50,891!

Hoorah! I am happy to report that I crossed the 50k line in National Novel Writing Month. It’s definitely a rough draft, but the month yielded so much in terms of new insights into what might happen in this novel, and I successfully added flesh and structure to what used to be mostly notes and fragments. So that’s pretty cool.

This November felt different because I have a nonfiction deadline that I’ve been working towards, so I could not fully immerse in the novel. I am pleased that I made good progress on both, but I hope to arrange things differently next November.

I have been pondering next steps but will talk about those in another blog post. For now, I just want to celebrate crossing the finish line! Best wishes to all the other Wrimos out there, and thank you to all of you who cheered me along this month.

Screen Shot 2019-11-29 at 11.13.51 AM

Light at the end of the Nano Tunnel

I have not found much time to write in the blog this November, even though I enjoy the chance to talk about process and progress on here with anyone else trying to write more words as part of National Novel Writing Month.

My current total is 44,184 words, yahoo! It feels as if I will, more or less, reach the end of this novel by the time I break 50,000, even though we all know that 50,000 isn’t exactly the length of a typical novel. I don’t even think it’s the right ball park for a young adult novel, which is my current project. Still, it is nice to feel like I’ve written from start to finish, even if it’s a very rough and short draft of a novel.

Once again, though, the process of writing a novel in a month (add air quotes) has yielded many insights into what could or should happen to my novel. I also created a folder in the Research section of my Scrivener file labeled “Fixes for Later.” As I fast draft this novel, I realize there are some parts that need changes, some minor names or background fodder, and some more significant. There’s no time now, but I try to capture those ideas as I go since I will likely forget later.

I hope those of you who have aimed to write more this month have made progress, regardless of word count. And let us all cross our fingers as we enter (at least in the U.S.) holiday season that we will still get a few more words written. In my case, here’s hoping I find time to squeeze in 6000 more by November 30th. Part of me hopes I knock it out in the next day or so, but I have to admit, the secret to my success this year has been to take it slow & steady, averaging 1700 words a day.

Write on, everyone.

40k word screenshot

Screen shot on the Nanowrimo website when I logged in a total of over 40,000 words.

bar graph

Back on track

I have been juggling multiple commitments lately because, as I feared, life would not screech to a halt just because it’s National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), so I’ve watched my progress falter on the novel. I tried not to pout and to appreciate the good things that were happening in my life that have nothing to do with the novel, but you know, it’s all about the word count.

I also wisely made myself take just a little time to ponder the plot points and articulate what scenes might fill in some gaps, also discovering the need for a few new scenes based on what I’ve already written. Once I had the right focus, it was easier than I thought to get going.

I’ve also been noticing that having a word count goal is helpful if I generally know what I want to write because it encourages me to flesh out parts that I might otherwise want to skip. So that’s been cool.

At any rate, I am now at 20,322 words, which is a couple hundred above par, which means if I can keep up this pace, I will reach 50,000 words by the end of November. In general, I find that writing around 1700 words a day is very manageable, so I just need to keep at it. It’s the catching up that is harder on me.

I have had to spend less time on the blog, but that’s okay. I will pop in when I can.

I also did find that I could take some notes and make progress just typing into my phone when I found myself having to wait around yesterday, so that’s a good feeling. I always know in theory that I could use my phone as a way to catch ideas or write a short draft on the go, but somehow in practice I never do. But thanks to this random word count goal, I’m all in.

Hope your November is going well for you, word count or otherwise!

10k badge screenshot

Nanowrimo, Day 7

Just a short post to say hoorah that I broke 10,000 words! I’m actually at 11,104 right now, which is about five hundred short of where I should be but life happened so I’m fine with where I am.

I finally tried out a new part of the Nanowrimo.org website. On the same space where you can update your word count, you can now click on a timer and set a timer for a writing session. I know timers are anathema for some, but I often find them a positive focusing tool, so I said, sure, I’ll put in ten minutes now.

