10 Years of NaNoWrimo

It’s the night before NaNo (Oh my god it’s the night before NaNo!), and I thought since this will be my tenth year participating I would honour the occasion by looking back at my previous NaNo years. I first heard about the National Novel Writing Month in 2008 from a friend at Uni and made the last minute decision on 31st October to sign up and participate. I remember being so worried about not reaching the 50k goal my first story had 4000 words just on a lady vacuuming her house. I have since learnt my lesson and trusted my story will stretch without the inane fillers.

I have been lucky enough to reach the 50k goal each year, mainly I think because I couldn’t stand it if I didn’t. I’ve had a few years where I have been well behind, well behind, and had marathon word count days to catch up. In 2013 I had to write 12 800 words on the final day to make my goal. It was probably the most stressed I have ever been for NaNo. I finished at 11:56pm, uploaded and verified with minutes to spare. I had been counting down the clock for the final 24 hours and had 15k to write in that time. It didn’t help either that that particular year was tough because while I’d loved my story idea, after the halfway point it was like pulling teeth.

I also finished with 45 minutes to spare in 2015. That wasn’t a tough year story-wise, I quite enjoyed it. The main rule to remember is as long as you get 50k by the 30th, it doesn’t matter when you hit each word count goal. In 2014 I didn’t get 25k until the 22nd and yet by the 30th I had my 50k. I’ve also started one week in on numerous occasions when I was still at uni, sometimes even two weeks in. The delightful year was when I had to do the two side by side and was trying to do NaNo and assignments alongside one another. Fun times.

My best and the most favourite year was in 2012 where I smashed the 50k and wrote almost 60 000 words, exceeding the daily word count every single day. I went back and worked on this story again last year, adding another 25k whilst writing a short story collection alongside it. I plan to do the same again this year, it’s definitely the story I want to finish and refine out of all I’ve written.

There is a wonderful thrill about doing NaNo. I love the prospect of diving into a fresh new story, discovering where it will go and realising more often than not how unprepared you actually are. And knowing you are doing it alongside millions of people around the world is a great comfort. There’s a resource right there for guidance and support, people who know what it is like.

My favourite thing on the website is the personal stats. Not only do you get the usual per day ones once the event starts, you also get the Expected Finish Date, which in the past has often said mid March the following year when I’ve been quite behind. I also love the new one which tells you the Total Word Count of all your NaNo pieces. It makes you feel rather proud when it tells you you’ve written over 465 000 words.

Ten Years of Genres

I have written many types of stories for NaNo, I’ve liked writing all of them, but some I pulled off better than others.

2008: Mainstream Fiction
2009: Satirical
2010: Romance
2011: Historical/Family Saga
2012: Mainstream Fiction
2013: Historical
2014: New Adult
2015: Fantasy
2016: Short Stories
2017: Mainstream Fiction

I couldn’t really say which one I liked better in terms of genre. Fantasy was fun, but historical was as well. And Mainstream is easy because there’s technically less you have to research when it’s all right in front of you and not 80 years ago or locked in your imagination.

 

Advice

I can’t go on about being part of NaNo for ten years without leaving you with advice for first-timers.

  1. Quantity over quality

Resist the urge to edit. It will be hard, I know the pain of wanting to get a scene/paragraph/sentence just right, but this is not the time. There’s a strong chance the entire page and the three before it will be scrapped in the second draft, so don’t waste valuable time critiquing what you have. Just get it on the page; the time to edit is December 1st.

  1. Use the Forums

They are a brilliant resource for inspiration, challenges, distractions, or self-promotion. I have used the forums numerous times over the year for title ideas, shout outs for personal word count goals, or just for some fun games to relax. You can talk through problems or discuss non-Nano things as well. There’s groups for other people in your area too so you can have some nearby support, and there’s always someone willing to help.

  1. WriteOrDie is a gift from the writing gods

It is your friend, your saviour, and a god among writing programs. My love for this online resource knows no bounds. It has helped me through every single one of my stories. It helps you push through the urge to stop and think by punishing you if you pause to long. It also makes me think on my feet and actually makes ideas flow much better.

  1. Reward your achievements

They don’t have to be big. Have a chocolate for hitting the daily word count. Hit a personal goal? Reward yourself. Motivate yourself to keep going; it will be amazing how much you can get done when you add up the little goals you’ve set during the day or the week.

  1. Listen to all the advice out there.

There are always tips and tricks for doing NaNo. The NanoWriMo Twitter is always offering advice and doing writing challenges to help the word counters rise. There are professional and published authors out there who still do NaNo, they have advice as well on how to keep going when it seems like you’re at a loss.

