NaNoWriMo 2015: Week Two Check In

November is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), during which 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 Sunday, we hit the halfway point and I checked in with them to see how they were tracking. Here’s what they had to say:

Kate Hayford

Writing from: Adelaide, South Australia

Kate Headshot

How many words did you clock this week, and what’s your total count?

15316 for a total of 21604.

What was the high point of your writing week?

Discovering that novel-writing is 100x easier with a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet. I’d been struggling to remember what was happening in my secondary plotlines – a lot of people recommend Scrivener for this, but I couldn’t remember which shortcut did what. By comparison, Excel is straightforward, no frills, just fill in the little boxes.

Did you have any off days and if so, how did you push through?

By breaking my goals down into little chunks. For instance, ‘Write 100 words and you get to read your book for ten minutes.’ It slows the momentum, but anything’s better than stopping altogether. Even if you’re moving forward at a snail’s pace, that’s still 100 words more than you had to begin with.

What books/authors most influence your work?

Geraldine Brooks’ Year of Wonders. One of my biggest challenges in writing this novel is to represent mass death in an appropriate way. Eighty percent of the population died, and the survivors were too weak to bury the dead. How to portray this in a sensitive manner, without softening reality? How to describe a village full of decaying bodies without turning it into a horror story? It’s a delicate balancing act, and one that Brooks carried off well in Year of Wonders, which is based on the Eyam bubonic plague epidemic of 1665. I also love Jessica Stirling’s novels; she (he) has a great knack for the small details – a word here, an expression there – that build up a detailed picture of society in a small Scottish village.

What planning did you do in the lead up to NaNoWriMo?

Haha, none. Halfway through the first week of November I signed up on impulse. I needed to get my novel finished and I thought NaNoWriMo would help me achieve this.

Visit Kate’s NaNoWriMo profile.

Jean Davis

Writing from: Holland, Michigan

Jean Headshot

How many words did you clock this week, and what’s your total count?

I’m currently at 26,400 which is over a day ahead as of writing this update. I’ve managed to stay above the on par line all week, and I’m very happy with that.

What was the high point of your writing week?

Shh, don’t tell my daughter. I switched to my second novel, the space opera I wanted to get to instead of the one I planned to write. I work on that one in the morning when I’m feeling all motivated and creative, and the other one when I’m word warring and just wanting to spew out words. Both need to be written, but the space opera is where my heart is at the moment.

Did you have any off days and if so, how did you push through?

Because I’ve kept a day and some lead, I’m able to absorb the couple days when I only wrote 800 words and make up for it by writing 2K or more the next day when time works more in my favor. The biggest off factor is work and promotion of my book, both of which encroach on my morning writing time so I’m sometimes only left with my evening segment.

What books/authors most influence your work?

I don’t have a direct influence on the YA story, but the space opera, of which this is the third in the series, would have to be author, Stephen Brust. I love his snarky main character in the Taltos series.

What planning did you do in the lead up to NaNoWriMo? 

On the YA sci-fi I did make notes on the middle and ending so I know right where that one is going and that has helped me keep the words coming. However, I feel like it’s very bland and needs subplots. I may have to brainstorm as I write and see what pops up or those will come later in the next draft. On the space opera, being the third book, I know the characters and the world and the plot came to be in the form of a single paragraph just days before NaNo began – hazards of innocently reading a finished project while passing the time before writing is supposed to start.

Visit Jean’s NaNoWriMo profile.

Bacil Donovan Warren

Writing from: Tucson, Arizona

Bacil Headshot

How many words did you clock this week, and what’s your total count?

For week #2, I have 18,003 words. Overall, I am at 36,013 for the month.

What was the high point of your writing week?

My high point for the week was Tuesday the 10th, with 3,228 words.

Did you have any off days and if so, how did you push through?

On Thursday the 12th, I was quite busy and only was able to sit down in the late evening, and managed to put up 1,867 words. I didn’t have any non-writing days for the week, though, so that was nice. I’ve been trying pretty hard to keep my daily average over 2,500 words, so I don’t want to take too many days off!

What books/authors most influence your work?

I am most influenced by Frank Herbert, Piers Anthony, and Robert Heinlein, specifically Herbert’s Dune, Anthony’s Incarnations of Immortality series, and Heinlein’s Starship Troopers.

What planning did you do in the lead up to NaNoWriMo? 

I started NaNoWriMo with a pretty well-outlined story. I had a story idea I’d worked on for a few years but never really pursued, and as a result had a lot of plot points and a pretty complete outline already started. In the couple of months before, I thought about a couple of other ideas first, but decided to pursue this story, partly because it had a much more mature outline and plot idea. I am pretty sure I’m not a “pantser”! I’m definitely more in the “planner” model.

