Tag Archives: nanowrimo

Some reflections on NaNoWriMo

I’ve been aware of NaNoWriMo for about 12 years now. I first attempted it ten years ago, in 2007 when I first went to university, so a city that had an active NaNoWriMo group. Since completing my studies, though, I haven’t done much with NaNo: I’ve signed up several times, updated my profile, filled in the novel info, and so on, but after winning in 2008 and 2009, I have not been successful since.

If you are not familiar with NaNoWriMo, it is an annual writing challenge that takes place in November. The goal is to write 50,000 words of a novel in 30 days. The website provides pep talks, community forums and a tracking system, as well as rewards for successful challengers.

Over the last decade I have learned a great deal about writing. I’ve read a lot of books, including several about writing; I have written several novels and numerous short stories; I have agonised over scenes and despaired of ever writing something I could be happy with. NaNoWriMo was an important part of that journey, but it is no longer a good fit for me. At least, not at this stage; I won’t rule out the possibility of it becoming useful to me again.

Part of NaNoWriMo is building discipline: to succeed at such a challenge, a writer must write an average of 1,667 words per day for a whole month. That’s not a trivial amount of words; if I know what I’m writing, I’m not interrupted and I don’t get stuck, that quantity of words would probably take me about an hour and a half. If you miss a day, an even higher daily time commitment would be needed to meet the 50,000-word goal, so writing every day is pretty important.

Developing discipline is an important tool for a writer, but it’s not one I need NaNoWriMo for anymore. Since July 2015, I’ve been writing every day without fail: I’ve got that discipline, even it doesn’t involve as much of a time commitment as NaNoWriMo would require.

NaNoWriMo is a fantastic motivating tool. There are a lot of people who want to write a novel some day but never manage it, or who spend a lot of time planning and never start. Having a major global event which has a start and end date and a clearly-defined goal, in which tens of thousands of people communicate with one another, and regional groups arrange in-person meetings, is incredibly powerful.

But those are not problems I currently have: I’m not a “some day” writer, I’m an “every day” writer. I’m not stuck in the rabbit hole of planning. I’m four chapters deep in my current WIP (work in progress) so I don’t need help starting. I don’t need community forums to motivate me to write, and I can’t easily access regional in-person meetings from the rural backend of the west midlands.

As for deadlines and word targets, I don’t think that suits the way I write at the moment. I don’t want to rush. When I rush for word targets, I write a lot of useless fluff, which only creates more work in the editing stage. I can see the value in it, certainly: a way to prevent self-editing in the writing stage and let the story flow, a challenge to spur you forward. But the pace that suits me is a lot slower than NaNoWriMo aims for. Perhaps in time I will increase my productivity to a rate that makes NaNoWriMo more viable, but that is not the case right now, especially since my current process involves planning and writing one chapter at a time rather than planning everything in advance and then writing the whole story in one go.

That is perhaps a long way of saying “I’m not doing NaNoWriMo this year”. It’s been a useful tool for me in the past, and I don’t want anyone to think my decision not to use it this year means I don’t think it’s useful: it is. It just doesn’t fit with my process this year.

Advertisements

Progress Report: One Million Words, Autumn 2016

I’ve been a bit lax on updates lately, but I’m here to catch up now.

My current total is 307,504/1,000,000, or 30.8%. So I’m nearly a third of the way there now. Since my last update some time ago, I have written:

  • September: 13,776 words
  • October: 14,822 words
  • November: 15,812 words
  • December until the 10th: 3,195 words

The Story

Over the last three and a bit months, I’ve worked on a range of stories, including time travel fanfiction (that’s not a typo where I missed a comma, that’s a fanfiction involving a time travelling character from the modern world ending up on a British naval hired vessel in 1813; followers of my reading updates can guess exactly which ship that might have been), preparatory stories to help me get into the world and characters of Kell and Atoni, and my NaNoWriMo project, Kell & Atoni.

It is this latter which I wish to talk about.

