Should You Try Out NaNoWriMo?

Happy NaNoWriMo, my friends!

Yes, it is that time of year again where writers of all ages are buckling down and knocking out 50,000 words of a novel draft. It’s a fantastic month full of creativity, feverish writing, and passion for a new project. I love interacting with other writers and updating my status with my friends as the month goes on. There’s truly nothing better.

This year, I wasn’t sure if I had the availability to take on NaNoWriMo again this year (click here for an account of last year’s experience). I’ve been working on research and interviews for my Book Creator project, academics have ben a whirlwind, and I just started having some free time to myself for the first time all semester. But at the same time, I was itching to get back to the world of the Three Realms and start my second book of the Chasing Fae¬†trilogy, Chasing War. Eventually, I decided to take November 1st as a trial run day, a test to see if I had enough inspiration to write this story from my outline. Friday was incredible; I wrote over 2000 words of fantasy, the most that I had written in the genre since I finished up my final edits of Chasing Fae in July. I couldn’t wait to write more. That’s how I knew I needed to do NaNoWriMo and make it another real time commitment in my life.

I want to encourage all young writers to undertake this challenge this month. Don’t be discouraged that NaNoWriMo has already started; there are plenty of days left to create something amazing.

Is NaNoWriMo Right For You?

Do you have a novel idea that you are burning to write?: If you’ve got an idea that is so perfect that you are just itching to get it down on paper, NaNoWriMo is the place to start.

Have you struggled with following through on an idea in your writing?: If you’re not great with being motivated enough to finish a novel, trust me, NaNoWriMo may be your savior. I wrote story after story throughout my middle and high school years, but the majority of my novels never got finished. I’d write six to eight chapters and then move on to the next new idea. Last year was the first time that I had completed an entire first draft since my first book written when I was 10 (still won’t see the light of day). This challenge really works as motivation. Use it!

Do you need to add another 50k to the project you’re already working on?: Guess what? NaNoWriMo is for you too! Some people choose not to start an entirely new draft in November; they pick one they’ve been meaning to work on and grind steadily along with that idea until it’s complete. There are no limits to what you can achieve.

Don’t let fear of what you can’t do stand in the way of what you could do. Even if you don’t reach your 50,000 word goal, you’ve still taken that first step towards getting your novel finished. Whether it’s 1000 words, 5000 words, or 50,000 words, there’s nothing more important than just starting.

Happy writing, everyone.

Revisions, Revisions, Revisions: Part 1

This Sunday, I completed round one of revisions for Chasing Fae. It was a long and laborious process, and while I’m incredibly excited and proud that I made it through, I know my job is far from over. But for now, let’s talk about what round one of revisions looked like, especially for those of you who find themselves in the revision stages of a novel.

Once NaNoWriMo was over, I put aside the book for about two weeks. It’s a little short of a turn around time, but that’s the bare minimum time that you should let a novel sit before attempting revisions. When I picked it back up, I read the first draft all the way through while taking notes. Now, I did this in Google Docs, using comments down the side to make my notes. Most writers like to print their draft out and make handwritten notes. I did not have the means to print out 200+ pages at the time, and I found that working online and typing works faster for me.

I did not hold back in my comments. I picked out everything, large or small, that I wanted to fix or add or revise. Nothing was sacred, and that’s the way it should be. You have to be critical if you want to get anywhere with your next draft.

From there, it was two long months of revising. I wrote about an additional 8000 words. I fleshed out worldbuilding details in various places, trying to make the Three Realms come to life in a brighter way. I wrote two new chapters and reworked nearly the entire middle of the novel to create better flow. I tried to work on my characters by making their intentions more clear from scene to scene.

Eventually, I ended up with a beautiful set of 66,519 words of YA fantasy.

Now, I’m beginning to send this second draft out to my chosen beta readers who I’m hoping can give me a lot more feedback about where my novel needs to go next. I know that there are places that need a lot of work, and I really would like help identifying where those places are. I’m looking forward to seeing what they think!

Until next time. <3

My Experience With NaNoWriMo 2018

Making the decision to take the National Novel Writing Month challenge wasn’t an easy one.

Let’s look at the facts:

Pros:

  1. I have an idea! I’ve been mulling over the same concept and world for nearly ten months, narrowing down the plot, finessing an outline, and building a beautiful world from the ground up. I had all of the preliminary work finished. Now it would just be about writing the story.
  2. I wasn’t involved with too much on campus yet. My afternoons were relatively open depending on how much homework I had.
  3. I really, really loved this idea, and I wanted to make it a reality.

