Sunday, December 1, 2019

NaNoWriMo 2019, or I'm *How* Far Behind?

This year I was going to be prepared for National Novel Writing Month (50,000 words in 30 days). Instead of trying to figure out what happened next through bleary eyes at 11pm, I was going to have an outline of my heist novel. A detailed outline.

And by the end of October, I more or less did. Maybe not all the sections were filled in, but I had characters (WITH NAMES!), I had a vague idea of the place, and I had a list of scenes I intended to write. I even had a pool of names for minor characters, because nothing derails my writing flow quite as quickly as having to come up with a new name. So I was ready. The first day went smoothly -- I wrote a few hundred words over my 1,667 par.

And then I had a family emergency and by the time I was back home and thinking about writing again, it as day 14 and I was 12,000 words behind where I was supposed to be.

For some people that wouldn't be a problem. I have friends who regularly produce over 1,000 words in a 25-minute sprint. They can easily skip writing all week and catch up in a couple of hours on the weekend.

I am not that person.

My average -- non-distracted -- writing speed is somewhere a little over 500 words / hour. I make it through NaNoWriMo every year by putting in the hours. Every single day. I get uneasy if I get a day behind.

And yet I did manage to finish on time this year. I'm writing my strategy down hoping it helps others and also so I can remember how I did this next year.

Light blue line is where I would have been in an ideal world, dark blue line was reality biting back

Failure is an option: I gave myself permission to fail. Obviously there were more important things going on in my life this year than a writing challenge. Adding the stress of "OMG I'm not writing enough!" wasn't going to do anything other than give me insomnia. If I failed then I failed, and that's just the way it was.

Making it manageable: Refreshing the NaNoWriMo stats page each morning was a little scary, because it would say things like "2,650 words left today". I was used to just barely making it through 1,667 words every evening after work. Adding an extra thousand seemed nearly impossible. So I added at least one writing sprint in the morning before work. I also brought my laptop to work on days I was in the office and added a sprint at lunchtime. My goal was to bring the "words left today" at least down to 1,667 before my normal evening writing time.

Word sprints: I'm easily distracted, so anything that helps me focus is key. saved me.  I would start a 25-minute timer and know that everything else (email, Twitter, food, etc.) could wait until it beeped.

Relaxation timer: If I just needed to sit down and relax for a few minutes with the intention of writing in just a bit, I would set the 5-minute timer to remind me that browsing the internet for two hours wasn't going to help things. (I ought to do this more often.)

Write-ins: I'm lucky to have an active group of NaNoWriMo participants in my area, and I made it to at least one write-in every week. I spent some time with friends and we also had word sprints going for 3-4 hours. That really helps get the words in.

If you have tips (for either planning ahead of time or hitting those goals during November), add them in the comments!


Sherck said...

Congratulations! Great tenacity! I made a half-hearted attempt at NaNo this year but threw in the towel because 1) life got in the way and 2) I didn't have nearly the level of planning that you did. I appreciated the glimpse into your process as you overcame the deficit.

bozoette said...

Congrats! I managed to finish too, despite not writing anything on Nov. 1. I think giving yourself permission to fail is key. Non-linear writing works for me. By that I mean that I skip around in the plot and timeline. If I get blocked in one scene, I just switch to another. But I tend to be a pantser, so that works for me.

Theresa B (of Nebulopathy) said...

@Sherck, I think NaNo works really well for some people, and just isn't the right way to go for others. Hopefully you've got your own process that leads you to success!

@bozoette, I'm glad to hear you participated this year! I usually pants it, but I always head from start to finish -- it might be related to my plotting, which is usually pretty linear. It's always fun to hear how other people do things because sometimes it's stuff I can't imagine myself trying to get work and yet so many other people do that.

The only reason I planned so much ahead of time this year is that I was writing a heist and I wanted it all to work out in the end.