Three writers reflect on NaNoWriMo 2015

Throughout November, Lectito followed five writers taking part in NaNoWriMo 2015. Now that they’ve had some time to recover, three of those writers reflect on their month of writing.

Jean Davis

Writing from: Holland, Michigan

Jean Headshot

To give readers a little context, remind us where you were at with your novel at the start of NaNoWriMo (eg: was it just an idea, did you have a plan, had you already written sections) and where it stands now after NaNo.

I began November with the intent to work on Interface,  which had 11,700 words written from NaNo 2010.  I also had a page of notes for back up project, the third novel in a series.

As of midnight on November 30, I’d written 53,604 words. 37,522 new words on Interface, which got me to what I envision is two thirds of the novel, and I left off about where my notes left off, which means I now need to figure out the end, because what I intended to have as the end, became the main conflict in the middle. That means I snuck off to work on my series project for 16,082 words. That got me a rough beginning and I’m starting to get an more detailed idea of how the main plot will play out.

Other than the word count, what did you get out of NaNoWriMo? Do you think it’s made you a better writer? 

If anything, NaNo makes everyone who sticks with it a better writer, because they’re actually writing. It drives me to meet a goal that’s more than me telling myself that I should probably sit down and get some writing done. It helps establish good writing schedule, and it shows me that I can make the time to write if I really want to.

Since this is my tenth NaNo, I will say that I annually use November as my reset switch for getting my behind in the chair and putting words on the page. It helps wipe out those bad procrastination routines and gets my family back into expecting me to vanish for an hour here and there without complaining about it. Life happens, and some years I stick with my writing schedule better than others, but for one month a year, I make writing a priority.

What was the high point of the month for you?

The day I wrote over 5,200 words by writing fifteen minutes of every hour. That was a fun and very productive personal challenge.

If you could go back to day one, is there anything you’d do differently?

Not really. I planned more this year than I ever have before. I stayed ahead of the daily target goal, I finished earlier and wrote more words than I have before. Overall, I’m quite happy with how the month turned out. 

What advice would you give to someone thinking of taking on NaNoWriMo in 2016?

Join your local region and attend local events. NaNo can seem very lonely when it’s just you and your keyboard, even if you take the time to wander the main forums. Writing in person with other participants in your area, making those personal connections, surrounding yourself with multiple keyboards clacking away, makes you so much more productive, as well as reminding you that you’re not alone in this challenge. Attend a kickoff party, a write-in, do a word war in your region’s chat room. You can write any time of year, but enjoying the community aspect is what makes NaNoWriMo truly awesome.

Will you be signing up again in the future?

After all the years I’ve done NaNo, I can’t imagine a November without it. Besides, I’m a municipal liaison, (which means I head up my region) if I wasn’t there next year, my participants would hunt me down.

Visit Jean’s NaNoWriMo profile.

Bacil Donovan Warren

Writing from: Tucson, Arizona

Bacil Headshot

To give readers a little context, remind us where you were at with your novel at the start of NaNoWriMo (eg: was it just an idea, did you have a plan, had you already written sections) and where it stands now after NaNo.

When I started NaNoWriMo, I had a completely outlined idea that I’d been percolating for a couple of years. I had Parts, Chapters, and scenes already named and in the order I wanted them to flow. By and large, the structure is intact; I did rename a couple of scenes to better reflect their content. Otherwise, it is pretty much the same structure.

Other than the word count, what did you get out of NaNoWriMo? Do you think it’s made you a better writer?

There are three primary lessons I learned from NaNoWriMo. First and absolutely most important, “let it suck.” (Courtesy of one of my writing buddies & mentors, Jamie Davis the Podmedic!) That is to say, just write it! Before NaNoWriMo 2015, I was always looking to get the perfect words on the page, and if it didn’t flow right I would get frustrated. Better is to write a bunch of “crap,” as it were, and then pare it down, revise it, come up with more eloquent (or, less eloquent!) alternatives.

Second, write every. Single. Day. No question. In fact, forcing myself to get on every day and write, even a little, has changed my whole approach even though it’s not NaNoWriMo anymore. I set up a spreadsheet with each December day, a column for each writing project, and Scrivener keeps track of the session writing numbers. I then plug it in to my spreadsheet and let it tell me all my totals and averages and what not. I set myself a schedule for this month (with concessions for certain days 😉 where I write at this time of the day, edit at this time, etc.

Third, have buddies. I leaned on my writing buddies for support and inspiration. We tweeted to each other multiple times per day most of the time, sharing our word counts and struggles, and urged each other on. It was awesome to have a cadre of cool people with whom to commiserate!

Has it made me a better writer? Hm. Not to be too technical or pedantic, but yes and no: it depends on what “writer” means! I think I am a better writer in the sense that it has turned me into more of a writer. I write every day, and I write more when I do write. In that sense, yes.

Am I a better writer in the sense of a deeper understanding of the written word, the grammar and the dialog and the character building and the rules of writing? Not yet. That will come after more self-editing, more considered effort in polishing the final product, and more critical feedback from professionals—copy editors and proofreaders and such—as well as interested amateurs like beta readers. That feedback and the process of better understanding that comes with it will eventually make me a smarter writer, I think. I am new at the writer qua storyteller-for-an-audience role, so this is a new adventure for me.

What was the high point of the month for you?

Day one was the writing high point, a day I logged more than five thousand words. Day twenty-one was the overall high point, because that was the day I sent in a validated total of over 50k words!

If you could go back to day one, is there anything you’d do differently?

