NaNoWriMo Update 3 – And the winner is …?

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… me!

I have to admit, I was a little dubious about NaNoWriMo before starting. Yes, I saw the value of creating a community of like-minded individuals all focussing on one goal, but at the same time 1667 words a day, while not a huge amount on a single day, is a lot of writing day in, day out, for a month.

From a personal point of view, the month of November wasn’t exactly quiet. Along with work and being there for my family, I’d also recently taken on learning a set of songs for a duet, there was my oldest son’s tenth birthday split over two weekends (as the birthday fell on a Wednesday) and I had committed to starting a cricket coaching course at the end of the month, ruling out more weekend writing time.

Yet in the end, I did it and with more than a week to spare!

So what have I learned?

1 Having a deadline really spurs you on

I know I work well to deadlines with my job but this was the first self-imposed deadline I’ve had for my writing and it really drove me on. By committing publicly to delivering something I found I was planning my days better, snatching the odd 30 minutes writing time when I could instead of sitting in front of the box, and generally doing all I could – without upsetting my family – to hit my goal.

2 I can write faster than I thought

When writing my first three novels, on a good day i could hit between 2000 to 2500 words. My best was just over 3000 words, yet there were a number of times during the past month where I wrote well over 4000 words in a day. This may have had something to do with the story itself, having a clear target or just generally being more focussed, but when writing in the future my expectations of what’s achievable has changed.

3 Not stopping to edit works

I’ve always been a believer of not looking back when writing your first draft but this year I took it a step further than I’ve done in the past. Where I used to correct the odd sentence or paragraph I was which I was particularly unhappy, for NaNoWriMo I just left comments in red all over my MS on areas I felt needed work or where I had a change of plan, but then carried on going. While this was a great help to hit the word count, it will be interesting to see how the first rewrite goes!

4 The joy of overwriting

One of my favourite discoveries during NaNoWriMo was how much fun over-writing is. What do I mean by this? In my case it was allowing myself to describe settings or characters in more detail than was needed, or to write far too much exposition than would be in the final book. This is a big change for me. I usually write sparingly and go back to add further detail later, but this time around over-writing really helped me get under the skin of the world and the story I created. I know a lot of what I’ve written will be (rightly) cut during the edit but it has been fun letting myself go a allowing myself time to explore the people and settings I’ve created.

5 I’ve been introduced to even more lovely writers

I’ve always maintained that one of the best things about writing is the supportive community, and through NaNoWriMo I’ve got to meet a lot of new supportive and encouraging writers. Sadly I haven’t been able to go to any meet ups but the response on the NaNoWriMo regional message board has been really positive. Next year I’ll definitely attend.

Of course, my first draft isn’t finished. I’m not sure whether I’ll hit my extended goal of finishing it by the end of the month but it will be really close and I can’t wait to then get my teeth into it and start editing in the new year.

So what about you? If you’ve taken part in NaNoWriMo this year, what has been your experience? If you haven’t, have I persuaded you to do it next year? I look forward to hearing from you.

NaNoWriMo Update 2

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As you can probably tell with the lack of posts and minimal comments on other blogs or social media platforms, I am still thoroughly engrossed in NaNoWriMo 2016. The good news is that I’m still flying. I don’t know whether it is the book idea or whether it is the fixed goal of 50K words in a month, but on my full writing days I’m achieving between 3000 and 4000 words a day, even on days where I feel I’m trying to chisel each word out of rock one at a time. This compares to 2000 on a good day when writing my previous novels. If there’s only one thing I take away from this process, it’s that I can write a lot faster than I originally thought.

The story itself is progressing nicely. I’m still in love with my main characters, the world is filling out nicely and there haven’t been too many deviations from plan. I do know, however, that there will be a lot of work to do during the edit.

Also, the story went through a dark phase last week – a prime example of art reflecting life. I found myself rewriting sections because this is a book aimed at older children, and while there’s nothing wrong with scaring children a little bit – look at Roald Dahl’s stories for example – I don’t want to traumatise them. That said, I’ve now come out the other side – at least in my writing – and I’m still on course to beat the 50000 words by the end of November. In fact, as you can see there is a good chance I’ll pass that mark next week!

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This then leads me on to my next challenge. I’ve estimated that the whole of this draft will be around 65,000 words, so my new target is to try to finish the full draft by the end of the month. This is going to be tight as my weekends are fairly booked up between now and then, but it’s good to keep on pushing.

So how are the rest of you getting on? I’d love to hear from you.

NaNoWriMo Update

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I just thought I’d give you a quick update on how NaNoWriMo is going. I’m pleased to say I’m well ahead of schedule, which is good as I won’t have the chance to write much over the next couple of days. The story is flying. As it’s a completely new world for me I’m finding I’m over-writing – long descriptive passages, far too much detail – but this is helping me get a real feel for the world I’m creating and can be pruned hard during the edit.

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As a plotter I’m finding the story is roughly going ahead as planned. That said, I’ve already changed the main occupation of my lead character, introduced characters who had just appeared out of nothing and created two religions, all of which may not make the final cut. As you might guess, I’m having an absolute blast pulling everything together.*

So how are the rest of my fellow NaNoWriMo writers getting on? Are you on track or are you struggling? I’d love to hear from you.

 

*Remind me of this during the next update if I complain about how difficult this NaNoWriMo malarkey is!

NaNoWriMo – are you in?

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It’s that time of year when writers across the world get ready for the largest writing event of the year, NaNoWriMo, and this year I’ve decided to joe one of them.

