NaNoWriMo 2018: Final Thoughts

My wrap-up post on NaNoWriMo 2018 is a few days later than I wanted, but Life can be Life sometimes, and other things took priority.

My final word count total ended up being 51,071 words. When I started NaNoWriMo, I knew it wouldn’t be anywhere close to last year’s 100,000, but did think it’d be around 60,000.  Towards the end though, I was running out of original content to write and was really just looking forward to editing everything.

There were several instances of writing whatever randomly popped into head, merely for the sake of getting something down. After a few minutes though, they’d usually turn into something solid, or at the very least get me through a tough part, so it was worth rambling for a bit.

I used some of my other tips and tricks from October’s post too. Skipping around, stocking up on other days, and of course the ramblings like earlier.

Besides just writing, I learned quite a bit about Scrivener, Scapple, and Aeon Timeline. I’ve always used Microsoft Word to write, and kept my notes in notebooks. While the tools cost money, I did find they have been a great help with my notes; especially keeping track of all the events, character ages at certain points, and family trees. I have a lot of background information that won’t make it into my novel other than a quick reference, and they helped greatly keeping track of everything. I will definitely be buying them in the future once my trials run out, and I might spend a month reviewing the different tools next year.

If it’s not clear, the next steps for me is to edit my novel. There are many parts that are out of order, or due to my word vomit method have typos and other errors that need to be fixed, so it’s finally time for that. I also need to double check for consistency, and overall plot elements, pacing, character development, and story structure. My current plan is to spend the next three months doing just that and by the end of February have the novel through several rounds of editing.

Overall, I’m happy with how NaNoWriMo went, and I did meet the minimum word count goal of 50,000. If you’ve never participated in NaNoWriMo, have never won, are intimidated by 50,000 words, or November just seems too far away as you’re reading this post, don’t worry. You can always participate in Camp NaNoWriMo  in either April or July when you can set your own word count goal.

That’s all for now, and see you later this month when I write about including holidays in your novel.

— Kay S. Beckett

 

NaNoWriMo 2018: Day 15

Day 15, words: 34,055

Nano Day 15.jpg

Overall things have been going well. As you can see above, I hit the 25,000 word mark on Day 11, and will probably hit 50,000 words next week. I’ll definitely be finishing the month at over 50,000 words but won’t be touching 100,000 like last year which is fine. I started rewriting before November 1st, and there are chapters and scenes from my first draft that are written that can go into this one. There’s been several instances that I’ve typed, ‘use one part’ or ‘use prior dialogue’.

I wouldn’t say that everything I’ve written is high quality. While it started out that way, a lot it has turned into quick scene summaries or ‘word vomit’, covering the basics of the scene, why it’s important, and how characters are feeling and detailing why/how they’re reacting to what’s going on. In those cases I need to go back and add more detail for the scene, name characters, or go back and set it up properly. Editing all of those sections will be a pain, but it’s worth it because I managed to push through it and onto the next part in the story.

I also downloaded the free trial of Scrivener. I’ve used Microsoft Word for writing for years, but heard so much about Scrivener so decided to give it a try. I can definitely see myself using it a lot more in the future, especially while editing. It’s much more convenient to have my random notes and story all in one place versus flipping through my notebooks trying to find whatever it is I’m looking for.

That’s all for now. I’ll post a final NaNo update at the end of the month including my total word count, what’s next for me, and final thoughts on NaNo.

— Kay S. Beckett

NaNoWriMo 2018: Day 1

If you missed my previous posts about NaNoWriMo, how to pick a plot, and tips and tricks to increase your word count, feel free to check them out now.

Normally I have posts centered around a theme each month, and this month it’s all about NaNo and blogging my progress. Today’s post is going to be how I first got interested in NaNo, previous wins, how today went, and what I hope to accomplish this month.

I don’t remember when I first heard about NaNo, just that I didn’t feel confident that I had a story idea that could make it to 50,000 words since all of my previous writing attempts ended after a few pages. I had a few friends who participated in NaNo, and in 2014 I felt like I finally had an idea that would work.

