A Review of My Strategy for NaNoWriMo

It’s been ten days since the end of NaNoWriMo, and after giving myself some time to digest the process, I’ve decided to share what I learned during those thirty maddening stimulating days of writing. I thought I was prepared to write. Heh. Heh. Heh. {Shakes head} Bless her naive little heart.  

I had a story idea. It’s an idea that’s been with me since 2009. Actually even earlier, but that’s when I first scribbled the idea on a slip of paper. It’s the story I’ve wanted to write, but could never seem to wrap my head around it.

So, the first novel I cut my literary teeth on was a romance. I chose it because the story structure seemed pretty straightforward. In very simple terms, they meet, obstacles tear them apart; they’re reunited, and live happily ever after. Because of this I was never at a loss about what to write and when. I created detailed character descriptions and a timeline that evolved as I was writing, but I didn’t plan ahead. I was a “panster”, an organic writer, in every sense of the word. After I had finished writing the novel, I learned about Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat Beat Sheet (more about that in a later post). I plugged my story into the formula and realized I had somehow managed to write a story that followed proper story architecture. Score! Well, not really. There are other issues with it, so the novel is currently collecting cyber dust on my laptop.

But anyway, given that experience, I thought, “Pfft. Plan schman. I got this, man. Besides, developing a plan will hinder the creative process. I’m going to tackle that story.” Here was my strategy {shakes head again}:

  • Develop character profiles.
  • Have a general idea (undocumented) of the story.
  • Write stream of consciousness.
  • If you have trouble with a scene, just write the dialogue and go back in and add the details later.
  • Resist the urge to correct as you go along. Vanquish that inner editor!
  • Don’t worry about how messy the house gets (I failed at this one, though. Read on.)
  • No rules, just write!

Yeah, I think that about sums it up. I’m not sure because guess what, I didn’t write it down {shakes head once more}.

I started to have doubts about my ability to write 50,000 words in one month, but received a Pep Talk   (click on the link to read the post) on the eve of NaNoWriMo that restored my faith. On day one, I bolted out of the starting gates writing 2,729 words, far above the 1,667 daily average to meet the goal by month end. I continued at this pace for the next several days, averaging about 2,400 words per day for the next eighteen days.

There was one rare exception during this time period where I didn’t write a single word. I somehow found it necessary to clean my entire house from top to bottom including cleaning out the refrigerator, the oven, organizing my kids’ closets, and even rearranging the attic (yes, you read that right). But I viewed this as necessary to the creative process. After all, sometimes the best ideas come to me while performing some mundane task like washing the dishes.

The next day I was happily pounding the keys of my laptop again, turning in high daily word counts. I was going to finish early! Ha! This is so easy!

 And then…BAM!

I hit the proverbial wall on day nineteen. I struggled to write one word. I remember I had written a total of eighteen—that’s right, 1-8— words in the first hour. I buried my head in my hands. Oh, the agony! With great effort, I managed to write 545 words that day, but the stuff I wrote was complete shite. For the next four days, I didn’t write one single word (yes, I know that’s redundant, but it’s intentional for dramatic emphasis). I was going to fail.

As a writer, I went from feeling like this:

Meme Best Day Ever 

To this:

Rapunzel Failure Meme 

My poor muse didn’t know what to make of me. Yeah, that’s him sitting beside me, looking utterly frustrated. 

And then I picked up Story Engineering by Larry Brooks {clouds part, angels sing}. Hallelujah! I’d discovered the holy grail on writing. Tomorrow, I’ll tell you how I won NaNoWriMo.


4 thoughts on “A Review of My Strategy for NaNoWriMo”

  1. I blame the holidays! I was short of my Nano goal but like I said, I blame whoever’s idea it was to have everyone attempt writing a novel during the same month as Thanksgiving. Don’t they realize that when there is a particularly delicious holiday looming, that one must spend the five days before AND the five days after both anticipating and then absorbing the festivities? Ridiculous! Anyway, congrats on winning! I don’t subscribe to very many craft books so I’m really interested to hear how this one was so helpful.

    1. We should have been writing buddies on NaNo! And I thought the same thing about the month they chose. November usually kicks off the busiest time of the year for many of us. I’ve read tons of writing books (I need all the help I can get), but this one is by far the best.

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