Visit Bacil’s NaNoWriMo profile.

Courtney Egan

Writing from: Adelaide, South Australia

Courtney Headshot

How many words did you clock this week, and what’s your total count?

I stayed on target – reaching my daily word counts. My novel is currently sitting at 25,505 words.

What was the high point of your writing week?

I think it was telling some of my family and friends about my novel; that I’m actually writing it instead of putting it off or moving on to other things (which, admittedly, I have done many times before with similar creative projects).

Having their support and encouragement has really helped me stay on target.

Did you have any off days and if so, how did you push through?

I had a couple of trips down anxiety lane this week but managed to muddle my way through it. I would take time out to walk my dog or watch a movie. Sketching has also helped.

I sometimes get a little down – especially about losing my job. When I do, I think about my novel; How I’m turning the situation into a positive and have been given a chance to devote all my time and energy to NaNoWriMo.

When I start doubting myself I think about my partner, Richard. He admits that he doesn’t get the “creative process” as he calls it – but he’s happy to see me writing and wants me to succeed.

Every time he leaves for work I quietly sip my coffee and think about how grateful I am – to have his love, his support and the opportunity to write.

The only other thing I’ve noticed is that I’m feeling really tired – like crazy levels of tired. I knew that writing every day might sap a bit of my energy but I wasn’t prepared for the zombie like state I sometimes find myself in.

A combination of nanna naps and coffee breaks seems to be my only cure.

What books/authors most influence your work?

Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett’s Good Omens

Interview with the Vampire – Anne Rice

‘The Black Magician Trilogy’ – Trudi Canavan

Pretty much any book by Karin Slaughter and her dark depictions of crime in small town, Bible belt America.

Tailchaser’s Song – Tad Williams

J.K. Rowling – not just for Harry Potter but for her inspiration regarding mental illness. She inspires me to never give up.

What planning did you do in the lead up to NaNoWriMo?

About a year ago I watched a short film called the Oppressed Majority.

“On what seems to be just another ordinary day, a man is exposed to sexism and sexual violence in a society ruled by women..”

It fuelled my desire to discuss and explore issues of sexuality and gender roles in society.

I thought about the strict rules and oppression women have suffered over the centuries. Then I wondered what it would be like to live in a world where everything was reversed.

After months of research, day dreaming and talking to myself in the kitchen (dialogue practice, it’s a writer thing, right? Of course it is. *Ahem*) I developed the matriarchy of Capria – its laws, culture, and religion.

I created the Kingdom of Hundar – a patriarchy and their enemy since time immemorial. My characters grew and developed until it felt like I they were literally haunting me. They had become so real – I just had to tell their story.

I read up on how to plan a novel and did some prep work – but I mostly worked through the story either in my head or through pages of notes, exploring my themes and trying various outcomes until the story felt right.

I enjoyed pushing my characters to extremes – having them either adhere or challenge their societies ideals of gender and sexuality. Then I committed to writing my first draft during NaNoWriMo.

I think planning has definitely helped me personally – I know what scene comes next so once I get going I have a pretty clear idea where I’m heading – but that might not work for other writers.

I know some prefer to start with an idea and see where it takes them to allow for a more flexible outcome. I have deviated from my original plans here and there, but I think that’s a good thing.

Nothing is set in stone… but having the framework – an outline to draw from has definitely made NaNoWriMo a little bit easier.


Styna Lane

Writing from: Mansfield, Ohio

Styna Headshot

How many words did you clock this week, and what’s your total count?

Not nearly as many as I’d hoped, but I’m not giving up yet! I only managed around 4,000 words this week, ending at 19,225. But I tend to do better when a deadline is right around the corner, so I’m prepared to tackle this thing over the next week!

What was the high point of your writing week?

The high point of my writing week was day 13, I think. That was actually the day I wrote the majority of the week’s words >_> <_<

Did you have any off days and if so, how did you push through?

Heh. Most of the days were off days, due to unforeseen events. I didn’t make much leeway in pushing through then, but I’ma beast it this week to make up for it.

What books/authors most influence your work?

My biggest literary influences when it comes to writing style are Neil Gaiman and Douglas Adams. I’m a big fan of healthy mixes of darkness and humor.

What planning did you do in the lead up to NaNoWriMo? 

For the first time in my life, I made a very detailed outline. I did a basic chapter outline, and then a detailed summary of each chapter. I’ve done lesser detailed outlines before, but I’ve never ended up sticking to them. Surprisingly, this novel has actually been sticking to the outline fairly well. There haven’t been any major changes from what I planned out, only additions that go along with it.

Visit Styna’s NaNoWriMo profile. 

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