It’s crap. I restarted it in the middle of November (don’t worry, I still counted the words I’d written). And I’m not happy with the restart either. I’ve been trying to work out why that might be today, and I think I have an answer: lack of preparation. Or at least, the right kind of preparation. I’ve got no outline, no theme, no goal for this story except to write a fantasy story in the same stylistic tradition as the Aubrey-Maturin novels, with a friendship much like that model at its core.

But it’s clear I need a more structured approach than I have been using. For now, I’m putting the project aside while I develop not only that structure, but also a deeper understanding of what I want from the story and the source material I wish to emulate. I also need to better develop the characters. At the moment they are barely distinguishable from any protagonist I’ve ever written, and it’s clear to me now that I have a significant weakness in that area.

Moving forward

I’ve got a short project planned in response to a challenge on /r/fantasywriters, so I’ll be working on that for at least a few days this month. The challenge is to use a stone age setting, which is something I’ve played with for a while but never quite got anything working (including one story in which Kell discovered a stone circle used by mammoths as scratching posts). So if nothing else I’ll have fun.

Beyond that, I need to work on exercises that enable me to develop the characters of Kell and Atoni and practice writing their voices.

I’m feeling rather lost with my writing at the moment, but it’s about time I got back on track so I’ll be working hard in the near future to move forward. Funny, I always seem more motivated with hobbies when I have less time for them, and the same is true now – I’ve got a temp job that just started which is full time, in addition to my existing part time job, and of course with Christmas fast approaching I’ve got a lot to sort out in the way of gifts and cards and decorations. So we’ll see how that goes.

I’m attempting NaNoWriMo

Yes, I get it, Halloween is a bit late to decide this. It’s fine, I decided weeks ago. I even planned out a few “leading up to” blog posts I would post over the last two weeks. It’s just things have been pretty busy lately and unfortunately that has meant blogging has taken the hit as being pretty far down the priorities list. Job hunting, dealing with a car that keeps breaking down, feeding my parents’ cat while they’ve been away, and various other pressing issues have taken precedence.

Anyway, I will be attempting NaNoWriMo. I will be writing a story based on last year’s NaNoWriMo, but with some significant changes. Here’s a blurb:

Since the great city of Caer burned and Kell did not in spite of being in the middle of it, and subsequently being saved from a mob by a man magically bound to the Brown River and somehow part of it, she’s been looking for others like her, others touched by magic. Leaving Shen to search along the banks of his river, Kell has crossed an immense plain to reach the White River, hoping to find another like Shen there, or at least someone who has heard of others like her.

Atoni is a princess, one of many nieces and nephews of the king of Porroa, and like all her siblings and cousins, she has a role in the structure of the family and government of Porroa: the Deputy Minister for Architecture and Construction. Her uncle the King wants to build the greatest monument the world has ever seen, but with the arrival of a lone traveller from the Brown River it’s clear that the world is a great deal bigger than anyone in Porroa ever realised. Atoni is sent on a mission to record the greatest monuments of the Brown River cultures, and establish initial diplomatic relations with any she feels Porroa could trade with, so that her uncle’s ambitions can be fulfilled and her own legend can begin.

When Kell and Atoni team up, they are ready for the adventures and travels that await them.

Progress Report: One Million Words, August 2016

Another late one; I’m slipping. I apologise. I have lots of excuses (it’s been a tough month) but I won’t bother relating them. Suffice it to say things aren’t working lately. Excuses aside, I need to keep better track of things, or I find I’ve got weeks worth of writing log to catch up on and have to work out what day I wrote what through a combination of dates in file names, dates on pieces of paper, and where dates don’t exist, a process of elimination. Not the best approach, I admit.

So for August I wrote 17,315 words. That brings me to 259,899 words in total, or 26%. August’s output was a modest improvement upon July’s, but it’s still below where I really want to be. I have continued to write daily and my total as of the end of August is 410 consecutive days.

I finished Horrible Monster at the start of August and then proceeded to write some short stories of various lengths, as planned. Some were related to my next project and others were based on prompts I found online or other ideas.