I barely made it to 50,000 words, only doing after writing an afterword and stretching out names and contractions. That novel is mostly dialogue and exposition, and isn’t my best work.

But it was a learning experience, mainly how to outline a novel and an introduction to world building. The following year I wrote a different novel with just over 50,000 words. Even after some additional work and being at roughly 80,000 words, it’s only 85% of the way done, and in need of some editing and rewrites. I hope to go back to it someday. I didn’t participate in NaNo in 2016 due to spending a week at Disney and admitting I wouldn’t have enough time to write.

2017 was a completely different experience. In the months leading up to November I was planning on either revisiting my 2015 novel, or finally writing a story that I’ve had in mind for years. In August, my plans were completely derailed. I had a random idea pop into my head that started off as a parody on fantasy stories, fitting in as many tropes as possible— the Chosen One, magical MacGuffins to collect, old wise wizard, the Big Damn Prophecy, Evil Dark Lord, Epic End Battle— and more. At first I thought once I got an outline in my head, it’d leave me alone. But it didn’t. The more I worked on the story, the more invested I got in the characters and taking those tropes and figuring out how to twist them around.

I then spent the next few months world building more and more, and my initial idea grew out of control. By the time November came, I was extremely invested in my story and managed to reach my goal of over 100,000 words without a problem, though still not finishing the novel.

After that NaNo my life got busy and I was unable to start editing until this summer. A few chapters into editing,  I realized the fact that my chapters were averaging around 10,000 words, which meant unless I did something drastic my novel could be around 300,000. From what I’ve been able to find, the average young adult fantasy debut novel shouldn’t be more than 120,000.

So my novel went through some serious restructuring. Chapter order got moved around; instead of having two parts to the novel revolving around a handful of characters I now have three parts revolving around two main characters and their similar yet different journeys. I still have a lot of background material on characters and world building, but it won’t make into in the novel beyond a reference or two.

I’m now in the process of rewriting it with my new outline. My hope for November is to get through the majority of the novel, and have it finished by the end of the year. That way I can edit it next year and move on to the next step in my path to publication.

My first day of NaNo went well and I managed to write 2,638 words today between my lunch break and a little more once I got home. I’m optimistic at the moment that I’ll actually get the rewrite done before the end of the year.

That’s all for today. The next update will probably be around November 15th, followed by November 30th. That way I can still update on my NaNo progress, without resorting to the same basic word count update every day. If you have specific questions about NaNo, my writing process, WIP, or anything else NaNo related you wish to see, let me know in a comment.

—Kay S. Beckett

 

 

NaNoWriMo: Tips and Tricks to Reach 50,000 Words (And Beyond!)

Okay, so not only have you decided to participate in NaNoWriMo, you have yourself a plot, and are counting down the days to get started.

Or maybe not. Maybe the idea of writing 50,000 words — a word goal of 1,667 words per day— seems impossible and you’re starting to second guess the whole writing a novel in a month thing.

As a three-time NaNo winner, with a word count of over 100,000 last year, I’m here to share with you all the tips and tricks I know — and wished I had known when I first started doing NaNo— to get you to 50,000 words and beyond.

1. Be Honest About Your Free Time

This is probably the first thing you should think about when considering NaNo. It’s understandable that you might have a busy life— a full-time job, significant other, family obligations— and wonder how you can even find the time to write. It is possible to find time— getting up early in the morning, using your lunch hour at work, and setting aside some time at night.

But sometimes life can be just too busy to do NaNo. In 2016 I didn’t participate in NaNo because I knew I’d be spending a week at Disney. Having gone before, I knew that I would have been too exhausted after getting back to the hotel to write, and giving all the planning I put into Disney— reading reviews, creating schedules for each day to maximize efficiency and avoid crowds, planning what to take— I knew that I didn’t even have time to plan for NaNo, which is essential for me finishing NaNo. As a result I didn’t sign up for it that year.

