Winning NaNoWriMo 2015

I did it! I won NaNoWriMo 2015! I wrote the first draft of my novel, The First Step, in a touch over 50,000 words. Here’s the day-by-day progression of my word count.

NaNoWriMo 2015

My boys really enjoyed seeing the word counts grow and as you can see, they also enjoyed writing the updates themselves. At the beginning of the month, my husband asked me what I wanted to get out of this month’s work. I thought carefully about my answer. In some sense, I wanted just the sense of completion, like when a runner finishes a huge race for the first time. In another sense, I wanted to write a good story, or at the least the bones of one, like when a runner aims for a personal record.

I think I hit the mark on both counts. I also learned a lot about myself as writer during the process and kept track of some of my thoughts on my Facebook page. I’m recording them here, too, so I can remember them for next year but also so other writers can share their reactions and their own thoughts.

 

I’m starting today. It’s not going to be easy as I have family visiting, a volunteer event from 2-4pm and a bandage on…

Posted by Sweet Tooth Communications, LLC on Sunday, November 1, 2015

This is a weird #NaNoWriMo for me. My planned story got ditched (by me) somewhat spontaneously after a deep discussion…

Posted by Sweet Tooth Communications, LLC on Monday, November 2, 2015

So this is not new, but it’s good to be reminded that I really get a lot of great ideas and story planning done during…

Posted by Sweet Tooth Communications, LLC on Thursday, November 5, 2015

From “The Mindful Writer” by Dinty W. Moore especially during #NaNoWriMo

Posted by Sweet Tooth Communications, LLC on Friday, November 6, 2015

I find it really hard to resist doing a little editing and revising during #NaNoWriMo but I don’t want to cheat myself…

Posted by Sweet Tooth Communications, LLC on Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Do you share your #NaNoWriMo synopsis, idea, or plot with non-writing friends? When I’m at the beginning of a project…

Posted by Sweet Tooth Communications, LLC on Wednesday, November 11, 2015

I passed 46,000 words today. My story is a little lopsided towards the front, but I know I won’t have trouble finishing…

Posted by Sweet Tooth Communications, LLC on Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Planning for NaNoWriMo 2015

So a year ago I put out a tweet asking people what story I should work on for NaNoWriMo 2014. I got more votes on the second project and have put the first project aside for awhile (but it’s still in the back of my head).

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2014 NaNoWrIMo Ideas

For this year, instead of waiting until the last minute to write a novel off of the top of my head, I decided on my NaNoWriMo project well before November 1. And I started getting to work on the backstory! My planned project was going to be about two young lovers in Pittsburgh during the Civil War who both want enslaved people to be free and to keep their country whole. But they believe there are different ways of doing this. So are a part of my planning, I started sketching out scenes. I named characters. I described my characters. I ordered books about Civil War era Pittsburgh from the library. I went to the History Center and located original documents and learned how to access records of newspapers from the time period!

WHEW did I plan.

Then I spent October 18-21 at the Highlights Foundation learning how to write page-turning non-fiction for middle grade readers. While it was only a few days, when you’re in a small group workshop all day, for all meals, you learn a lot about people. And the instructor of the workshop, the wonderful Deborah Hopkinson, took the time to listen to my idea for my NaNoWriMo project. She pointed out some flaws and asked good, hard questions. I’m interested in writing a book during NaNoWriMo, but I’m also interested in writing publishable, marketable books. Then she asked me a very important question: why wasn’t I writing a book about running?

I admitted that I felt it would be self-indulgent and selfish. I worried it wouldn’t be marketable. I worried I couldn’t write it in a way that shared how important running has been to me as a woman and writer. She pushed me a little more and we discussed a possible character and the story arc. I felt overwhelmed and emotional. I felt exhilarated. I left the Barn (where we had our classes and meals) and I walked to this spot on the trail and I cried a little, overwhelmed at the idea that I could write this story about a girl who comes of age and unlocks the secrets to happiness thanks to running.