Kell & Atoni

My next project has the working title of Kell & Atoni. It builds upon my plans from last year for Kell’s Adventures, using the protagonist from that as one of my protagonists in the new project, but I wanted to take it in a different direction. Anyone who has been following my reading updates might have noticed I’ve been working my way through the Aubrey-Maturin series by Patrick O’Brian, and it is from that series that I draw upon in attempting, with Kell & Atoni, to tell a series of stories in which two characters become firm friends and travel together as they seek to achieve their own goals which are compatible with one other.

So far I’ve done a little worldbuilding and worked on a few short stories set before these two characters meet. I’m not yet ready to begin with the story proper, but with November approaching I feel that this is a project to tackle for NaNoWriMo, which gives me a few more weeks to prepare.

The plan for Kell & Atoni is for novella-length stories exploring their goals, their world, the directions their obligations, fears and ambitions take them in, and the human and magical obstacles they face. In preparation, I have begun workign on, and will continue to write, short stories exploring points of the protagonists’ lives before they meet, elements of the world and the cultures they are part of or encounter.

Progress report: One Million Words, week 20

The final week of NaNoWriMo has seen a bit of a slow-down. I wrote 5,257 words this week, with only one day above 1,000 and none above 1,667. My daily average is 751 words.

My total is now 85,825/1,000,000, or 8.5% for the One Million Words challenge.

For NaNoWriMo, I’ve written 30,862/50,000 words, or 61.7%.

Day by day summary

Monday: 775 words

Tuesday: 608 words

Wednesday: 1205 words

Thursday: 543 words

Friday: 529 words

Saturday: 737 words

Sunday: 860 words.

Continue reading Progress report: One Million Words, week 20

Progress report: One Million Words, week 19

NaNoWriMo is certainly doing my wordcounts some good. This week I’ve written 8,599 words in total, including three days writing over 1,667 words. My daily average for this week is 1,228 words.

My One Million Words challenge total stands at 80,568/1,000,000, or 8.06%.

My NaNoWriMo total is 25,605/50,000, or 51.21%.

Day by day summary

Monday: 1,197 words

Tuesday: 876 words

Wednesday: 1734 words

Thursday: 1705 words

Friday: 637 words

Saturday: 413 words

Sunday: 2037 words.

Continue reading Progress report: One Million Words, week 19

Progress report: One Million Words, week 18

This has been a pretty good week. I’ve written 8,210 words in total, including two days writing over 1,667 words this week, with an average of 1,173 words per day across the week.

For the One Million Words challenge, I’m at 71,969/1,000,000, or 7.2%.

For NaNoWriMo, I’m at 17,006/50,000 words, or 34%. I am now at the half-way point of NaNoWriMo, day 15 of 30, so I am a little behind still, but there’s a lot of time to catch up still.

Day by day summary

Monday: 1,219 words

Tuesday: 249 words

Wednesday: 2,130 words

Thursday: 856 words

Friday: 827 words

Saturday: 1,161 words

Sunday: 1,768 words

Continue reading Progress report: One Million Words, week 18

Progress report: One Million Words, week 17

My first full week of NaNoWriMo has been a productive one, at least compared to previous weeks if not compared to other WriMos. I have written 7,057 words this week, for an average of 1,008 words per day.

My One Million Words total is now 63,759/1,000,000 words, or 6.4%.

My NaNoWriMo total is 8,796/50,000, or 17.6%.

Day by day summary

Monday: 1,204 words

Tuesday: 1,061 words

Wednesday: 1,133 words

Thursday: 2,072 words

Friday: 426 words

Saturday: 424 words

Sunday: 737 words

Continue reading Progress report: One Million Words, week 17

Progress report: One Million Words, week 16

With NaNoWriMo starting today, and the prep work I’ve been doing this week, I’ve really picked up again this week. I’ve better than doubled last week’s total, having written 6,659 words over the last seven days – my best week since I began the challenge, by over nine hundred words.

My total stands at 56,702/1,000,000 (5.67%) and my NaNoWriMo total is 1,739/50,000 (3.48%).