Now you don’t have to go to Disney in November like me— though it certainly beats visiting in the summer— but if you know that you have something big in November that realistically would make it too hard to find the time, don’t feel bad about taking a step back. You could always do your own NaNo in December, or participate in a Camp NaNo in either April or July.

2. Outline, Outline, Outline

If you’re new to the NaNo community, you might see terms like ‘planner’ and ‘pantser’ being used a lot. If you’re a planner, you’re a writer who needs a plan or outline in order to write. If you’re a pantser, then you can ‘fly by the seat of your pants’, or write as you go, with no overarching plan in mind.

If you’re a pantser, then you have my congratulations for I’m definitely a planner. In my younger years, I tried writing novels and never got very far because I didn’t outline my story. Perhaps one of the biggest things I’ve taken away from writing fanfiction, is that if I want to finish a story, I need to know how it ends and have a plan.

Some writers use note cards and plan out every single scene and story beat. You don’t have to go that far, but I certainly recommend having an idea of how you want your story to begin, how you want it to end, and how you get from the beginning to the ending. What key scenes must be included to set up and the conflict and resolution? Where should your main characters be and what do they need to know/do in order for your story to come to a satisfying conclusion?

Think of writing a novel like driving somewhere new. You typically start driving with a destination already in mind and need some sort of guide— a map, GPS, your phone— to get you there. You’re free to take bathroom breaks and detours along the way, but ultimately you’ll return to the main path in order to get to your destination.

Outlining/planning your story is very similar. While writing a subplot or new idea might pop into your head, and your ending might change from what you originally had in mind, by having an outline you stand a better chance of reaching your end goal.

3. The Very Beginning… Isn’t Always the Best Place to Start

Sadly this is a trick I didn’t learn until last year. When you read a book, you start at the beginning and continue straight through to the end (unless you’re doing a Choose Your Own Adventure book). That doesn’t mean you have to do the same when you write one.

If you’re not very excited about your beginning, or not quite sure about the details, then don’t start at the beginning. Is there a certain part you’re really looking forward to? Maybe an action scene, a villain’s grand reveal, or a long overdue reunion between characters? Then start there. Start at the point in your novel that you’re most excited to write to guarantee you’ll actually write it. If simply getting to that point in your novel is a struggle, then you probably won’t get that far along into your 50,000 words.

4. Don’t Stick to the 1,667 Word Count Goal Per Day

50,000 words may average out to writing 1,667 words a day, but that doesn’t mean you actually have to write that many a day.

The bad thing about November is that it only has 30 days in it. The good thing is that it comes with a couple of bonuses— at least for Americans, I can’t say the same for international writers. In November, Americans gain an extra hour on a Sunday— which could be used for writing. There’s also Veteran’s Day— which most Americans get off work— and Thanksgiving and the Friday after if you’re lucky enough.

I typically take advantage of those extra days off, along with the weekend to ‘stock up’ on words. Instead of 1,667 words, I’ll write anywhere from 5,000 – 10,000 words on those days. This gets me ahead of the NaNo writing goal and prepares me for when life throws me an unforeseen curve ball such as a cold or illness (since it is that time of the year) or suddenly having to go out of town for a family emergency, which happened to me last year.

By writing more on some days, you’re allowing yourself more free-time on others and ensuring you won’t be scrambling to finish 50,000 words at the end of the month.

5. Use Placeholders

So you’re busy writing and suddenly realize, you don’t have a name for the parents of your main character’s best friend. Or you have no idea for a name of the restaurant your characters are suddenly eating at or that country right next door that is rather important to the plot.

Rather than take a break from a good writing streak to try to come up with a name, use a place holder such as DADNAME or RESTAURANTNAME, or even ASDF. Then when you go back to edit like a good little writer, you’ll see that you still need names and actually have the time to do so. I put place holders in all caps so they’ll pop out more when I’m editing, and I know I have to change the name versus actually belonging in the story.

