid-month. This year she’s going gangbusters and at 13 years old, is on track for a 50K win!

Where do you write?

Last year, I broke my eight-year winning streak and only made 25K because we were building a house and doing a lot of the work ourselves. Don’t build a house during NaNo. Ever. But now that the house is done, I get to enjoy writing my novel in my very own writing office, and it’s quiet and organized and filled with all my writing things. It was well worth one year of incredible levels of stress.

What’s your best tip for beating writer’s block?

Writer’s block usually means I’m thinking too hard or going about something the wrong way. So to get around it, I start describing something, like the setting, food, clothing, or exploring through one of my character’s senses. Usually one of those things will shake something lose and to get the creative fires burning again. As a bonus, those experimental wanderings help fill in the details and motivations in later drafts.

What are you hoping to achieve in the week ahead?

Week two is hopefully going to be as on track as week one if not more so. Ideally, I’d love to get through the majority of the plot I have mapped out so that by week four I can start the next book that popped into my head late in October. I’d love to finish out the month with more than 50K and a start on a second novel if I can find the time and energy. Onward into a productive week two!

 

Visit Jean’s NaNoWriMo profile.

Bacil Donovan Warren

Writing from: Tucson, Arizona

Bacil Headshot

How many words did you reach in the first week and were you happy with your count?

My word count for week #1 so far (I have another writing session planned before I go to bed tonight!) is 17,350. I am ecstatic with that count!

What was your biggest writing victory for the week?

My biggest writing victory for week #1 was my word count. I’ve been working for several years on figuring out the best approach to writing, and it turns out that—for me, at least—it’s to just sit the heck down and write! It’s okay if it sucks, because it probably will. I can edit it later. This has been the biggest obstacle for me, up until now, the desire to edit immediately.

Did you run into any unexpected challenges?

I have not yet run into any unexpected challenges. I knew about several events that would require my attention and I planned around them beforehand.

Where do you write?

I write mostly in the office in my home.

What’s your best tip for beating writer’s block?

Writer’s block has been a weird subject for me. Up until this week, I would have told you that I beat writer’s block by having multiple other projects (some writing, some programming) that I can turn to, if I start to stumble. Now, I realize that I wasn’t really suffering writer’s block, I was really just being apprehensive and choosing to shift projects. NaNoWriMo has helped me realize a sense of creative freedom I didn’t realize was there, by forcing me to sit down and focus on just getting out the story, even if it’s bad. Bad can be fixed—missing, that’s harder to edit.

Visit Bacil’s NaNoWriMo profile.

Courtney Egan

Writing from: Adelaide, South Australia

Courtney Headshot

How many words did you reach in the first week and were you happy with your count?

By day seven my word count had reached 12,167. I had spent each day ensuring that I reached the daily target of 1.667 words. Some days I only just reached it. Others, I would be a few hundred over. I decided not to push myself to do more, even if I felt I could. It has helped me pace myself and allowed me to relax and do other things in between.

What was your biggest writing victory for the week?

Achieving my daily word counts. It not just about getting the words down; it’s has been about setting short term goals and the overwhelming feeling of accomplishment that washes over me when I achieve them. I was recently unable to return to work due to anxiety and experiencing daily panic attacks. There was a long period where I was even too anxious to leave the house. I think these small, but daily achievements have done wonders for my mental health and general well-being. That would have to be my biggest victory for the week.

Did you run into any unexpected challenges?

It’s probably not an unexpected challenge but it was something I had to address ASAP or I knew I’d be in trouble. Going back over your chapters and scenes is a terrible idea. You start chipping away at your sentences, which quickly eats away at your word count. I sometimes do it mid-scene and I have to keep reminding myself that it’s a draft. A horribly, messy, incoherent stream of words that I will get to edit later. When I catch myself doing it I sometimes take time out to make a coffee or draw a sketch. It seems to help me regain my focus and keep my inner editor at bay.

Where do you write? 

In the office. I made a little work space on my computer desk where I only keep things that are there to motivate or help with my novel. I’ve placed a word count calendar on the wall, along with some of my concept art. There’s a world map I can refer to and some inspirational notes from a book on writing – one that was amazingly helpful and helped shape my understanding of how to actually “write” fiction. (Writing With Emotion, Tension and Conflict by Cheryl St.John is the book – I highly recommend it) I’m a very visual person. I love games, movies and drawing comic styled art. So the idea of attempting to paint mental pictures with words seemed like an impossible task. That said, I’m enjoying learning to write. Every chapter feels like I’m learning something new. My drawing skills have even worked in my favour, allowing me to sketch out and visualise the characters and places in my head.

What’s your best tip for beating writer’s block?

I’ve found that writing for short bursts seems to work for me. Sometimes writing for 15mins to half an hour then taking breaks for 10-15 mins. Trying to push through it never works. I also take larger breaks depending on the time I’ve allocated for writing. I potter about the house. Take naps. Draw. Check Facebook. I make sure I set aside enough time throughout the day so I never feel pressured to reach my daily word count. That and I ramble. I ramble like there’s no tomorrow. I sometimes start with one simple sentence. It can be dialogue, an action or a feeling a character is having. I then expand on it as much as possible. I write whatever comes into my head, no matter how terrible the sentence might be; as long as I’m describing that feeling or action it’s something. It leads to more actions and feelings. I sometimes start with a loose framework of dialogue just to get going. Once that’s down I can fill in the tags, the motivations and actions of characters in the scene. I also find that typing up a short synopsis before each scene can help when I feel a bit lost. Start simple. Build from that. Even if it’s just a single word. Keep calm and ramble on! 

What are you hoping to achieve in the week ahead?

I hope to continue to reach my daily word counts. I also hope to draw more character sketches. I may or may not reduce my coffee intake.

Visit Courtney’s NaNoWriMo profile.

Styna Lane

Writing from: Mansfield, Ohio

Styna Headshot

How many words did you reach in the first week and were you happy with your count?

I ended the week with 13,570. I had hoped to have a bit more than that, but I’ll take it!

What was your biggest writing victory for the week?
Day 1 was definitely my biggest victory, as far as word-count goes. But I’m actually most proud of maintaining some sort of social life while still getting the words in.

Did you run into any unexpected challenges?

I ended up in the hospital on Day 2, and wasn’t able to write -at all- that day. That certainly put a bit of a damper on things, and it’s taken some time to get back into the flow, but I’m getting there 🙂

Where do you write?

At the end of October, I put forth a lot of effort to organize my office and writing desk. And yet, I’ve written 100% of my words on my bed. But the desk is nice to look at, sometimes.

What’s your best tip for beating writer’s block?

Give yourself permission to write crap. I’m a perfectionist at heart, when it comes to writing, and I’ve been known to spend entire days rewording one sentence or paragraph. However, for NaNo, I’ve been forcing myself to carry on writing regardless of quality. There are definitely bits that sound as if they were written by a 2-year-old banging on a keyboard. But that’d what editing is for. You can edit crap writing. You can’t edit something that’s not there at all.
Skipping around seems to help, as well. There’s no reason a story -has- to be written in order. If I’m having trouble writing whichever part I’m currently working on, I move on to write something I’m more sure of, then return to the other bit later. Do whatever you need to do to keep the words coming.

What are you hoping to achieve in the week ahead?

I’m hoping to break 40,000 words this coming week.

Visit Styna’s NaNoWriMo profile. 

 

Got a question for the NaNos? Encouragement? Fist pumps? Leave ’em in the comments below. 

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