  1. Don’t Worry if You Don’t Reach 50k

And last of all: don’t worry. If you don’t hit 50k, that’s fine. You still tried. And maybe next year you’ll get closer. Remember that whatever you ended up with is more than what you had in October, and it’s a start onto something amazing. Be proud of what you are doing. Not everyone is trying to write a novel in 30 days.

Good luck to everyone who is participating in NaNo, whether you are seasoned or diving in for the first time.

National Novel Writing Month 2015

Shield-Nano-Blue-Brown-RGB-HiResThe National Novel Writing Month (aka NaNoWriMo or NaNo) is soon to be upon us. This is the time of year where people all over the world sit down and try and write a 50k word novel during the month of November. The official website was launched this morning and I have already spent a good hour on it looking at the forums, updating my own details, and sorting out my plans for this year’s story. The trouble I had was dragging myself back from diving into too much research and not doing the things I was supposed to be doing instead. Once you venture down the NaNoWriMo hole you easily become lost in character names, descriptions, and tiny details like shoe colours and character quirks. Or even worse perusing the forums and chatting to people before the month has even begun!

This will be my 8th NaNo, which is nothing considering how long it has actually been going for, some people have been at it at lot longer than I. But I am still looking forward to putting my ideas to paper. Of the past 7 stories I have written I could honestly say only two I would make into actual books, and one a short story. These I have sitting on my computer, in their little folders, patiently waiting for me to edit them. I am adding notes and snippets to them all the time though so I like to think that counts for something for now.

This year I am writing a fantasy, first time for NaNo and for myself in awhile. I don’t think I have written a fantasy since primary school so it will be great to get back into the world building and mystic creatures side. I am returning to an idea I first thought about in 2009, but I started planning all the way back in April and by the time November came around I was over-planned and didn’t actually know where to begin so I changed stories the day NaNo started (a risky move on my part). In the years since I have thought about it some more, added bits and pieces to my idea and hopefully come 1st November I will be rearing to go.

There is so much to enjoy with NaNo, the joy of writing (and actually writing for a reason where you can’t keep making excuses not to), talking to other people from all over the world, and I even get a thrill from the stress of falling behind of word counts and doing mass catch ups in one sitting.

One of the changes to the NaNo site is the new badges that can be earned. Some of these are for simply updating your novel details, others are for participating in discussions, and for the consistent workers out there a few are even for daily novel updates, and even one for 30 days of constant updates. I may try and aim for that one this year.

Good luck if you’re choosing to participate this year. Whether you are a first time NaNoer, a seasoned participant, or somewhere in between, I wish you immense luck on this journey because it can be tough and challenging. The forums are your friends; you can turn to them for ideas, celebrations, discussions of shared experiences, and of course distractions and great games. As always WriteOrDie is a godsend I implore its use at all times, and I wish you all the success in reaching the 50k word goal!

When did November arrive? Call first November, we’re not ready!

So! November has snuck up on us once again and now it is almost half over. I am doing so much this month and I am being stubborn and not giving any of it up so it has been stressful and chaotic and interesting to say the least. I have uni work coming at me from every angle, assignments that decide they all want to be due the same week or on the day day, I am behind on my NaNo word count (though with a two day reprieve from uni work I managed to close the gap a smidge), and I am determined to keep reading even if it is just a chapter or two a day just so I can escape the madness and actually finish a book some time soon and not let this beloved blog of mine fall into disarray. 

I hope all of you out there who are doing NaNo are powering through. NaNo (short for NaNoWriMo which is short for National Novel Writing Month) is an excellent competition where the goal is to write a 50 000 word novel in the month of November. Because of uni not finishing until some time in November I have always started late. This was ok in my undergrad degree because it was usually like the 10th, or 8th, only once on the 17th, but I still won and reached by 50k. Then one year I was given the full 30 day writing spree which was divine…until my Masters. Now uni doesn’t finish until the end of the month which means we cannot ignore NaNo until we’re done, so we are doing it all side by side. But I adore NaNo, it is wonderful, which is why I am not letting the fact I have uni assignments and exams until the 29th deter me from following my yearly NaNo quest.

This is my sixth year and I know it can be tough, especially those moments when you cannot think of where to take your plot. The best advice I can give is to just write, write anything, start describing your character eating a meal or doing housework, have them look at their surroundings and find something strange, anything, because I know from experience if you force yourself to write, your mind will kick in and you will start to create scenes and get the ideas as you go. You just need to begin and let your imagination do its magic, over thinking is never a good thing.