When the time was up, a small pop-up window appeared where I could evaluate how I felt, where I wrote, etc. as well as my word count, and then that information also showed up on my stats screen. I love geeky perks like that, so I may try to use the timer more often. Maybe!

Hope your writing and your week are going well.

The writing streak

I promise that I will try to post on something other than my progress on NaNoWriMo, but the start is perhaps the most fun. Even though I have a lot of notes and drafts to guide me, I do not know exactly how my protagonist will move from point A to point B. Writing to discover what I’m writing is so much fun, especially at first.

So, ahem, hoorah for making progress on day three: 5,908 words! The old NaNoWriMo website had a way of making me push to write and update my word count on the website every day because otherwise I wouldn’t earn some of the badges for keeping up a daily streak. I realize that this shouldn’t matter, but I really like earning those badges.

Some of my Nano buddies have noticed that the new website, while lovely, still has a few glitches. One thing that has happened for me is that when I post my word count early in the day, I don’t earn any of the badges, such as the one you get for writing your first 1,667 words, or the one you get for 2 days of writing, etc. But I’ve also noticed that when I go back to update later in the day, those badges appear. I’m not sure why that is, but I thought I’d mention it in case any of you are having a similar experience.

Streaks are a bit of a theme for me today. I spent most of the day just thinking about what I needed to do rather than doing it, mostly caught up in family life of a Sunday. But this evening, I managed to squeeze in ten minutes or so on several projects. It gives me hope that maybe my NaNoWriMo novel won’t be the only project that I work on every day. I need to remember that a little can go a long way.

Which is why, ahem, I also wanted to update my blog. I know I said I wouldn’t be able to post on here every day in November as I did last year, but it turns out I want to keep up with this, too. If I can. If it doesn’t stress me out or discourage me.

It does seem to me that short bouts of writing every day on each of my projects could lead me to good places. At least, that’s the plan for now.

Write on, everyone.

Day 3 writing badge

Day 2 writing badge

3998 by day two…

My word count reached 3998 today. You’re probably wondering why I didn’t manage to write two more words to reach an even 4000, but I wasn’t in an even kind of mood. At any rate, hoorah for a successful second day of Nanowrimo, especially since weekends are more challenging because my family is home, well, home for intervals in between running in multiple directions that sometimes involve my jumping in my car to deliver them from one location to another. Often more than once.

I definitely tripped up a few times and edited some of my writing this morning. In general, there is nothing wrong with that, except that my edits usually meant cutting words, which results in cutting the word count down. I may reach a point when I want to use my nanowrimo mojo to edit, but right now, I’m eager to write as much as I can and see where this novel winds up going. So I need to try not to reread what I’ve written, if I can help it.

Write on, everyone!

Oh, and I was late to finding the badges on the nano website, so here is the one from yesterday.

Day 1 writing badge

 

Day one, done

I am not sure if I will be able to post on my blog every day this month because, as I whined earlier this week, it is going to be a busy month. I thought I could at least come here to say hoorah, I’ve had a good first day! 2,104 words written.

The prep that I’ve done so far has helped. It also helps that I’m trying to ignore the voice in my head that says, um, this isn’t as lively and engaging as you wanted it to be. Too bad, voice. I’m in it for the words.

I have enjoyed finding others on wordpress blogging about nanowrimo. Celebrating everyone’s progress is part of the fun for me. Or encouraging you not to worry if your word count isn’t where you want it to be–trust me, I am not sure any of the words I wrote today will still exist whenever I complete a final draft of this novel!

I like what they are trying to do with the new nanowrimo website, but it feels like there are still some parts of it that need work. That’s okay… it’ll get there.

To those of you who like to write, write on!

November calendar

November is coming…

I know I’m stating the obvious, but today is October 30, which means that November arrives in 2 days. It is suddenly occurring to me that the world will not brake to a halt to allow me to focus only on my Nanowrimo novel for the month. I know that it isn’t necessary for that to happen, but it would have been nice.