6. Focus on Quantity, Not Quality

This is another tip that took me a while to learn.

One of the hardest parts of writing, is fighting the urge to not go back and fix all your errors. The red squiggly lines under misspelled words, run-on sentences, incorrect grammar, or the perfect line for that sentence on the last page. The time to deal with all of those is after NaNo when you’re editing, which is another post entirely. The word validator on the site doesn’t care about all your errors, it only cares about how many words you’ve written.

If you find errors are too distracting, simply close your eyes while you type— assuming you don’t need to look at the keys when you type. I find closing my eyes also makes it easier to concentrate on my story as well, one more way to add to my word count.

7. The Word Vomit Method

This is the method that managed to get me to over 100,000 words last year, and is closely related to the above tip about quantity over quality.

Basically I would close my eyes, and type as the words came to me. As I started typing I wouldn’t worry about grammar, spelling or punctuation, I would just type. If a scene was emotional, I might go into what the character was feeling and thinking, and why in order to get more insight into their personality. Sometimes I would realize that a character’s action or dialogue wasn’t working, or contradicted an earlier point. Rather than going back and correcting it, I’d simply type something like, ‘this doesn’t make sense, why??’. I’d also type whatever random idea suddenly popped into my head that may relate to the world and mythos, ideas for earlier scenes that need to be included, or ideas for later ones that I haven’t gotten to yet.

The downside with using this method is that your novel will require a lot of editing to make your word vomit into something legible. Last year I had so many typos, Word gave me a message stating it could no longer display all of the red lines for typos, which I didn’t even know was possible.

But remember, NaNo is all about quantity over quality, and this will definitely get you a high word count.

8. Take A Break (Screw Your Courage to the Sticking Place)

It can be very easy to get so caught up in trying to reach your daily word count or making up for lost time, that you spend all your free-time writing.

Which can be a bad thing. It can be really easy to get burned out when you’re writing all the time, or start losing interest in your novel. It’s important to remember it’s okay to take a break from writing and do something else be it simply vegging out, spending time with friends and family, or doing a different fun activity or hobby.

Every November it seems like Nintendo is releasing some new Pokémon game and I may or may not have a copy of Let’s Go Eevee! pre-ordered. During weekdays I’ll write on my lunch break and finish up a little at home, but at night I’ll spend time with my SO and de-stress.

This is important for several reasons. The first is to remember it’s okay to have a life outside of writing, and your family and friends do like to have some interaction with you that doesn’t involve having your face looking at a screen. Also, sometimes you might hit a wall in your writing, not knowing how to end a scene or coming across a plot hole. In those cases simple taking a break and doing something else can be useful. You might suddenly come up with a solution while doing your laundry, or watching a TV. Or you might return to writing the next day with ease and wonder what the big deal was about.

9. Quick Cheats

These are the tips that can add a few more words to your word count if you’re really desperate. Write out your contractions— do not vs. don’t.  Refer to your characters by first and last name all the time and give them extra long names if possible (Robert John Williams Jr.). For more, check out the thread on the NaNo website.

Those are all my tips and tricks. Hopefully some will be useful on your NaNo journey. Did you find them useful? Have some of your own? Let me know in a comment.

During November, I’ll be blogging my NaNo progress. It won’t be everyday, but as I reach certain milestones I’ll write a short post on my progress.

— Kay S. Beckett

 

NaNoWriMo Prep: Picking a Plot

So you’ve decided to go ahead and take the NaNoWriMo plunge, congrats! If you haven’t done so already, I suggest checking out my previous post about participating in NaNoWriMo and what it is.

Just one problem— you have no idea what to write. You have too many ideas, or maybe none at all and you’re starting to wonder if this whole writing a novel in a month was a great idea after all. Don’t worry, just keep reading and you’ll be writing in no time.

Too Many Plots

As writing problems go, this is one that’s not always a bad thing. Having a bunch of stories floating around in your head all demanding to be written can certainly be troublesome, but I do prefer it to the alternative.

