Last year I did my first NaNoWriMo. I prepared by reading Chris Baty’s ‘No Plot? No Problem!’ and stocking up on raisin boxes. Beyond an initial image, I pantsed the entire novel. 51000 words. Which I then didn’t have time to write up. Which is a mess that I keep putting back on the shelf instead of editing. But I have a novel.
I decided earlier this year that I would not be doing NaNoWriMo 2014. I would have a newborn to deal with; Dragon Age: Inquisition was due out in Fall 2014; I couldn’t possibly get it typed up in time anyway.1
At the end of September I suddenly decided that I really wanted to do NaNoWriMo. All of the above was still true. In fact the game had been pushed back and would release mid-November. But I really wanted to do it.
I have an e-book called ‘How to Write a Book in 30 Days’ (it would probably be more accurate to call it ‘How to research and Outline a Book in 30 Days’) and I made a deal with myself to work through it in October. On the 31st I would then decide whether to proceed with NaNoWriMo.I began marshalling characters, noting important plot points, researching lighthouses… It went very well for about two weeks. Then some life stuff happened, and I got behind, and I gave up on getting the outline ready in time.
But I still badly wanted to do NaNoWriMo.
By this stage my Dragon Age obsession was full blown. So not only did I not have an outline for a novel, but all my spare brain power was taken up with feverish excitement and speculation about Inquisition.2 That’s when I decided to write a Dragon Age fanfiction that I’d been mulling over for at least two years.
“But fanfiction doesn’t count!” I hear you cry, and I direct your attention to Exhibit A:
If the NaNoWriMo website includes it in their genre drop-down, it counts. If I were looking to publish a novel out of my NaNoWriMo 2014 experience then no, it wouldn’t count. This year I wanted to participate, and I wanted to win, and this was how I was going to do it. Furthermore, I was going to have to do it in 20 days because there was no way I would keep writing once my game arrived. No pressure then!
Although I got in a few longer sessions at my laptop, thanks to some baby-wrangling on the part of the Technician, most of my novel was written on my iPhone using Evernote to sync between the two. And I learned that, actually, despite all my artistic pretensions otherwise, I’m perfectly capable of writing straight into a word processor. More importantly, I hit that winning number, and finished with a total of 50765 words on November 18th – 2 days earlier than planned.
So what have I learned?
- Plan. Even if you deviate wildly from it along the way, having a plan will get you through NaNoWriMo.
- Back up your work. I actually started out writing in the Pages app, which managed to lose 2500 words in the first week. I had been backing up from Pages into Scrivener (with a copy of the Scrivener file saved into Dropbox every other day because I’m paranoid), so just moved over onto Evernote as I knew I could force a sync when I needed to.
- Skip ahead. Not feeling the scene you’re in? Jot down what’s supposed to happen, and move on to a scene you’re excited about writing.
Oh, and in case you were wondering – I pronounce it “na-no-ree-mo”.
1. I found out just as I finished this year that there is a way to validate for those writing longhand, though I’m not entirely certain what it is.↩
2. For those of you thinking ‘video game’ and shaking your heads condescendingly – you need to think in terms of the next installment of a popular series like Harry Potter or A Song of Ice and Fire. And yes, that’s a fair comparison; the writing really is that good.↩