Crushing Week 1

In previous years, I blasted through Week 1 of NaNoWriMo and found myself well ahead of the 11669 target. I expected to do the same this year – Week 1 is when I tend to be full of enthusiasm, and energy – in fact, I was hoping to pull ahead, because Week 2 is typically when I slump, and let the videogames distract me. However, this year’s writing has been dictated by the Tiny Tyrant’s daily routine; in short: write when she goes to sleep. Because I can’t predict how long the afternoon nap will be (anything from 45-90 minutes), I’ve been taking that time to get to know my characters, using the 9-box exercise from Mark Teppo’s Jump Start Your Novel. I worried that I was wasting valuable writing time, but found that I can steadily churn out 1700 words each evening after a day spent mulling over my story. I also got a confidence boost from Day 5 of 30 Days in the Word Mines, which suggests channeling some of that initial enthusiasm into planning – it’s nice when the advice is to do what you’re already doing.

This week I’ve continued to dig into the NaNo2015 Storybundle books: Kevin J. Anderson’s Worldbuilding, Judith Tarr’s Writing Horses, Stant Litore’s How to Write Characters Your Readers Won’t Forget; and also one from the 2014 bundle: David Farland’s Drawing on the Power of Resonance in Writing. All have given me ideas on how I want to approach the editing process (after a suitable break), while some have made me ask questions of the writing I’m doing now (like ‘Am I making the characters in my pre-industrial society walk everywhere because of my fear of horses?’). You may be wondering about the wisdom of reading about the craft of writing while attempting to write. The answer to that is that I find fiction too big a distraction when I’m writing in the intensive way that NaNo requires. Instead, I’ll spend November reading writing manuals, and theology textbooks, with the occasional comic book for variety.

I’m starting Week 2 in a strong position, in part thanks to yesterday’s Double Up Day, which took my total to 14062. Based on past performance, I shall be aiming for the minimum 11669 target again; anything above that will be a delightful bonus.

If you’ve struggled over the past week, allow me to offer a few suggestions:

  1. Feeling unmotivated? Attend a write-in (on, or offline), or join a word sprint / war. Community encouragement is powerful; I’ve found that even following the sprints on @NaNoWordSprints at times when I can’t write has made me excited to get back to my novel.
  2. Are you writing the right thing? David Farland (in the book I mentioned above) talks about writing in a field you know, because it helps to love what you’re doing (my paraphrase). That may not seem like a helpful thought a week in, but it’s not too late to change tack – I won NaNoWriMo 2014 in 20 days because I was writing a story I loved – better to change now, than plod on with something that isn’t working, and still not reach 50000 words.
  3. Don’t just stare at a blank screen! When you’re not sure what to write it may be time to break out the writing exercises. The Stant Litore book mentioned above has some good exercises for pinning down your character, and WritingExercises.co.uk has a page of random exercises to try (you might want to print this out ahead of time rather than risk getting distracted by the almighty internet).

Happy writing, and see you next week for another update.

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