Cons:

  1. I’m a college freshman in the middle of my first semester of college. Classes are beginning to pick up with an increased workload before and after midterms. Did I really have the time to put in?
  2. I had attempted NaNoWriMo several years back and failed miserably. I didn’t want to see myself fail again. I knew if I didn’t succeed this time with this story, my motivation for this story would surely fall and it would disappear on the shelf with the rest of the unfinished ideas.
  3. I didn’t know if I could do it. That’s what stops from me trying a lot of new things. I just don’t know if I can pull anything off. Three cheers for anxiety!

The Decision

Eventually the turmoil came to a head about three days before the first of November. I was sitting at the Caf (one of the cafeterias on campus) with my best friend at college, Roger, where somehow, we end up on the topic of writing. He mentions that he’s got a few ideas and that he’s going to take on the NaNoWriMo challenge himself within the week. Then the decision suddenly seemed easy. If one of my friends was going through the process too, maybe I could find it in myself to dive in headfirst.

This was going to be the most I had ever undertaken creatively. 50,000 words looks very far away when you’re sitting with a blank page and a word count of zero.

But on the eve of the first, I surprisingly felt ready.

November: The Process

Let’s just say the month started off poorly.

I missed class the entire day of the 1st because I was stuck in bed with a terrible migraine unable to move. I was so disappointed; I had been psyching myself up to start writing, and now I was unable to look at a computer screen without my head spinning. Had I already failed before I got a chance to start?

Luckily, by the next morning, I was back to my normal self, and after class, I wrote my first 700 words. I know, not much, but it’s what I could put in at the time. And it boosted my mood immensely. Alright! Now I’ve started!
I wrote over 2500 words the next day. Then another 1000. I found myself getting into a good pattern. I would write whenever I had inspiration, even it was jotting down only a single paragraph. If my inspiration stalled for more than ten seconds, I would immediately highlight over the text I had just written and see how many words it was. Then I would go to the NaNoWriMo website and update my word count. Watching the little blue bar rise closer with every update gave me the energy I needed to keep going.

And the story grew with every word I put down on the page. My characters became full fleshed beings who I manipulated through dangerous situations and honestly, put through quite a bit of hell. I began to see the inklings of the world I was creating although I knew eventually I would need to develop it a little more with the research I had already done. Events connected to each other seamlessly, and I found myself taking the story in a slightly different direction from my original outline. But I followed wherever the characters showed me, and it honestly made for a better story.

About a third of the way into the month, I took a little weekend trip to visit my boyfriend in Dallas. Since we hadn’t seen each other in over three months, I spent every last second I could with him and I did not pick up my laptop to write a single word. I don’t regret it for a minute. But when I came back and looked at my word count bar, I was reminded of how far I had to go and how much I needed to make up. I don’t think I was doubting myself yet, but it definitely was beginning to stress me out.

So what did I do? I became a maniac. I wrote about 3000 words each for four days. Don’t ask me how I accomplished that because to be honest, I don’t remember. Low homework days and a bunch of music, I think. Then I was pretty much back on schedule, now only needing to write 1667 words a day to be on target to reach my goal.

The End of the Road

I reached my goal on November 29. I surpassed my goal on November 29. In 30 days, I wrote 53,001 words. And my novel wasn’t even finished! I wouldn’t finish the last 5000 words until after finals in mid-December.

But I had done it. I had written 50,000 words in a month, and I had created something beautiful that I loved. I sat and stared at my computer in awe for a good ten minutes. I was so proud of what I had accomplished, probably more proud than any singular accomplishment in my life.

My Advice

If you’re thinking about undertaking NaNoWriMo, I want to give you the following advice:

  1. JUST DO IT. Commit. Sign up for an account, and put your name on the list. The only thing that is holding back is fear. It isn’t your ability or your inspiration or your idea maybe not being up to par. It is only fear. It is so much easier to figure out what to do next once you’ve made the decision.
  2. Set aside an hour a day to write. Get yourself on a schedule. You are far more likely to stick with the challenge if your phone dings with a reminder at 2 pm every day to write. And actually listen to your reminders; don’t swipe them away, or you will never finish.
  3. If 1667 words a day seems like a lot to you, break it down. I discovered during the month that I wrote paragraphs that were about one hundred words each. Ten of those, and I had a thousand words. Much easier to stomach in smaller terms.
  4. Feel free to write from any point in your story. Don’t feel like you have to write straight from beginning to end. When I lost inspiration for the forward moving plot, I would skip to the end and start writing chapters in reverse order. (And yes, I did actually meet in the middle in the end.) You may find you reach your word count much more easily if you write where the inspiration leads you rather than trying to force it.
  5. Know that there are thousands upon thousands of writers just like you who are going through the exact same process that you are undertaking. Everyone is in the same boat, whether it’s your first or tenth challenge. Go read the forums if you get discouraged. It really helps boost your confidence.

I hope to see all of you join me for next year’s NaNoWriMo challenge!