NaNoWriMo: Writing Week 1

Okay! It's National Novel Writing Month, and I'm participating on the NaNoWriMo website, and it's one week in. I've figured out what works for me and here goes.

In late September and October I started a list of characters with some of their quirks and names, possibly a problem or concern they have, and with whom they might interact.

I set up a folder with 24 blank Word docs, labeled Day 1 through Day 24. I also included a doc just for research or websites that I consult as I go. Each day I add the names of the characters and the word count to that day's file name. At a glance I can see who is where, for future reference and consistency, and I can see my word counts quickly.

The Daily Practice
I try to see the setting in my mind ahead of time, and decide which character I'm going to write about before I actually sit in front of the keyboard. The first sentence will be key, so I need that, too. If I don't start writing first thing in the morning, I'll write after a meal or after tea, but the bulk of the writing I do with a cup of milky black tea after a 40-50 minute walk. I also try to figure out the mood, the feeling, so I can point all my images toward it.

The Walk
As I walk I focus inward on the character and the problem or conflict they will have. At the same time I gather any overheard conversations or interesting scenery or interactions that could be woven into the story. I'm building a kind of nest from materials on hand and those in the environment around me.

The Writing
Now I can write down the first line, and I visualize from there, watch the movie in my head or listen for the words and rhythm. I try to get the whole story mapped out, sketched out on the page. It's funny how the process is so much like creating art with physical materials. I sprinkle in a few clues, some background characters or some plot openings to other story lines that can happen, but also that don't have to.

Sometimes I only get about 500 words in the first session, and I know the full story isn't all there, yet. More walking or more tea or snack: I might take a break there and come back later. I'm primarily a flash fiction or poetry writer, and my first writing session isn't usually very close to the 1800 words I need per day, so I also may go back to color in if the full story seems just outlined. It's not fluff or filler, it turns out that the inward thoughts, the descriptions, tangents, trivia and anecdotes begin to enrich the story, help the characters come alive. More dialogue? Shade the description? Poetic thoughts? All good. All go in the mix.

Graduate school in writing trained me to crank the words out and to think fast, so that part feels familiar. Editing Star 82 Review has given me insights into editing, how a story works, and what will make it stronger, so that's a plus. I also have been reading a lot this year and paying attention to how each book is structured, as well as examining and taking mental notes on plot-heavy shows like The Magicians, Mr. Robot, Suits, and currently, The Umbrella Academy. I'm fascinated how the writers get the audience charged up and wanting to know what comes next.

It takes 2-3 sessions back at the keyboard, anywhere from 20-90 minutes each time. Once I know how the story or chapter ends (and for me, every day is a new story, although they are all interrelated), the writing/editing goes pretty smoothly. Total, I would say 1800 words, for me, so far, take about an hour an a half, two hours, max.

The Count
I add the count to the file name, then log in to NaNoWriMo and add my word count there. The website lets me know how many more words I need that day (if any), and what date I am likely to complete the 50,000 word novel if I continue at that rate. It includes a graph as well, showing where I have hit that day. Badges light up when you hit certain goals such as writing two days in a row or when you've written 5,000 words. There are other accessories you can use, profiles to fill in, covers to design and upload, but I'm keeping it all simple and private, not writing with buddies, etc.

And because I am me, I am trying to produce a daily count just over what I need so I have a cushion in case I get sick or something comes up. Sick days! Vacation days! Something like that.

The Emotions
I love to write, but let's be honest, this is hard work. I'm enjoying the project like I enjoy a challenge, or doing a puzzle. It's a competition, mostly with myself: can I finish this? It is mentally stimulating, and I am relieved every day when I have finished a new story/chapter. Every day I am also tired. I feel like the burning bush; I hope I am not consumed.

Week 1
Word Count: 12,842
Days in a row writing: 7
Average words per day: 1834
Supposed finish date at this rate: November 27, 2019


P.S. You can use the website at any time for motivation and devise whatever project you like.

Badges from the NaNoWriMo website project, found under "profile."