I can’t believe that November starts on Thursday – where the hell has the year gone? With November come’s National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo. The goal is to write 50,000 words in 30 days – roughly 1,700 words per day…no big deal.
I say that now, but I can guarantee I’ll get some form of writer’s block or get lazy about half way through and then have to struggle to make up counts. I’ve done this for enough years to know this about myself.
I’ve done a post in the past abut all my previous NaNoWriMo projects – all of them 50,000 words or more, and all stories that I loved writing at the time, but looking back, some of them are really bad. So, I’m not going to mention past projects again – even though my 2018 project will be the second draft of my 2016 project.
This High Fantasy (HF) WIP I’ll be working on is something that has been beating around in my head for a few months now, and I know I need to get in on paper. Surprisingly I have a pretty clear idea of where the story needs to go, and what I need to write in order for things to happen. It’s weird going into NaNoWriMo with a plan, rather than just an idea and winging it. It’s also weird to have a book actually outlined (I’m more of a pantser when it comes to writing).
The project I’m working on is (for right now) called KINGDOM OF GRACE, and it’s very, very loosely inspired by the Legend of King Arthur – and I mean very loosely. It’s set in a fantastical world that is pretty heavily inspired by my trip to the Isle of Skye, but other than the magic I found in Skye, it has no ties to Scottish history or lore. The world has magic, and only one person can wield it, until it’s stolen from her. The story follows her quest to save the land she grew up in, reclaim her birthright, and how her ancestors who set this all-in motion have impacted her present. It’s not an easy journey, and much and many will be at risk if she can’t reclaim her magic and end the needless fighting corrupting her land.
I’m so excited to work on this second draft of this story, and hopefully when the end of November comes and I read through whatever I’ve written I won’t hate it.
Each year I work on one or two projects, but like with any writer, shiny new ideas are always popping up. When this happens to me, sometimes the only way to move past them is to write some of the story – I usually give myself 10,000 words, and then I’ll set it aside. If the shiny new idea isn’t demanding I write it now, I usually write down the idea, and save it for November – the one month I give myself to work on new shiny ideas.
How I prepare for NaNoWriMo –
Traditionally I don’t. Usually I have some vague idea of what the story is and what needs to happen and then I write. This year though, I’ve spent hours mapping out and plotting this HF WIP because I didn’t feel I could make it all work if I didn’t have a clear outline of what needed to happen. I’ll be spending the day before November 1, doing some last-minute prepping – downloading some music, printing some inspiration pictures, and making sure my map of my world is exactly how I want it.
While I do have a pretty clear image of the world, the castles, the people, I want to find as many real-world visuals to help keep me motivated.
One other thing I is I either find an image or (in this year’s case) create a cover for my book. I like the way it looks, and it get’s me excited.
Tactics I use to stay motivated –
If I’m on a roll, 1,700 words is pretty easy for me. But there are days where I just don’t have the energy or the motivation to write and those are the days that are tough. Ultimately, I sit down and write. There aren’t really any tactics I use, except for one. I mentioned this in previous posts where I’ve talked about past NaNoWriMo’s – the first year I participated, I ended up with such bad writer’s block, and my usual methods of just getting words on the page even if they suck did NOT work. For two out of the four week I didn’t write, and in the last five days of NaNoWriMo, I wrote 25,000 words, all crap. Doing that sucked and I promised myself that I would never get that behind again.
The one tactic I use is kind of fear based, in the fact that I never want to repeat that first year. Other than that, I don’t really bribe myself for meeting word goals or anything.
What do I do if I’m feeling uninspired or burned out –
I take a break. I go for a walk. I get out of my house. If I’m stuck on a problem and can’t figure it out, starting blindly at the screen isn’t going to help. It just makes me more frustrated. What usually helps me to figure out plot problems is taking a long walk and listening to musicals. I’ll head over to the park near my house and go through various soundtracks. It doesn’t always help, and I don’t always get that “aha!” moment, but it clears my mind enough to come back and look at it fresh.
If that doesn’t work, I might take the day, and make up the word count the next day. This is where you have to be careful – you can procrastinate for days, and suddenly have 10,000 words you have to make up. I try to not take more than maybe two consecutive days off, but sometimes I just need the break. 50,000 words in 30 days is crazy and a lot, and by the end of November I always feel creatively burned out.
I’ll also write long hand, on a giant sheet of paper. I think it’s all the empty space on the paper – it allows me to spread out my thoughts, rather than having them confined in a small notebook. For me, writing long hand really makes me think about what I put on the page – I don’t have a delete button that magically makes it disappear in a moment. It helps focus and center my thoughts.
What about Writer’s Block –
It’s the bane of all writer’s existence. I used to let it stall me, allow me to procrastinate, but now not as much. I can usually push past if I just write.
That sounds simple, and in a sense it is. I figured out a long time ago that it doesn’t have to be the next scene or part in a story. It can literally be anything – for NaNoWriMo, words are words. I have past projects that have scenes from my SF WIP, because in that moment I needed to write that scene. I have a scene in another fantasy project where a character is scared of puppies for an inexplicable reason, because I needed to move onto the next part of the story. It doesn’t matter if it doesn’t make sense, or if it has nothing to do with the project you’re currently working on. Because guess what, you can edit it out later. NaNoWriMo can be stressful enough by itself without trying to figure out every nook and cranny of your story in 30 days.
Hell, put place holders in for areas you haven’t figured out yet.
[Insert character name here]
[city name to come]
In another sense, it can be hard, and the advice to “just write” can be annoying. The guy reaction is “if I could write then I wouldn’t have writer’s block” and sometimes just getting words on the page isn’t going to happen no matter what you do. Step Away From The Computer/Notebook. Take a break, eat some food, walk your pet if you have one, do something that isn’t related to the story you’re working on. Just don’t think about it. Maybe it’ll come to you.
You might also be stuck because something in your plot isn’t working, or your MC is acting out of character, or some other element isn’t working. When you have so few days to hit that 50,000-word mark, deleting and going back and rewriting sounds awful. You can do that, and have to make up all those words, or you can just read back through, and try and find out where you’ve hit a snag, and start writing from that moment. Just highlight the words you’ll delete later, that way you know what is and isn’t a part of your story.
Lastly and probably most importantly, have fun with this. Challenge yourself, but don’t let this be a ride or die situation. NaNoWriMo is a way to bring fellow writers together, it allows us to keep each other accountable and encourage each other. It’s an opportunity to write that story that’s been beating around in your head for ever, or work on that project that you’ve already started. It’s a method to get people to sit down and write their stories, whatever they made me, and it’s completely optional.
So again, have fun!
Feel free to add me as a Writing Buddy! https://nanowrimo.org/participants/lexacourtney
If you’re doing NaNoWriMo this year, what genre is your story? Do you have a title? Are you a plotter or a pantser? Let me know below!