My life right now is made up of an odd set of commitments that are far less restricting than when I worked full-time at Appalachian State, yet still unexpectedly busy. I now have not one but two nonfiction projects that need attention, and it turns out that I will not be able to finish them in October, as I had hoped. Surprise, surprise. I take some comfort that I am better able to multi-task nonfiction projects than if I were to work on two fiction projects at the same time. Still, this now means that I will spend my mornings immersed in novel-writing, and then rather than enjoy the rest of the day in a happy “I wrote something” glow, I will have to return to the keyboard to work on the nonfiction projects.

On the other hand, I am starting to regain a sense of satisfaction in time spent writing, one that gets lost sometimes for inexplicable reasons. Perhaps I have nothing to fear in the month ahead. It will be a chance to spend time with the words, a joy in the act itself that requires nothing more than my willingness to start.

screenshot of Scrivener website

A love note to the Scrivener App

As Nanowrimo approaches, I should talk about the app Scrivener, which I learned about the first time I took part in nanowrimo on their discussion board on technology tools for writing, which tends to be my favorite place to lurk. Many writers there raved about Scrivener, and the company actually offers a free month’s trial that works pretty well for the month of November, and winners of nanowimo usually get a discount to purchase the app, which is reasonably priced for all that it does.

To be honest, Scrivener is half the reason why I switched from PC computers to Mac, (though there is now a PC version). (The other half was the invention of the ipad).

The app was created by someone listed as Keith B., a writer who taught himself to code so he could create the software he needed to write. So not only do we benefit from the insight he brought as a writer, but also from his ongoing commitment to nurture it. If you are curious, you can find out more at his website Literature and Latte: https://www.literatureandlatte.com

There’s this saying that is certainly true for me and my almost 2 year old dog Cisco: I want to be the kind of person my dog thinks I am.

That’s the way I feel about this software—I want to be the kind of writer this software thinks I am—strategic, organized, productive, and creative.

I often find posts about Scrivener across the web, not to mention plenty of support on the website, so I’ll try not to recreate the wheel in this post. I will just say that I love that this app empowers me to organize and visualize my writing in multiple ways. I can sort and label my scenes easily, moving them back and forth (and sometimes in and out) as I change my mind (often) about the best approach to the storyline. I can link each scene to research, character notes, or setting notes either inside or outside of the app. I especially love that I can view these scenes as index cards, or, my favorite view, to see all the index cards on the left side of the screen and then one specific scene open for editing on the right side.

Plus there are many more bells and whistles that I am still learning.

A few cautions may be in order. The best way to use Scrivener is to start slowly, without trying to learn how to do everything. Just start with your first scene. Gradually discover more options.

The next is to say if you are happy with what you are using, and you aren’t a fan of learning new software, you don’t need to try it. But if you are like me and enjoy trying out different software as a way to manage your work, you might find Scrivener makes the work of the writer easier.

Caution three: There is an iOS version available that works on both the phone and the ipad. I like this option so much because I can view my project on the go, plus the IOS version is a bit more streamlined so that sometimes helps with focus. It’s really a lovely app. I did find that I need to take care not to open my project in more than one device at a time, though. Fortunately, the app gives you many ways to back up and catch conflicts, so I haven’t lost anything, but I think this has created some challenges for some users, so just fyi.

So this week as part of my prep, I’ve set up a special Scrivener file just for this project that I saved in dropbox so I can access it from any device. I will also copy each day’s work into a larger Scrivener file on my desktop. The app has a Project Target feature so I was able to set my goal for 50,000 words by November 30, with a daily word count goal of 1700 words. I put my current notes and ideas into the Research folder, which isn’t part of the word count. In the Manuscript folder, where the words will count, I created a bunch of blank scenes. For each scene, I put prompts in the notes section for possible plot points, such as “inciting event,” or “midpoint,” etc. Over the next few days, I will add other prompts more specific to the storyline as I envision it right now. During November, I will use those prompts as my starting point each day. I don’t necessarily write the scenes in order. Really, I just write whatever I can get myself to write that day! But it works out, one way or another.