Where I decided on NaNoWriMo 2015

Where I decided on NaNoWriMo 2015

 

This novel is a lot more of a pantser project than my first idea, which is nice and planned. But maybe this is a good thing! Maybe I write one with emotion and on the fly and I write the second (the Civil War one) after NaNoWriMo when I can really read info and add in the important historical details.

I know I can do this. Thanks to my experience as a runner, I know it’s all about putting in the work daily. And running isn’t just a theoretical part of my writing. It’s a practical part because  I think through plot, flesh out characters, and sketch scenes in my brain during every workout.  I can write both of these stories. I have already written full manuscripts for The Forest of Dreams, Runner’s Luck, and Dare Club. I have completed two big revisions on Dare Club. I can write both my planned story and my pantser story. 

Notes for NaNoWriMo (Write)

Started these notes on Nov. 7, one week into NaNoWrIMo.

– Write.

– Use those 15 beats. Write out several versions of the story you think you want to tell.

– Work on those character descriptions early in October. Know those characters before hand and your story will flow.

– Read great books all month.

– Definitely block that time off on your calendar. That is working great!

– In October, start minimizing meetings that you accept in November. Get work done in advance whenever possible.

– Still schedule in your running and exercise.

– Journal the month before.

It’s now Nov 30, and I finished NaNoWriMo on Wed, Nov. 26.

– Don’t worry too much about exercising but a good walk helps.

– Don’t try to avoid caffeine by drinking that herbal tea called “Easy Now.” You may be allergic to the flowers in it. It gave you vertigo, possibly.

– Absolutely respect the time you have blocked off to write. That worked perfectly.

– Write scenes even if you decide not to use them later and even if they don’t make sense with previously written scenes but you think they may fit with the story after you revise it.

– You’re going to feel bad about your story at some points. Keep writing anyway. You can revise it!

– You love parts of your story. You’re going to feel so good you sat down and wrote this. You can revise it!

– Telling people, out loud, that you’re going to win, helps.

– Write with a friend. Write by yourself. Write in the morning or the evening, or both. Write a lot. Write!

Winner-2014-Web-Banner write

(I hope I remember to come back and read this in late September 2015!)

NaNoWriMo 2014

It’s almost November! And you know what that means? NaNoWriMo 2014!

NaNoWriMo or National Novel Writing Month is only a few days away and I’m itching to get started. I had two ideas in mind for this month’s project.

Project Ideas

1. “Sweetie” is a retelling of Hansel and Gretel set in Depression-Era Baltimore.

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2. “Buyer Beware” tells the story of a self-centered middle school boy finds an old iPod at a flea market that gives him the ability to hear people’s thoughts.

I asked my kids and they voted unanimously for Story Idea #2. Which one would you like to read?

How will I prepare?

Once I’ve settled on my project idea, I’ll work off an outline. I’ve already laid out the basic 15 beats for Buyer Beware based on what I learned from the wonderful Save the Cat workshop presented by novelist Jessica Brody. So that pre-work is done. If I go with Sweetie, I’ll have to take the time in the next few days to lay out those 15 beats.

Preparation also includes clearing my calendar of all unnecessary lunch and coffee dates, setting times for workouts that don’t interrupt the whole day, and making sure that I note which days I have to go over the recommended daily word count. We will be traveling in November and I’m attending the WPA SCBWI conference this month, so there will be several days when it will be really hard to hit my word count goals.

What’s my plan?

I’d like to hit 2,000 words a day in the first two weeks. That means “BICFOK” or “butt in chair, fingers on keys” will be my mantra. I’ll shove that inner editor aside and work to tell the story. I’ll rely on dialogue a lot, because that tends to be my strong point. I’ll also see if I can add in some character-development scenes, setting description scenes, and work to include sensory information that I often leave out of first drafts. I’m not trying to do these things just for word count but also to strengthen my first drafts and think about including elements that make a good story right from the beginning.

Are you tackling NaNoWriMo this year? What’s your story idea? Good luck!