Going back to day one, I would be more consistent day-to-day, and would organize my days in November like I have for December: set aside a scheduled time every day solely dedicated to writing, instead of simply vowing to write. Even though I followed through because I was terribly motivated, it would have been even better with daily scheduled times for writing.

What advice would you give to someone thinking of taking on NaNoWriMo in 2016?

If you’re thinking of taking on NaNoWriMo 2016, I recommend giving serious consideration to having a strong outline, even if you don’t necessarily plan most of the time. That is, if you’re a “pantser,” think about having the major plot arcs documented somewhere. I believe it will really help even if you prefer to not do a lot of planning, but to each his or her own!

Will you be signing up again in the future?

I will give strong consideration to doing NaNoWriMo 2016, but I will want to have a solid idea first! I have a few story ideas, and I may spend some time in 2016 revising the idea and the outline. If that happens, I’ll be off and writing again!

I know there are a lot of budding writers out there reading this blog, and I would like to thank Margot for giving the five of us a voice. I hope that our stories have inspired you to participate next year, or at least to pursue your writing dreams. Good luck, and thanks for staying with us!

Visit Bacil’s NaNoWriMo profile.

Courtney Egan

Writing from: Adelaide, South Australia

Courtney Headshot

To give readers a little context, remind us where you were at with your novel at the start of NaNoWriMo (eg: was it just an idea, did you have a plan, had you already written sections) and where it stands now after NaNo.

The idea for A Golden Purpose first popped into my head just over a year ago.I was wanting to tell a story that explored ideas of gender roles, sexuality, misogyny, feminism and rape culture in society. I also wanted to write a story about fit women, in 18th century military jackets, going to war in Venetian styled fox masks and wielding Russian styled sabre’s. (because why not?)

So I created a world with characters that will either adhere or challenge their societies ideals of gender and sexuality. I spent months developing the matriarchal Empire of Capria and the patriarchal Kingdom of Hundar.

I created my protagonist – Kesta, who isn’t just a “strong woman, or strong female lead” archetype because in her world, there is no such thing.

It’s only natural that she would be strong both mentally and physically. It’s a given that she would be the stories protagonist. One of my main characters is a stable hand named Tero – a young Caprian man who is pretty strong for a “boy” and is sometimes treated as just one of the “gals.” I spent many an afternoon daydreaming about their lives and talking to myself in the kitchen as I worked out dialogue and plotted their story. Once I had my main cast and did some world building, I attempted to write a couple of chapters.

The chapters happened, but not easily. It was an experience riddled with self-doubt and frantic editing. At this point in time, I had been experiencing daily panic attacks for over a month. I eventually found it physically impossible to leave my house. Then after an episode of self-harm I found myself in a very dark place. I couldn’t return to work and subsequently became unemployed. The house had become both my sanctuary and my prison. After my medication settled I found little wins in managing to do the dishes and walking my dog.

My story never left me. Then with the encouragement of my partner and a couple of close friends I prepared myself for NaNoWriMo. It was the perfect opportunity for me to get my story on paper. 50,964 words later, I have the first half of my first draft.

Other than the word count, what did you get out of NaNoWriMo? Do you think it’s made you a better writer?

Completing NaNoWriMo has meant a lot to me. Not only was I able to get half of my first draft down, it showed me that despite my anxiety I can learn to achieve my writing goals. It taught me that writing is a lot like a weight loss regime. You can’t just go all out, exercising for one day and expect to see results. You need to make it a part of your routine. Achieving small, daily word count goals helped me stay on track and get to 50k. Before NaNo I was still under the impression that to be a writer I needed to don my  glasses, have messy hair, sleep on the couch in a crochet quilt, drink lots of scotch and smoke until my sexy muse rocked up and the “magic” happened. I did have really messy hair and I drank a lot of coffee, but unfortunately there was no sexy muse and no magic… Just writing. Lots of it. Of course there were moments where I had to work on staying motivated. Wrestling with your inner editor is tiring but it has to be done. It’s all part of the process. I don’t know if NaNoWriMo has made me a better writer but it’s definitely taught me how to sit down and write, without fail, without excuses until the job is done.

What was the high point of the month for you?

Not only reaching 50k but managing to hit or go over my word count goal for each day. I also think that achieving these small, daily goals has had a very positive affect on my mental health.

If you could go back to day one, is there anything you’d do differently?

I would buy more coffee and spray the office with mortein. I’m sure the huntsmans meant well when they were scurrying out of the AC but it was super distracting.

What advice would you give to someone thinking of taking on NaNoWriMo in 2016?

I would recommend at least having a theme or synopsis for your story before going into NaNoWriMo. I have benefited from being a planner as it helped me keep momentum and gave me a sense of direction. I suggest creating an inspiration/planning board or wall. Or even creating folders of all your notes and planning. Keeping inspirational quotes or resources on writing handy when you feel stuck or demotivated could be a huge help. I know it was for me.

Rally your friends and family around you. Tell them about your progress. Confide in your friends when you’re feeling a bit lost. Make time for your writing. Don’t worry about the housework, you can do it, once the writings done. Make sure you have time for your health and for your partner/friends. Join your local NaNo group, either via the Region Forums on your NaNo dashboard or if they have a Facebook group, join that. Keeping in touch with other NaNoWriMo’s can really help you stay on track, find support and offer encouragement in return.

Will you be signing up again in the future? 

Definitely. I hope by NaNoWriMo 2016 I will be ready to write book two in this potential series – “A Silver Promise.”

Visit Courtney’s NaNoWriMo profile.

 

Like what you see? Keep in touch:

Twitter facebook-official-icon-3_jpg Instagram goodreads icon circle-64 Pinterest

And get the latest from Lectito delivered to your inbox. 

sign up