I remember a few years ago I had been planning my NaNo story for months, since about April. I had it all planned out, characters, plots, even basic ideas for dialogue and conflicts. Come November I started to write and realised that I did not know where to begin. I had already done so much that I could not think of where to start writing. I changed my idea and still managed to win which was wonderful but I realised that you can over plan a bit too much. Don’t get me wrong, planing is excellent, knowing your characters and where you want them to go and experience will start you on a wonderful path and help guide you as the month goes on, but even if you haven’t got a basic plan set out yet do not feel like you cannot just start in the middle of your story or with a random scene and work your way out from there. Currently my story is broken into so many fractured scenes across so many different years it is a mess, but I know that the best thing for me to do is when I get an inspiration for a scene, or hear dialogue in my head, is not put it off until I chronologically reach that point because I will have forgotten it by then most likely, or it will not have the same fire behind it that it had when I first thought of it.

The rule I learnt from NaNo is ‘Quantity not quality’ followed by ‘November is for writing, December is for editing’. DO NOT EDIT! Relish in those little red squiggles and the fact you find yourself breaking contractions into possible grammatically incorrect sentences just to add an extra word in, that is half the fun, once you reach that 50k you will be feeling wonderful. Then you can ride the glory wave and realise it was not as hard as you thought and maybe you didn’t need to make so many trivial or unimportant scenes because you still haven’t finished your story. That is when you just keep writing and see how far you go before the strike of 12 on the 30th. I wish all participants the best of luck, and if I do not make it to 50k after all my motivational babble then I shall be terribly cross. But my stubbornness will keep me going, uni shall not defeat me this year, it hasn’t before and it won’t start now. Oh also, WriteorDie is your friend, your saviour and a god among writing programs. Take this and use it well to reach your glory. (ALL HAIL THE GLOW CLOUD WRITEORDIE!)

Since I won’t bore you with the uni traumatics, I will let you know I am still reading Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne, one slow chapter at a time. It is rather interesting to say the least. It is so much better than that terrible movie with Steve Coogan and Jackie Chan may I say, so don’t look at that as a basis for the book. It is very detailed in the descriptions as well as the complicated journey, some may say dull but I don’t think so, you get used to it after awhile. I suspect this is so you can understand just how the journey was taken and the route they took. I am only about halfway through but it is worth the read I assure you.

And before I go, yes I know I just spent too much time writing this when I had two assignments and NaNo I could have been writing but that is besides the point. My story plot is always butting in to brain when I am trying to do uni work and uni guilt is hanging over me no matter what I do so why not ignore them both for an hour or so and do something else.

News!

NewsSo much to discuss, so many announcements!

First of all let me do some shameless self promotion here and announce that the little blog Lost in a Good Book run by yours truly (with the help of Toby) has now got a Facebook page you can like, as well as a Twitter feed to follow (interestingly this will be posted on both so you already know these facts if you came from either of these sites). Both are very new as well so bear with me, but it is exciting all the same; now you can now get to us in all ways, shapes, and forms for you book reviews, book news, and rambling needs.

Secondly, next month is a very exciting time, there are some great author birthdays coming up, but I am also lucky enough to be participating in Kerry Letheby‘s blog tour for her book Mine To Avenge. On April 19 Kerry will be doing a guest post to talk a bit about herself, her new book, and anything else she has in mind. Of course if you cannot wait until then you can visit Kerry’s Facebook page to find out some more about her, the tour, and her book. The full details of that tour can be found here, it starts on April 15 and goes until the 26th. After my spot on the 19th she is being interviewed on my friend’s blog The Never Ending Bookshelf on April 23rd so be sure to keep track of the dates so you can catch her over there as well. There are lots of other great blogs participating in this and you can follow her tour as she blog hops around promoting her book. I have yet had the time to read it but I hear wonderful things and I assure you it will be read by the time Kerry reaches our little corner.

Third, April is also when Camp NaNoWriMo begins. If you haven’t heard of, or participated in NaNo before it is a brilliant experience that makes every November very creative and stressful. But Camp Nano is for those of you who have heard the call of novel writing outside the month of November. You can read all about it here, and then rush over and sign up for April.  There is another on in July if you want to have some time to build up your creative juices as well so do not feel panicked that you only have 5 days to prepare. I did my first NaNo in 2008, I loved it and have done it every year since. If you ever wanted to try this might be the time.

Fourthly, in my chaotic schedule I managed to miss the two month anniversary of my blog, it was on the 23rd. So belated congratulations to me! Reaching the first month seemed to take forever, and the second one just sneaks up on you. It’s been a great first couple of months, and I look forward to the next couple of months, and the next couple of months after that!

I think this is the last of the news, I’ll be back tomorrow with a review, have a wonderful evening and read something spectacular.