November comes across an “also-ran” month: somber Remembrance Day on Nov 11th, serious charity drives (take a bow Movember) and almost unfailingly dismal weather. A bridge of sighs between the glories of fall foliage and the sparkly explosion of Christmas.
So don’t just sit there: bloody do something!
For the last two years, my friend and fellow author, TO Poet, has encouraged me to join him and his friends who are burning up their keyboards during this 50,000 word marathon. TO Poet has ridden the NaNoWriMo tiger no less than six years running.
So I jumped in feet first with little – let’s be honest – no preparation!
What is National Novel Writing Month?
NaNoWriMo was created in San Francisco, July, 1999 by Chris Baty and 21 of his writer friends who challenged themselves by trying to write a novel in a month. The next year 140 signed up. Through the power of the internet, by 2008 more than 200,000 novelists, experienced or emerging, young or adult, had joined in. In 2015, participants span the globe in places as far away as central Russia and Micronesia.
Oh, well, I was always late into a trend.
How did y’all keep going?
TO Poet set up a Facebook page for the NaNoWriMo Misfits, our team name. He kept us inspired with daily pics, such as this one on the left. We logged on every day to report our progress: peer pressure is a compelling motivator.
And coffee. Lots and lots of coffee. At a write-in at TO Poet’s home, I discovered that his coffee mugs rival goldfish bowls.
Why embark on this marathon?
Why not? As many first-published authors discover, promotion is up to you. I’d spent the past 12 months promoting Windigo Fire, through conferences, meet-ups, bookstores and libraries. On my own or with our group, The Mesdames of Mayhem, I literally did hundreds of events. I needed to do get back to doing what authors do: write!
Not that my keyboard was idle. I’d completed my suspense novelette, “Glow Grass”, for the Mesdames of Mayhem’s second anthology, 13 O’clock. But now I needed to work on the second novel in the Danny Bluestone series, Windigo Ice.
I ran across some early chapters of Danny’s second adventure that I’d written before Windigo Fire was accepted by Seraphim Editions. So much had changed after Windigo Fire was finalized, that they weren’t useable. But they inspired me to get moving!
What plan / approach to use?
As a former scientist and MBA’er, I take a quantitative view of life. I knew that an overwhelmingly large project can be managed once it’s broken down into incremental steps. That translates to approximately 1700 words over 30 days to reach the required 50,000 word count. I did a couple of test runs on a new suspense story I’m writing and found that 1700 words per day was doable. November 1st dawned and I was off and writing!
How did NaNoWriMo go? Did you make the word count?
I did indeed make the word count: 50,048 to be exact. I kept a tally of my daily word count on a trusty Excel spreadsheet. Here are the stats: I averaged 1700 words per day fairly consistently, with a range between 1600 to 2200 words. My max output happened on the last two days as I neared 50,000 words where I wrote 2200 and finally 3300 words to get done!
What worked with NaNoWriMo?
For me, NaNoWriMo was a lifesaver. I refocused on writing, which is what authors do, right? To my surprise, I found time in my daily life to do it since writing became a real priority.
Mega thanks go to TO Poet and team mates, Lizzie, Heather, October, Betty, Cathy and the Misfits for unfailing support and inspiration.
Meeting the word count meant turning off the editor in my head. I tend to be a deliberate, measured writer in terms of word-smithing, so NaNo was immensely freeing. I got to know my characters again, resolved tricky plot problems, churned out fun action sequences and created an encounter between Danny and Santa, the escaped villain from Windigo Fire, that was a joy to write. I have several ideas for the core theme(s) and a goodly chunk of words to draw on – or to store for Book 3 or 4.
What challenges remain?
A thriller usually runs between 80,000 to 100,000 words, so that means I’m halfway there. Now is the time for hard thought, ie. to put my “plotter” hat back on while surrendering my “pantser” plumage with a sigh. And the wording will be refined and re-refined: I rewrite and revise a lot. For example, I rewrote my novelette, “Glow Grass” twenty times.
Would I do it again?
Most definitely! In an ideal world, I’d have my plot meticulously laid out so I could go straight to work and have a near-ready product at the end of November. But I’m pumped about Windigo Ice, can’t wait to wrestle with its plot and finish writing Danny’s winter adventures. Thanks to NaNo, I’ve rediscovered the joy of writing and I’m planning to be back next year.