For those of you who aren’t aware, NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month, where from the 1st November participants begin writing the first draft of a new novel. The goal is to complete 50,000 words by midnight on the 30th November – an average of 1,666 words per day. The event started in 1999 with just twenty-one participants but has grown year-on-year to hit 431,626 participants in 2015.

I’ve always wanted to take part in NaNoWriMo but so far the timing has never been right. This year, however, the timing couldn’t be better. I’ve been working on the idea for a children’s novel over the past couple of months as I’d love to have a book published that my two boys can read. As those who follow my blog regularly know, I’m half-plotter, half-pantser, so I’m as prepared as I like to be with a good idea of the who the main characters are and their motivations, a general idea of the world I’m creating, and an outline of what happens where – without being too prescriptive. I’ve also researched the relevant historical era I’m loosely basing the story around and I’ve already written a first chapter – which will need re-writing – so I have a good feel for the style I’m looking to achieve.

Still, one thousand, six hundred and sixty-six words per day is no small undertaking. The most I’ve written in one day is 4000 words but that was a one-off, took all day and my brain was mush by the end of it. Finding the time to write over one and a half thousand words each and every day will be tough, and if that wasn’t hard enough, I’m also starting my cricket coaching qualifications later the same month, so time will be even tighter – and that’s not even mentioning family, work, music and so on. But, it’s good to challenge yourself every now and then, right?

The most important thing to remember about NaNoWriMo is that it is a bit of a misnomer. By the end of the process you won’t have a finished novel. Unless you are writing children’s fiction (as I am) you may not even have a completed first draft, but you will have completed the bulk of the writing AND got yourself into the habit of writing regularly, one of the biggest obstacles to completing a novel.

So the big question is – who’s joining me?

If you are, I’d love to link up with you so we can share our journeys together. If you have been thinking about taking part but aren’t sure where to start, just click here to register. It’s very straight-forward and once registered you can link up with other authors. My author profile page is here. You don’t have to have anything prepared, many authors – including Stephen King – start off with an idea of a character and a situation and take it from there.

If you’ve already registered to take part, please feel free to let me know in the comments below or to hook up via my author page. And even if you don’t decide to take part, please feel free to check out my progress and cheer me along (or give me a verbal kick up the backside) whenever you can. I think I’m going to need all the support I can get!

 

 

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10 ways to overcome NaNoWriMo procrastination

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It’s just over the halfway point for those masochists lucky souls taking part in NaNoWriMo and while some participants are reeling off thousands of words a day, many of you (I say you because why are you reading this otherwise?) have hit a wall. Your initial enthusiasm has diminished, you’ve started to question whether the once incredible idea you had has any merit and you are left wondering why you ever bothered starting in the first place. But you’ve committed to the damn thing and you want to finish, so each day you turn on your computer ready to work. Then it hits. Something catches your eye and the next thing you know it’s midnight and all you’ve done is watch giggling babies on YouTube.

You are not alone. This happens to all writers, NaNo or no NaNo. To help, here are my 10 top tips to overcome procrastination (warning: some of these are less serious than others).

1 Stop reading blogs

I know, I shouldn’t have put this one first, but if this is the only tip you read and you act upon it, my job here is done

2 Turn off the internet

A more extreme version of the above, but if point 1 doesn’t help, point 2 will. You don’t need the internet to write. If you need to look something up, just write ‘look this up’ in your manuscript and carry on. It’s words on the page that are important, not accuracy at this point.

3 Set yourself a writing time and ensure all chores are completed beforehand

The only time you’ll ever find yourself driven by the desire to clean a toilet is when you’re struggling with your WIP. Make sure your chores are done before your scheduled writing time, or even better, get somebody else to do them for you.

4 Give yourself an even more important job to do

Procrastination is the art of doing something less important than the task you should be doing. The best way to overcome this is to give yourself an even more important task, then procrastinate over that by writing.

5 Buy yourself a pay-as-you-go dumb phone

It seems extreme but for many of you it’s not your computer but your cell phone that is the major procrastination enabler. You can buy very cheap dumb phones on a pay-as-you-go contract nowadays. Get one and leave your smart phone locked in a drawer for the next few weeks. Your word count will rocket!

6 Form an anti-procrastination group

Join up with fellow NaNoWriMo writers and put alerts on each other’s social media feeds. Whenever you receive an alert, send back a message saying “drop everything and write”.

7 Skip to a more exciting scene

Most of us write in the order each scene will appear in the book but it doesn’t have to be this way. If you are stuck on a scene, leave it and move on to one that’s more interesting to write. It will help keep the word count up and allow your brain to ruminate over the difficult scene until it works out a way forward.

8 Look back to where you were a week ago

Part of the reason for procrastination is a feeling you aren’t achieving anything. If this is the case, look back to where you were a week ago (or even two).  You’ll be amazed how much more you’ve achieved than you realised. If you have the ability to achieve what you have, you know you can do it all again.

9 A few words are better than no words

That daily word count goal can be both motivating and demotivating. It’s great when you get ahead of the curve but as soon as you drop behind the pressure ratchets up. If this is the case for you, think back to the reason you are taking part in NaNoWriMo. It’s not to hit 50,000 words (although that would be great). It’s to write a first draft. Every word you put on the page is one closer to this goal. So keep adding words, no matter how few, and you’ll be amazed how quickly they add up.

10 Remember Hemingway

One of the biggest reasons we procrastinate as writers is because we believe what we have written is no good. This is normal, especially with first drafts. So remember what Hemingway said: “the first draft of anything is shit.” If it applies to Hemingway, it applies to you.

Now stop reading and get back to your writing!

Still here? If you are, do you have any other hints and tips to help your fellow writers overcome the urge to procrastinate? I’d love to hear from you.