NaNoWriMo 2018 | Reflections

If you are a frequent reader of my blog or you glanced at my Twitter in the past month or so you may have seen that I was participating in NaNoWriMo. If you don’t know what NaNoWriMo is… firstly, where have you been? And secondly, I’ll explain in brief: National Novel Writing Month takes place in November every single year and is a challenge in which participants try to write 50,000 words over the span of 30 days. The idea is to set up consistent writing habits over the month. Always said you wanted to write a book? November is the time. But you haven’t planned it out to within an inch of its life? Whoops, sorry, no time to delay, the focus is just on getting the daily 1667 words down and you can worry about the finer details later.

In many ways, NaNo helps me to circumvent my natural indecisiveness. I don’t have time to ponder over decisions and faff about considering the implications because otherwise I wouldn’t meet my daily word count. The mistake I made in previous NaNoWriMo attempts was that I got stuck at this, rather than seeing it as an opportunity to let go and go with the flow, even if that flow was ultimately wrong for the story I was trying to get down on paper/screen. This year I decided to write a story that was less demanding and/or high concept – rather than my ordinary attempt to write a quite complicated fantastical system (at which point I’d realise I hadn’t done enough preparation pre-November), I plumped for a simplistic, trope-filled contemporary story on the spur of the moment. Although I had a Pinterest board with a grand total of 5 things pinned, I had little to no plot points decided and I didn’t even have names for the characters; instead, I had to name characters on the fly and, as I sat down every day to write, I mostly had no idea what scene was going to come out of the writing session.

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NaNoWriMo 2018 | Breaking 30k

You may have noticed my entire lack of blog posts after Monday of last week and there is one very good reason for this: NaNoWriMo. It turns out that, when I properly give writing a novel a go, it takes up most of my brain energy that I have left after work… and there’s barely any of that left as it is.

I’ve been trying to read a little bit for Tome Topple too which means that writing has proved to be something of a struggle in this past week. It’s not that I never have time, it’s that bedtime always seems to come too quickly, and I feel like I haven’t written anywhere near enough words for NaNoWriMo in any given day. I also flagged majorly between Thursday and Saturday as it was getting to the end of the week and I was just mentally a bit drained so that definitely affected my word count.

As far as the project itself goes, I’ve pretty much not touched the “secret royal story” which I’d dubbed A Sovereign Remedy on its Pinterest board. In fact, it’s only  really got as far as said Pinterest board and a few scattered snippets of scenes. But I’m ok with that, because I’ve been enjoying writing on my other story which I dubbed The Show Must Go On for the sake of Pinterest board naming. This one has got further than a Pinterest board, largely because it is a huge tropey fluff fest telling the tale of a playwright and an actress who’s trying to prove her worth in a slightly prejudiced theatre world that thinks she can barely act. I tried to take it easy on myself with this year’s project and I have to say that I’ve had so much fun writing The Show Must Go On. It’s nowhere near being finished, the plot isn’t tight enough, the structure leaves a lot to be desired, and I’m pretty sure I’m telling rather than showing but, hey, that’s all ok.

It’s ok because I finally broke 30k. That may be a mere 60% of the way towards the intended monthly goal to write 50,000 words of a novel but I’m strangely proud of myself precisely because in past years I’ve never managed to stick with NaNoWriMo for so long, or to reach anywhere close to that amount of words of writing. I’m not a writer, but NaNo always makes me think that maybe (just maybe) I could give it a go, at least once a year, without having to make any kind of major life changes or changes to my routine. NaNo makes writing a 50,000 word book seem achievable. And I’m part of the way there, I hit 30k, and I really need to be better about stopping and acknowledging that fact because it’s so easy to focus on being “behind” but, at the end of the day, you still have 30,000 more words of a story than you had on 31st October.

As it stands now, I’m so far behind on the projected schedule for NaNoWriMo that I’d have to write over double of the intended daily word count every day just to “finish” on time. That’s patently not going to happen, especially considering we don’t have a weekend left in which I could rack up some major word counts due to being off work. Do I give in and accept that it’s not going to happen? Or do I really work at it in these remaining days in order to try to get as close to that sweet, sweet 50k as possible?

Are you participating in NaNoWriMo? How is it going? Are you feeling good about the project you’re working on? Let’s chat writing in the comments!

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NaNoWriMo 2018 | Mid-Point Report

Today I bring you the second of my reports on how NaNoWriMo 2018 is going thus far. If you have no idea what I’m blathering on about, then please do check out my week one progress report or my initial post explaining my approach to NaNoWriMo this year.