Nanowrimo Pep Talk

So I have signed up for Nanowrimo (National Novel Writing Month) nine times in the past, and I’ve succeeded seven times in writing 50,000 words or more. Some of those times, I actually did write a brand new novel from scratch, and sometimes I was a NaNo Rebel, revising or fleshing out a revision, or working on a series of shorter pieces rather than one continuous novel.

I love nanowrimo because I get to be part of a community that is celebrating progress in writing, rather than, say, awards in writing or impressive publications… because if that’s the only thing we can celebrate, we won’t get to celebrate very often, nor can we all celebrate together. I also have to admit that it is the act of writing that I love the most.

It helps that I enjoy fast drafting and free writing. It does not bother me that most of what I write will have to be revised later. Plus, I am apparently a sucker for motivational tools such as bar graphs and online badges. I also seem to do better when I write a small amount daily, and I am not the type to shine with last-minute-under-the-gun brilliance, so reaching a reasonable daily word count works well for me. If I fall behind, it gets harder And sometimes life happens, and I just have to say, okay, Nanowrimo is not a good fit with all that is happening in my life right now, and that’s fine.

Bottom line: I can’t wait for November. I have tried the Nano Camp in the summer once, and I’ve considered trying to use the tools they make available at other times of the year, but there is a certain buzz that comes in November because so many other writers are doing this, too.

All of this is leading me, finally, to my main point, which is to try to give a pep talk to people who have wanted to be a part of Nanowrimo but for lots of really good reasons, they can’t participate in the traditional way.

Here are my thoughts, for what it’s worth. First, there are so many amazing writers who probably would gain little from engaging in the Nanowrimo challenge. You may be one of them. Pat yourself on the back. You know who you are, and what works for you, and that’s fine.

On the other hand, if you want to be part of it but the traditional approach to write at least 50,000 words in a month on a brand new novel just won’t work, here is another approach—

Use the Nanowrimo website and word count as a way to celebrate whatever progress you did make, whenever you happen to make it. When I revise, I usually am cutting a lot, not generating words, or sometimes I am just staring at the words and not a lot seems to be happening. If that was the work I needed to do this month, I could just guesstimate at the end of each day what might be the right number of words to represent the quality or length of my writing work. It is as if I give myself a grade at the end of each day.

For example, I might give myself credit for 1,250 words for spending 45 minutes jotting down a few thoughts and revising one sentence to perfection. Such estimates might not be appropriate for, say, a diet or billing a client, but let me be clear: Nanowrimo is only about you writing more. Whatever that looks like. Whatever you want to celebrate. And you don’t have to reach the 50,000 word goal (or even a guesstimated grade) to feel good about what you get done in November.

As far as I’m concerned, any writer who can say, “I got something done,” deserves to be congratulated.

Again, let me stress, if you already know that nanowrimo is not a good idea for you, that’s so fine. But if you really want to try it but you know the traditional approach is not good for you, come join us. It’s all good. There are some people who go onto the discussion boards to celebrate writing 100,000 words by day three, and if we could, we’d all be exchanging looks with each other behind the teacher’s back at that, but it doesn’t matter. You go, 100,000 words in three days! It could be true. It doesn’t matter. No one is getting paid for this. Just let it help you go further. And to be honest, some writers (maybe most writers) produce ten words in a month that are so much better than my 50,000, and I’m trying not to resent that, because I’m going to be happy about my 50k and I want you to be happy about whatever you’ve done that’s writerly. We aren’t competing. That’s what’s so nice about it. We are just cheering each other on as we cross whatever finish line makes sense for us.