In my last blog post, I talked about participating in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) for the third time, and maybe even attempting the Fast Draft Challenge (20 pages a day for 14 days). Now that November is over, I can happily say I succeeded–my first-ever victory! Not at the Fast Draft Challenge (are you kidding??) but at NaNo, which means I cranked out 50,000 words of a new project in 30 days. Here’s what helped me win:
Accountability: In the past, I’ve had writing buddies through the NaNo website, but this is the first time I participated as part of a team. Although I was the only one on the team not doing the Fast Draft Challenge, I still received the daily emails, in which the team leaders offered support and encouraged us to post our word count totals. These emails helped me stay motivated, especially during the second week of November, when it would have been too easy to waste hours on social media, lamenting the outcome of the election. My CP and I also set up weekly meetings in November, with the sole purpose of brainstorming and working out tricky plot points in our WIPs.
Choosing a Fun Project: Because I wanted NaNo to be enjoyable, I decided to write something light and fun—the literary equivalent of a Hallmark movie or a rom-com. After brainstorming various ideas, my CP and I decided we’d each write a category-style contemporary romance, set at a destination wedding (she chose Amsterdam, I chose Maui). While writing, I overloaded my plot with well-worn tropes and turned off my internal editor. Sure, I ended up with awkward dialogue, lots of clichés, clunky transitions, and too many instances of the words “just” and “really,” but I got words on the page!
Pre-Planning: Another mistake I made in the past was diving right into my novel with no outline—nothing but the cavalier attitude of “we’ll see where this goes.” In both cases, I couldn’t sustain the momentum and ran out of ideas. Even though I still don’t consider myself a plotter, I made myself plot out all of Act One, with a list of scenes I wanted to write. I also knew what my “dark night of the soul” moment was going to be (the rehearsal dinner, in which my MC almost derails her sister’s wedding), so all I had to do for Act Two was work backwards from there. As part of my prep, I created backstory for my main characters, researched my setting, and created a rough timeline of events—all of which helped me get ready to write in November.
Not Editing: One of the tenets of NaNo is that you write as fast as possible, without constantly going back and editing your work. Normally, when I write, I self-edit a lot, even in the first draft. Because of this, I tend to spend an inordinate amount of time on the first three chapters, and time isn’t a luxury you have in NaNo. So, for the first time ever, I didn’t go back and read anything I’d written. Each day, when I started writing, I’d only read the scene I was working on and proceed from there. As a result, I wrote more quickly and didn’t get caught up in nitpicky edits.
Overall, I had a lot of fun with NaNoWriMo, and I didn’t feel as pressured as I have in previous years. Even though the draft I produced is very rough, I’m looking forward to taking my time and revising it in 2017.