If this is you, the first thing you should do is write every single one of them down. Be it in a notebook, a Word document, an e-mail— write all of your ideas, every plot element, all the characters, whatever details you can think of down, and store it in a safe place. You never know when you might hit a dry spell and need some inspiration or ideas or finally have time to tackle all of your writing ideas.

Next, take a look at your lists and ask yourself a few questions. What idea is most developed? What one are you the most passionate about? What one is screaming louder than all others in your head, demanding to be written? If those answers seem to all point to one idea, then go with that one.

If yours answers are a mixture of different story ideas, or you still can’t decide, you have a few options. The first is to ask for somebody else’s opinion. This could be a family or friend, posting a question on Facebook or Twitter, or taking advantage of the polling forum on NaNo’s website. Sometimes the easiest way to make a hard choice is to have somebody else make it for you.

There is one other option you have if asking for other’s opinions isn’t your thing, there’s still a tie, or you’re not fond of the winner: write all of them. To win NaNo all you have to do is write 50,000 words in the month of November for a novel— it doesn’t have to be a single novel, you can write as many stories as you like. There is no rule saying you have to stick with the same idea. If you get stuck on one idea, you can always switch back to the other. Or you might hit a writing streak with one story and spend the entire month writing it, who knows.

You Have No Ideas

Instead of having too many ideas, you have absolutely zero. Zilch. None. Nada.

That’s okay. I don’t suppose you have that handy notebook, Word document, or e-mail filled with story ideas when you had too many ideas? You know, the place you wrote them all down to avoid a situation like this. What’s that? You never did that or don’t like any of them? That’s okay too, you still have a few options.

The first is browsing the plot adoption thread on NaNo where NaNo participants can leave plot suggestions. There’s also the character adoption thread, along with a few others that might be useful in getting your writing juices flowing.

If you’re not overly fond of any of those, try googling for writing prompts. Sometimes they might not be anything more than a short writing exercise, but they could turn into something more.

Also, pull from your own life experiences. Did you go through some hardship that might make for a good story? Or maybe your life has always been rather dull, but you’ve always imagined an adventure waiting just around the corner. Or maybe there’s that one fun summer or wacky time from high school that could serve as inspiration. If you’re life isn’t inspirational you could turn to real-life history either important events, people, or just weird little stories that nobody else knows about like the green children of Woolpit.

You could also try the What If game. This game is something I’ve done since I was a kid, and is something I’ll still do sometimes when I’m bored. What if somebody burst through the door right now? Who would it be? How would I react? Or, what if instead of making choice X, I made choice Y. How would that have affected my life? Better? Worse? What if instead of event A in history, event B happened instead? How would it change things? Would life as we know it still be the same?

You might not have a good story idea, but you might have a good idea for a title. A word or phrase that you can start with and then work backwards from. For example, take the phrase, ‘Curiosity Killed’. Most people would associate it with the rest of the saying, ‘The Cat’, so your novel could involve a cat. Your novel could take a darker edge, like a murder mystery or even horror. Or your novel could be sarcastic or humorous, full of misunderstandings between the characters all because they got curious of something.

One of my other favorite things to do, is take a familiar and overused story trope, and figure out a fresh take on it. How about, human teenage girl falls for mystery boy, who can’t be wither because he’s an immortal creature and is afraid of hurting her? Except instead, it turns out she may be human but just wants the boy to make her immortal for her own sinister reasons, and now he’s torn between stopping her evil plan, and hurting her by being the monster he always swore not to be. Or, you go for the classic chosen one trope, except the so-called chosen one dies not very far into your story, and your other characters are wondering what to do next. Twisting tropes, especially ones you’re sick of seeing used the same way over and over again, is always a fun experiment (at least for me, your results may vary).

Well, hopefully some of those got your creative juices flowing, and your fingers itching to type. Stick around for my final NaNo post: Tips and Tricks to Reach 50,000 Words (And Beyond!).

— Kay S. Beckett