Writing to win and other #NaNoWriMo themes

Did you know the correct language when discussing a successful outcome in November’s National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is not: “I completed NaNoWriMo” or “I finished NaNoWriMo” but actually, “I won NaNoWriMo”. 

November 5

Word count: 4,400.

This is my first real attempt at NaNoWriMo. I signed up in 2011 and wrote 11,000 words before falling by the roadside of the NaNo track and being forced to sit in the dust and watch other more determined writers stubbornly stride past on their way to writing glory.

As I write this, it’s Saturday, November 5, and I should be at 8,335 words.

I’m not.

I’m at 4,400 words. I’m a little behind.

However, it’s a Saturday. I’m skipping my usual Parkrun this morning to get some real writing done. There are no family commitments until 1.30pm when all three kids are swimming in an inter-school swimming carnival (we take on old foes, the mighty Eagle Junction!). (If you like parenting blogs, check out my other blog, Moore4Mums.com)

November 6

OK, it’s now Sunday night, November 6, and I’ve had a blazing weekend for writing. Punched out more than 2000 words this morning and a stonking 4,500 yesterday, so I’m well and truly back on track. Whew!

However, a new worry has surfaced. Now my chief concern is whether I can maintain this cracking pace!

I guess time will tell. I’m a quarter of the way to my target of 80,000 words, and a quarter of the way through the month. One week down, three to go. So far so good. My progress is being diligently tracked on the NaNoWriMo website. (You can see for yourself by looking me up – Felicity Moore).

Putting all that ephemera aside, the story is really coming together now. For a long while I felt that I was writing around the edges of the story, introducing characters, establishing setting and other admin tasks. But now, whoa! Now, things are getting moving. It’s exciting. I can see my characters developing past the two-dimensional level they’ve been at in my head for the past six months. Now, they have nuance, now they have flaws and foibles. It’s really amazing. It’s a strange sensation to have these people developing in your mind and seeing them evolve on the page in front of you in a way that you didn’t really anticipate months ago when you were making them up.

I drive to work – it takes me around 45 minutes each way – and every day I think about my characters and the plot. I try to come up with twists and surprises that will catch the reader by surprise and please the reader in a way they weren’t expecting.

Plotter versus Pantser

There’s much discussion in writing circles about being a plotter or a pantser and I’ve come to agree with a theory that I first heard on the podcast So, You Want To Be A Writer – it’s not a binary state. You’re not one or the other. It’s actually a spectrum, with people sitting somewhere along the range of possibilities. I used to be a pantser, but that brought me zero success. I found it a struggle to write without a rough guide post of a scene. The whole thing just stalled and I was unable to go anywhere. I didn’t even start with a  clear ending in mind!

This time I’ve moved along the spectrum towards plotter. I’ve mapped out the major plot points – when the love interests meet, when the third person complication happens, when the mystery unfolds, the second complicating factor, the third complicating factor and the (hopefully) surprising ending.

Beyond that, there was not much. I mapped out my characters by completing these worksheets I downloaded from The Guardian UK website. They were incredibly helpful in forcing me to get really specific and nut out the detail of how these characters were connected to each other, what their backstory was and how the plot unfolded around them. It was really helpful in cementing their different personalities. Up until that point all of the characters I’d ever created were variations on a theme – me. I think we can all agree that sounds like the fast track to the dullest novel in the world.

The NaNoWriMo Wall

Getting back to my raisin d’être, I’ve passed 20,000 words and the powers that send out marketing emails at NaNoWriMo assure me this is the first great danger period, known as “hitting the wall”.

“It happens every second week of NaNo for some writes,” I was told in today’s email. “You get somewhere between 10,000 and 25,000 words. You’ve managed to get past the setting up. You’ve got all of your main characters introduced, and they’ve got themselves familiarised with the world they’re in. You go to start a new chapter… and you wonder what on Earth to write.”

So, as a fresh new week dawns, with fresh new dangers, let’s make a pact, you and I. If I keep writing (and blogging) you’ll keep reading. It seems like a fair deal, right? I mean, I’m the one putting in all the sweat and tears (trust me, there’ll be tears) and all you have to do is sit back and wait for the words to come forth! You’ve got the sweet end of the bargain, my friend. The least you can do is show up.

I guess we’ll just have to wait and see, won’t we? We’ll wait to see if I can lunge from 22,000 words all the way to 30,000, and I’ll wait to see if you show up to read.

Here goes nothing…


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