Reader Questions: About NaNoWriMo…

Meridith asks:

I’d love to hear more about how you commit to nanowrimo every year – how you make time while balancing family, work, etc., what motivates you to keep going, and how it’s different from your writing practice the rest of the year!


This is my second year of NaNoWriMo and before making the final decision to go for it this year, I asked my family if they’d support me in my efforts.  They said ‘yes’, the requirement being that I be available for family dinners and bedtime stories and not become a total wreck in the process.  It was up to me to figure out what time slice I could devote to writing.  Getting the support of my wife and Elder Spawn meant they’d help me to the extent they were able in facilitating that time.  Last year that was a lot harder to manage, this year it went a lot more smoothly.  I also got a lot of encouragement from other WriMos and I made an effort to reach out more than I did last year.  I got a lot of great cheer leading help from other writers and friends.  That was especially important during the middle of the month, especially week two.  Week two is a notoriously difficult week for NaNoWriMo, the initial rush has worn off and you start having to work a bit harder to come up with energy and inspiration.

I also found a new way to get support and have fun this year:  I posted excerpts of the novel here on Butchtastic.  The first time I did it, it was spontaneous:  I was excited and wanted to share how well things were going and also thought getting a little feedback would be nice.  I got such a great reaction, I kept doing it, almost daily.  Deciding which portion of my daily output to share became a bit of a game, especially when some readers got caught up in the story and begged to know ‘what happens next!’.  Not only did this help keep me inspired and excited about the project, it helped get people excited about the upcoming novel.  It also served to show me that I was writing in a way that sucked people in, that got people invested in the characters.  And since that’s one of my big goals for the novel, it was great encouragement to receive.

Going into this year’s challenge, I wanted to get a feel for what kind of pace I could sustain from December onward, knowing that 50k words wasn’t going to be enough for the novel I have in mind.  During November, with a few exceptions, I wrote about 2,000-3,000 words a day.  Writing sessions happened mostly at night, after dinner, but especially after my youngest had gone to bed.  So between 9 pm and 11 pm, I’d write the bulk of that day’s 2,000 words.

Based on that and knowing that I’d want time for non-writing evenings – time to read and socialize and vegge out in front of the TV or do other projects – I figured 5,000 words every 5 days would be doable in post-NaNoWriMo months.  That’s compared to the 5,000 words every 3 days that the NaNoWriMo challenge requires to stay on pace.

This being my second year taking on the challenge, I was better prepared mentally and definitely had a much better time. Last year I wallowed around with a bunch of different ideas and ended up with a seed potato of at least three different story ideas.  I struggled a lot, some days I barely got through 1,667 words.  A couple of days I remember just writing about how I didn’t have anything to write about.  This year I had a solid story to work from, a novel that I’d already started (yes, I was a cheater) and was eager to continue.

My novel-in-progress, Guys Like Us, started from a short story, Asphalt.  The main character, Buddy, has been in my head ever since.  Starting last spring, I had been writing chapters, scenes and character sketches and plot points.  I had a pretty good base of these milestone moments for my story and going into November (after not doing novel writing for a few months), I was raring to go.  And so was the story.  It was like breaking a dam and releasing a flood.  Once I started writing, Buddy took over.  All I had to do was hang on and keep up with the flood of words.  We went back to the beginning, back to childhood and worked our way up to high school.  There is a pivotal moment that happens not too long after high school graduation and I was consciously building up to that moment, working on justifying that plot point.  Along the way, I was introduced to more and more characters.  The process of discovery as I’m writing is pretty amazing, a bit of magic.  When Sarah May came into the story, I was just looking for a quirky best friend for Buddy, someone to illustrate the oddball circle of friends he had in high school.  What I ended up with was a very distinct individual, with her own voice and mannerisms, a full person who is very clear in my head when I write her.

The more I can submerge myself into a story, the more that kind of thing happens.  It feels less and less like something I’m creating, more and more like something I’m channeling.  That’s what I love about writing.  That’s my high.

My main goal with NaNoWriMo this year was to get a solid block of writing done for the novel and I accomplished that.  Another goal was to explore the relationship between Buddy and Desiree and to get clear in my head how it started and work towards its eventual end in a way that made sense.  I needed to spend some time fleshing out Buddy’s childhood, his family of origin and school experiences in order to build logically to what we seen happening in Asphalt.  Those goals were definitely met.

I was also looking to establish a sustainable writing pace.  I still think 5,000 words every 5 days is doable, but I haven’t done it yet.  This thing called Dirty December happened, but even more, the holidays started happening.  December is a busy month for social activities and my job has also been taking its toll.

Going forward….  What I want to do next for the novel is to pull everything I have into Scrivener (purchased at a 50% discount thanks to my NaNoWriMo winner status) and start to organize it into a novel-like shape.  I have a pretty good idea of how I want to structure it now and it would be good to see how close I am to having all the pieces I want. I’ believe that even with the 54,000 words I wrote in November and the stuff I wrote earlier in the year, I might be as much as 50,000 more words away from having the full block of material to carve my novel out of.  My goal is to have a manuscript for a select group of readers and proofreaders midway through next year.  I know who those people are for the most part, though I might want a couple more contacts with professional experience.  I haven’t decided between self-publishing and shopping for a publishing company, but I’m leaning toward attempting the latter first and using the former as a fall back.

Once the holiday season is over and I can settle back into our normal busy schedule (rather than the crazy hectic one we have going now), I’m going to get back to my 5k per 5 days pace and get into the flow of the story again.  I’m not too worried about getting back into the flow because I can still feel and hear it in my head.  It hasn’t gone anywhere, it’s just waiting for me to get back to it.

Meridith, I hope this answers your questions, if not, you know where to find me 😉

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