The month of November is coming up fast, and I recently made the decision to fully commit to participating in National Novel Writing Month. For those of you who aren’t sure what that is, you can follow the link and check out their site. Depending on what you normally tune into, you may be seeing it as #NaNoWriMo or #NaNoWriMo2019. It is free to participate with, and challenges writers to complete a first draft of their novel in the month of November each year. Holy carp, did I really just commit to this event in writing? Okay… let’s do this!
Last year I participated on my own, since I wasn’t sure if I wanted the pressure of writer accountability breathing down my neck. If I’m honest, I still don’t, but we are going to give it a whirl! Last year, I got up every morning 2 hours before my normal alarm and committed to a daily word count. To put it in perspective, to reach a 50,000 monthly goal, you need to hit about 1,700 words a day. I also was at somewhat of a standstill with my project back then, so chose a shiny new idea that had been brewing for some time. I wrote an article shortly after with my results, and if you are interested you can check it out here.
For this year’s NaNoWriMo, I decided that I needed to work on the final book in my series, Heaven on Earth. The first thing I did was organize my office space, and took care of the nit-picky things that I needed to. It has really come together, and about the last thing that I need to take care of is get a comfortable chair to sit in, since the folding chair isn’t going to cut it. I have some shopping to do! In the meantime, here are some other steps I have taken to ensure that on November 1st I can dive right in to my project and get as close to that daily count as possible.
Completed a Rough Outline – I started out my writing journey as a Pantser (writing from the seat of my pants) and didn’t learn until half-way through my second book that I really needed to know where I was going. Joanna Penn uses the phrase “Discovery Writer,” which is an excellent description of the process I go through. However, I have found it is much easier to have a vague idea of where I’m heading, much like taking a road trip. What has become a habit for me of late, is about 20,000 words into a story I break down what takes me from beginning to end, then place those scenes in order, parceling them into working “chapters.” I currently work in Word, so I use Styles to break my template up into Chapter Headings then use Subtitle Headings to make a note or two about what I should write in the Chapter. I also turn on my Navigation panel, so I can quickly jump between Chapters. I do this for the entire book, and usually end up with enough of a road map by the end to see my way through. That is not to say that I might have to take a detour to avoid an issue, or that I will feel like going off road one day and end up in a completely new area, but at least I have a frame in which to work from. I have found for the last few projects that this is really important. When you are limited on writing time, it really helps to at least have a few general directions nailed down.
Lined up Social Posts – I try as best I can to be active on several social platforms. My reasoning is that I am still discovering who my audience is, so I need to have a broad presence until I sort that out. Using a scheduling program really helps with that, and I personally use Buffer. What I like to do as habit is schedule my posts a month ahead of time, then just pop in during the day when I have a few spare minutes to respond to comments. This will be imperative for the month of November, since I know what to expect now and there won’t be much time for socializing. I spent all of 2018 observing my habits and challenging myself to use different techniques. At the end of the year, I really knew what I could expect from myself if someone put my feet to the fire and said “How long does it take you to draft a book?” If you don’t have a clear handle on this yet, I highly recommend you spend some time examining it, especially if you want to blend into the Traditional world at some point like I do. Being a hybrid author (both Traditional and Indie) is very appealing to me, and I realized pretty quickly that if I had someone else to answer to, I had better be able to deliver if asked to. It took observing myself in my natural habitat to get a pretty clear idea of what I was able to produce with working full-time and having family and friend obligations, but the experience was well worth it. By the way, I can end up with a workable first draft in 60 days, which scares me for this year’s NaNo since I was only able to get about 25,000 words done by the end of 2018’s event. I am definitely cranking up the challenge a notch this year!
Cleared Personal Schedule – Since I have my social media posts taken care of by lining them up by the end of October, now I have to work on the rest of my calendar. Sadly, I can’t take 30 days off from work paid, so I need to work my writing in around it. I am lucky in that I am traditionally pretty clear on the weekends in November. That is when I plan on getting the majority of my words. Like last year, I will get up early each morning (shooting for 5 am) and write for a couple of hours. Since I have my Chapters segmented and sketched out, I can write one day, then think about the next scene as I go about my business. Clearing my schedule doesn’t mean I don’t go out and socialize, although I will be committing to a lot less, and there will absolutely be no Television or Movies. It also means that I won’t be as neat and tidy as I try to be normally, and that we will all be eating way more pizza than is healthy for us. I find that it is the best possible food to have on hand for a writer, as it slides easily under a “cave” door. I’m not sure about you, but when I am in the groove, the last thing I want is someone entering into the room. Totally kidding about sliding it under the door by the way… or am I?
Adapt Writing Style – The way I normally write did have to change for last year’s event, as I generally edit the previous scene before I dip into a new day of writing. I also have a bad habit of stopping to research something I am including as well (AKA falling down the search engine rabbit hole), which doesn’t work if you are trying to get words down quickly. What I found was that I had to squelch the inner editor in me, and bypass the discovery writer who wanted me to stop and look at every little thing along the way. The tool I used for this purpose… [ ]. There you have it, the secret to my success last November! Yup, every time I came to a part in the story where I needed to answer something, or had a question, or wasn’t sure if something was even feasible, I put those lovely little brackets in and kept typing. I will tell you, it was the hardest damn thing I have ever done in my life, but it was crucial to my success. While I didn’t finish the manuscript in November, I was able to write “The End” on it by Christmas, and I had never written something that fast in my life. Now it could be right timing, right story, full moon and the Universe shining on me, all of which are valid…but I like to think that I found the secret in the come-back-to-it-later-and-keep-writing brackets that I tried. #WriterTip. Also, for those of you who follow my blog regularly, you will be seeing some re-purposed posts in November, since I won’t have any time to generate anything new. Hopefully you won’t notice because you will be working frantically on your own NaNo project! 🙂
Filled Pantry – While Pizza is a pretty standard staple during NaNo, you do need other things that are easy to eat, and don’t put a cheesy orange film on your fingers. Trust me, your keyboard will never forgive you if you do that! And of course for those of you who are coffee drinkers, you need to be sure you are supplied! I suggest stocking up on the standard things you know you will need and making sure you have a steady stream of snacks on hand. You never know when you are going to hit a word streak and not have time to make something substantial. I also catch up on housework and laundry so I feel less guilty about protecting my writing time. And for those who have a problem with writing at home amidst all of the other things that need to be done… take your laptop to a coffee shop for a couple hours a day and put on some noise canceling headphones. You are welcome. 🙂 If you don’t fiercely guard your writing time, other things will sneak in… I guarantee it. So keep your time sacred!
Okay, so we are ready for this right? Just a few more days and November 1 will be here! For anyone that is going to be giving NaNoWriMo a try and is looking for some encouragement, be sure to look me up! I am always happy to add a new buddy to my list, you can find me writing under D.A. Henneman. If you decide the accountability is too much and decide to go “rogue” that is fine also! That is exactly how I started out, and it worked out great for me! Are you considering trying NaNoWriMo? If so, what are you working on? Let me know below! In the meantime, Happy Writing! XO
NaNoWriMo Website: https://www.nanowrimo.org/what-is-nanowrimo
Writing a Book in a Month by Kristina Horner: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ipSPouzqD4w