Day by day summary

Monday:239 words (on the Kell start from 24th October)

Tuesday: 1,432 words (Kell meets Shen in the river – a background story)

Wednesday: 235 words (completing Tuesday’s story)

Thursday: 990 words (Kell in a sinking boat – another background story)

Friday: 883 words (completing Thursday’s story)

Saturday: 1,141 words (twitter horror stories and a background story involving Sorient and Turriac, and the source grudge I said I wanted to add to the group dynamics for chapter 2)

Sunday: 1,739 words (NaNoWriMo story – Kell’s adventures)

Continue reading Progress report: One Million Words, week 16

Almost ready for NaNoWriMo

Earlier this month I considered attempting NaNoWriMo. As the month has progressed I have become more and more certain I would try it. This post is therefore to declare my intentions: I am definitely attempting it. After hitting the 50,000 words mark in my writing since July on Sunday last week, it seems apt to try to double that at the time of the year when tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of people worldwide are making the commitment to write.

Over the last few days I have started to make preparations. I’ve put the main Kell story aside for the time being in favour of background stories to help me get a better grasp of the characters. So far I have not, as I had planned, gone into the other characters in Ekan’s crew, but I have gotten a better grasp on Kell’s history over the last ten years. I’ve also been busy making notes and filling out the world. Characters have new names and basic descriptions, regions are better defined, I’ve got a few more locations, and I’ve sorted out a linguistic framework (which is partly why some character names have been changed).

There are now two days remaining until NaNoWriMo begins, and though I’ve covered a lot of ground in preparation, I’ve still got more work to do.

  • I feel that the first chapter lacks a hook and an early conflict, so I’m hoping a prompt or dare (from the Fantasy Dares thread in the NaNo forums) might give me some ideas for that.
  • My outline for the second chapter remains very vague. There will be a storm, and character relationships and interactions will play a part in the arc, but aside from that I’m unsure. Again, I might need to add another element, perhaps an old grudge between two of the characters that comes to the fore as a result of the circumstances. Maybe I’ll write the story of the source of that old grudge today or tomorrow.
  • While the third chapter is pretty much decided at this point, after that I have nothing. Again, dares and prompts may be what I need to get things moving there, but it does worry me. The first three chapters won’t get me past 20,000 words tops, probably more like 15,000, so I will definitely need some more ideas. I’ll go hunting for them over the next two days, and on into November, and keep a record of what they are in my NaNo Resources spreadsheet (where I’ve also listed possible character names).
  • Linked to my chapter 2 problem, besides Kell and Ekan, and to a certain extent Meyri (who has been renamed Merdrig), my knowledge of the characters is quite limited. Writing background stories in the last two days of this month (and perhaps ongoing into November) will help, so I’m going to push in that direction.
  • Locations. I’ve done a bit on the places certain characters are from, but beyond Waytown (which appears in chapter 1, and is where Merdrig is from) and an as-yet unnamed village a few days south of Waytown (which features in chapter 3) I’ve got nothing. Googling the bronze age and stone age landscapes of various regions – Brittany, perhaps, since it’s the inspiration for the names and culture for the region around Waytown – might give me some ideas beyond just a string of villages and towns. Hopefully those locations can help with further ideas for chapters 4 and onwards.

To get all that done, I’ve got a few hours this evening after work, and a few hours tomorrow. I can of course continue working through those issues into November, until such time as they become critical, and I will do that, but I will want to focus on meeting the 1,667 words per day target as a priority.

I’ve read advice that aiming for a higher target, such as 2,000 words a day, is a good idea. It gives a buffer in case of bad days, and can help towards not just meeting the 50,000 word goal but flying on right past it. So I’ll see if I can manage that, at least for the first week. Background stories might just help me towards that.

All going well, I should end up with between six and ten chapters of this story completed in first draft by the end of the month. My intent for December will then be to tidy up the earlier chapters and continue writing more. Hopefully come January I will be ready to start posting them here on my blog for you to read.