NaNoWriMo 2017 | This Year’s Failure & What I Achieved

I don’t know if you recall from my NaNoWriMo 2017 post, but I fully intended to participate in this year’s National Novel Writing Month by using the time to plan (and I mean properly plan and plot) my novel which I’ve been trying (unsuccessfully) to write for the past couple of years/NaNoWriMos. Sitting somewhere between gaslamp fantasy and steampunk, it’s set in a Victorian-era London and focuses around mining and the dangers of the technology which was being developed amidst the setting of the Industrial Revolution. And there’s also a flying galleon, because duh. Oh and there’s magic… and a Kraken that people are scared of… naturally.

Unfortunately, unlike the savvy writers out there, I didn’t plan in October (no Preptober of any kind happened), and this affected my 2017 NaNoWriMo before it had even started. I actually made the conscious decision, going into November, that I wouldn’t “do NaNoWriMo properly”, but rather focus instead on plotting and planning and developing my novel, rather than worrying about writing actual continuous prose. I downloaded prep resources and watched many a Preptober video to get me in the mood for my slightly altered NaNoWriMo attempt.

Well, I hate to sound like a broken record but, guys, I failed once again. I can’t say I’m surprised by this point. I’m not even disappointed in myself. Because me failing NaNoWriMo seems like a foregone conclusion, even when I’m barely “doing NaNoWriMo” “properly”. For full disclosure of just how badly I failed, take a look at my not-so-regularly updated Twitter thread which charts my waning interest in anything to do with NaNoWriMo. Yes, I only made it to 6th November aka Day 6 (yep, we were still in single figures) when I dropped off the Twitter radar as far as NaNoWriMo was concerned. I ended up having a pretty great reading month, but that’s by the by. By all accounts, I failed NaNoWriMo… and quite spectacularly at that.

However, I don’t want to constantly be 100% negative about my various failed attempts at writing a novel, I want to look for the positives so here are some achievements that came out of NaNoWriMo 2017:

  1. I confirmed my sneaking suspicion that my novel, in fact, errs more on the side of gaslamp fantasy rather than steampunk.
  2. The story I’m trying to tell might actually be a duology?!? (Getting ahead of myself here, I know.)
  3. I decided to make it an alternate-history – it’s set in the early 19th century but in my story’s world the Napoleonic Wars are still ongoing as the Coalition didn’t defeat Napoleon at Waterloo.
  4. The addition of the ‘at war with the French’ element (which is apparently what I’m calling it now?) also helped me to flesh out my magic system and integrate this ‘kraken’ idea which I couldn’t get firm hold on during previous attempts at NaNoWriMo. Basically, the French have discovered how to harness magic, the British haven’t, so obviously it’s putting them at a disadvantage in warfare and the government is putting pressure on various factions to come up with a solution of how to mine and harness this magic effectively so that the British can hold their own in battle against the French.
  5. I worked out a hell of a lot of backstory for one of my male MCs which explained how he could be from a well-to-do family yet require him to have a profession of his own and be financially independent from his family. No spoilers but obviously his dad was involved in a shady scandal that sent the family name into disrepute.
  6. I decided I needed to entirely drop one of my male characters because he didn’t really serve a purpose.
  7. I fleshed out one of my French characters who is a journalist in England writing under a male pseudonym, obviously  – the additional of the whole ‘at war with the French’ element means I can do some interesting socio-political things with her too, or so I hope!
  8. My Pinterest board for ‘The Upper Deep’ got bigger, including a brand new board with an entirely different “Dark Queen” story idea which has been plaguing me ever since I saw this Paso Doble on Strictly Come Dancing last year.
  9. I allowed myself to write when I felt like it and not write when the inspiration well was just well and truly dry as sticks. This meant I unofficially “quit” NaNoWriMo for yet another year only 6 days in but, do you know what? I’m not even really that ashamed about it because I think I managed to achieve a lot more constructive progress this year that I have in previous years, despite what the lacklustre word count may suggest. This is what I will take from NaNoWriMo 2017 and hopefully into working on my novel more in 2018.

Did you participate in this year’s NaNoWriMo? What was your novel about and how did writing go this year? Did you achieve all that you wanted to?
Or, have you never tried NaNoWriMo or don’t think it’s really for you?
Comment below and let’s chat writing and story ideas!


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NaNoWriMo 2017 | This Year’s Approach

Well, my friends, November is on the horizon again which, for those of us who are so inclined, means only one thing – National Novel Writing Month. Yes, it’s that time of year when tens of thousands of writers get together online, all in the name of the ambitious task of writing 50,000 words – 1,667 words per day. It doesn’t sound like that many words, when you put it like that – after all, every great novel started with an author just putting one word in front of another, bit by bit, until they had told the story they set out to tell. In theory, it’s a very logical process; in practice, it feels like anything but.

Once again, I have decided (probably foolishly) to participate in this year’s NaNoWriMo despite not having planned out anything of my novel. Well, that’s a lie – I am now on my third attempt of writing what I have tentatively called ‘The Upper Deep’ for the last two years, a story inspired by Tennyson’s poem ‘The Kraken’, so I have some ideas by this point. (Check out my Beautiful Books 2016 post if you’re curious!) But I have no plot, really. I have a concept and I have characters and you’d think that would be enough to be getting on with but, as previous years have proven, it really isn’t enough. Roughly speaking, NaNoWriMo participants describe themselves as ‘pansters’ or ‘plotters’, with the latter (lucky) group plotting out their novel ahead of November, probably with detailed chapter summaries and planned characters arcs and all sorts of snazzy things, and the former group winging it all the way and seeing what story comes out when they sit down to write on 1st November. Of course, as is so often the case in this world, there are also those who don’t fit neatly into either label – they are ‘plantsers’, a hybrid mix of the two camps and I suppose, to some extent, that’s what I must be.

So, what is my plan come 1st November? I will be writing, for the third time, my ‘The Upper Deep’ story but, as I wasn’t organised enough to do Preptober, November will basically (hopefully) be a mix of prepping my story and then writing some of it. I plan to properly invest time into prepping my novel, rather than just getting by on little snatches here and there when I remember in October, as I ordinarily do. So, every word I write of plot ideas, brain dumps, character profiles, and so on will count towards my total. Am I doing NaNoWriMo correctly? I don’t know, but at this point, I don’t really care – for me, NaNo stops being fun when I feel undue pressure to keep writing even though my writing isn’t going anywhere, and I want so badly to keep the fun up for the entire month, rather than throwing in the towel halfway through the second week.

With that in mind, fellow writers and/or NaNoWriMo participants – if you are reading this and have ANY kind of planning or plotting techniques or advice, please do share them in the comments below because I’m struggling to tease out a plot structure from my overall, overarching idea. I have the big picture, but none of the necessary little bits that will get my story from beginning to end. If you have resources or techniques or books that would help me to help myself work out this idea then I would be immensely grateful if you shared them with me. And in the meantime, I’ll be getting ready for properly working on my novel come 1st November because, in the end, that’s what NaNoWriMo is really about – allowing yourself the time every single day to work on a project you’re passionate about.

Are you participating in NaNoWriMo this year? Please do say hi in the comments if so, and we can help cheer each other on throughout the month, or why not add me as a buddy on the siteAre you a plotter or a panster? And do you have any winning techniques to plot and outline novels? 


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