Writing Life

A NaNoWriMo Update – 20,000 words

Today I hit 20,000 words. In some ways I can hardly believe it myself. 20,000 words – well that’s a LOT of words. I don’t think I have ever written that many words before.

It’s Day 12 of NaNoWriMo and thankfully I am right on track. It’s been an interesting journey but I still have a long way to go.

After a very strong start in which I deliberately wrote more than I needed to each day, I got a bit ahead. There was a bit of a hiccup last weekend. I made excellent progress on Saturday but somewhat undid that on the Sunday. I decided to go in to one of the write-ins. It’s good to have friends in the writing community – the dont think you are weird for spending a big chunk of the weekend writing instead of going out and getting drunk.

However I learned something from the Write-in. They don’t work for me. I dont work well crammed in wth a bunch of other people, nice as they were and I found the restaurant too noisy. I managed to get my daily word count done but I knew that the environment was not conducive to me being productive so I didn’t end up staying long. I’m sure they thought it was a bit weird but you have to do what works for you and that didn’t.

There is another one at a nearby library on Tuesday nights. If I reach my goal for the weekend (half way – gulp!) I might go up there. The library should be a better fit. And you know, if it doesnt work, it doesn’t.

I DID enjoy the sprints and when I can I follow @NaNoWriMo sprints which get you to write as much as possible in a set period – 10 mins, 15 mins or whatever it is. Often there is also a dare or challenge. Something you have to try and incorporate in the words you write in that time. Like, as an example, a Red Napkin. At the time my character was in a derelict office building so I wasn’t entirely sure how I’d incorporate that. So I injured her. They say if you dont know what happens next do something drastic. So she gets injured and uses the RED NAPKIN from her pocket (left over from lunch) to staunch the blood.

That’s an easy example. Some of the challenges have included having “the fuzz” on your character’s tail, have a character use a power tool, include a type of soup, have a character wear a disguise or costume, use the word “bicuspids”. You get the idea. Sometimes it’s easy depending on what you are writing, sometimes it’s not and sometimes you can’t include it without it being plain ridiculous. The Young Writers NaNo site also has an excellent Dare generator, which I full intend to use in the future (and have already).

So, Write-ins = No, Dares = Yes (ish).

What other insights have come upon me?

One I knew but now I really KNOW. Just keep writing. I’ve applied this lesson in a couple of different ways. Firstly, I lost several days as I had severe headaches. The kind you need prescription drugs for. Yet for all 3 days I managed to write SOMETHING. One of those days it was only 50 words. But I was proud that I had written those 50 words. There are going to be days when you are too ill to even write 50 words. Of course there are. For me, this week, I think the only reason I didn’t give up after getting so far behind was that I had still managed to write something each day. I am going to try and keep that lesson close and continue to do so after NaNoWriMo finishes.

Second, I applied the “just keep writing” advice when I had no idea what happened next. NaNoWriMo sends out an email of encouragement from published authors (some of whom have done NaNo themselves) and their advice has been spot on. One author decided her stuff was really boring and having no idea what happens next sent her characters to the circus. It changed everything. I’ve heard this advice before. Make something unexepcted happen. Someone enters the room, Someone has a gun, an explosion. Something. Anything. I tell you it works. A few times I’ve been stuck and it has taken something unexpected to get me moving again.

I’ve also learned that your first draft really is where you sort a lot of stuff out. I thought I had to do a full outline to feel confident to tell the story. Turns out I am more of a pantser than I thought. I have a lovely notebook with notes, characters, pictures that I had started on this book. Using what I had and a very vague idea of how the book started and ended I’ve managed to get this far. I’m writing lots of notes of things to look up, check, research, notes on new characters. Things have happened I haven’t expected and most importantly I’ve worked out one of the key plot blockages that will get my character on her quest. Yipee!!

I have also realised that I will be throwing out a lot of what I’ve already written. That a lot of what I’ve written is too “telling” not enough “showing”. I’m fine with this. I needed to write all this stuff to understand my story. Now I understand that it should start later than I have it started because no one cares about her getting up and ready in the morning. See, it’s still worth it. Actually I am pretty pleased about this revelation.

So all in all NaNoWriMo has been an excellent and revealing process for me. Just as I hoped it would be. I’m back on track, hoping to hit the half way mark tomorrow (2 days early) and then run down the other side. I am more confident with my story and my characters. Let’s see what I’ve learned at the finish line!

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