In my last progress report I mentioned that, as is often the case, I struggle to plot scenes and trajectories in any stories I write because it requires me to make a decision on an action that will lead to a consequence. In my last post I said that this was why I always struggled with NaNo and I also said that I wanted to force myself to sit down and plot even this relatively fluffy, tropey novel I’m writing because then I’d be able to transfer this technique to more complex and demanding plots that I have percolating in my head. However, I think that was a bad call to use the word “force”.

You see, personally speaking, I’m bad at making decisions generally in life, because for so many years I didn’t really have to or need to, someone else made them for me. (This is a wholeeeee other post in and of itself, I’m sure!) The point is that this definitely has an (largely negative) impact on my writing too. In this first half of November, however, I’ve been trying not to dwell too much on this aspect of myself. It’s not a part of my personality that is going to change overnight, and it’s probably something that requires more time and experience to conquer, so I’m just trying my best to make it to little goals here and there throughout NaNoWriMo. So, no, I’m not on-track with my word count. I’m a little shy of 20,000 words when, at the time of writing, I should be at 25,000 words. But, do you know what? I’m ok with that. I don’t feel like I’m failing NaNoWriMo which is… it’s a new feeling for me.

I’ve participated in NaNo for 4 years, and I have never succeeded in getting past 10,000 words on whatever project I was working on. The fact that I’m finally able to break this streak and write 20,000 words on a project that, sure, isn’t the most complicated thing ever but does contain scenes where I’ve had to make decisions about plot points and character traits? That’s huge for me, even if it might seem like the most basic building block of any good story. It feels like it could be the first small step to maybe being able to persuade myself that I do have at least one story inside me waiting to be told. It feels like maybe I could write, if I put my mind to it. It feels like I have the chance to be a writer even though for so long I thought my complete inability (allegedly) to make decisions would render it an impossible ask.

So, yes I’m “behind” with NaNoWriMo right now… but I’m more than ok with that.

Are you participating in NaNoWriMo this year or have you participated before? What are you writing about at the moment? Let’s chat in the comments!

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NaNoWriMo 2018 | Week One Report

Today I bring you a (slightly belated) recap, a progress post if you will, of how NaNoWriMo has been going during week one. As you may have seen, I decided this year to firmly give up the ghost of trying to write a novel I’ve been trying to write for the past three NaNos: The Upper Deep. Based initially in a steampunk, revised to a gaslamp, fantasy world, The Upper Deep was inspired by Tennyson’s ‘The Kraken’, Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South, and the film Stardust with a sprinkle of the aesthetic, the action, and the humour Sherlock Holmes (as directed by Guy Ritchie) and the film Van Helsing. The problem with this story idea is that I have the overarching concept, and I have the characters and their motivations and relationships, but I struggle to work out all the plot points and scene I need to write in order to tell the story I want to.

I’m a very indecisive person (as I’ve much discussed on here) and I haven’t yet found a plotting strategy that will help me to make decisions easily enough to settle on my plot trajectory and the scenes I need to write. This has happened too with another novel idea I’ve been toying with in the past few weeks, a genderbent Hades and Persephone retelling I’ve been calling Half goddess, half hell. When I say “toying with” I really do mean that. I’ve been randomly writing scenes here and there and I’m not sure how any of these will fit together at all, or whether they’d even make it into any version of an actual manuscript of this novel idea. But I have my characters and I know their voices, so there’s that at least.

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NaNoWriMo 2018 | This Year’s Approach

Folks, it’s that time of year again: when writers all across the world come together to attempt the challenge that is National Novel Writing Month, namely writing 50,000 words in the month of November. I’ve participated in previous years, to varying degrees of success, as this blog will attest if you care to delve into the NaNoWriMo archives.

All along I’ve thought that NaNoWriMo would definitely not be happening for me in 2018 because I only went and booked a holiday to Disney World slap bang over the start of it – whoops? However, the more and more I’ve thought about it (and talked about writing with housemate Liz), the more and more I’ve thought maybe this year I should participate as normal, even with the holiday shenanigans, because who knows maybe a change of scenery will do my shoddy writing attempts the world of good? It’s worth a shot.

So, this year I will be participating in NaNoWriMo but I may very well be taking an unconventional (and possibly slightly dubious) approach to the challenge to write 50,000 words. I am not intending to write 50,000 words of a novel – I am attempting to just get out 50,000 words of any story, to prove to myself that I can actually write consistently and to that volume. In previous years I’ve ended up abandoning the challenge well before the mid-point of the month, largely because my love for the idea I had had just ran out of steam or I’d reached a point of no return where I had to make a decision about where the plot was going to go and I panicked, couldn’t make the decision, and so bailed entirely on the project.

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