Posted in Ramblings

NaNoWriMo Update

Today, November 11th, is the 11th day of National Novel Writing Month, where writers and aspiring writers around the world commit to writing 50,000 words during the whole month. I’ve mentioned on my blog and social media before that this year I am taking part for the first time, so I’m coming to your screens today with a quick update.

First, some stats:

  • Total words so far:  16,804 / 50,000 (an average of 1680 per day, not including today).
  • When NaNoWriMo.org predicts I’ll be done: December 1, 2020 (better get a move on with today’s writing!)
  • My average writing speed: 23 words per minute (doesn’t seem like a lot, but remember, I’m thinking as well as writing!)

But what have you actually written, I hear you cry!

Well, my original plans for NaNo were to turn an idea for a children’s story into reality. I planned this story throughout September and October (and the timing was a happy accident, I had no idea when I started that I’d be done in time for NaNo), using the snowflake method, and at the end of October I had a 70-line spreadsheet of scenes to write, with an accompanying word document sketching out the main action and conflict of each scene. On November 1st, I sat down and started writing. I was planning to spend the whole month working on this project, with the idea that if I finished the first draft within the 50,000 word limit, I would go back through and add to and expand what I had already written. I knew 50,000 words is too long for most children’s stories – but I decided I would cross that bridge when I got to it.

This actually went pretty well initially. Having thought of most of the ideas ahead of time, I found it fairly straightforward to turn my rough notes into a coherent (ish) story.

Two days in, I realised I had neglected to specify a protagonist.

Four days in, I decided my idea was rubbish, badly written, had no story arc to speak of and should never see the light of day.

On the 5th of November, I sat down in front of a brand-new word document and got completely absorbed in a new idea. With no plan, story arc or character progression I frantically typed out a couple of scenes of a fantasy story that has been bouncing around at the back of my brain for, ooh, about 2 years.

With this initial word-dump out of the way, I stepped back for a moment and re-visited my initial project. I sketched out a story arc on a piece of paper and realised that actually, I do have a plot. Having had a word with myself, I returned to my spreadsheet and unfinished first draft, and plodded through the last few scenes, finishing this on the 8th November.

I’ve not opened that word document since. I am painfully aware that what I have written is a list of unconnected scenes which are going to need some brutal editing, expanding and rewriting before they can ever be shared with anyone. But, aren’t all first drafts like that? I plan to go through the document and make any obvious initial changes, as well as revisiting my character progression, making sure there’s a definite protagonist, and just generally developing the first draft into something more coherent and with a better flow.  The current word count of this is about 9,000 words, which is far too short, even for a children’s book (unless I drastically decrease the age range of my target audience) and therefore I think this shows the extent to which the draft needs re-working!

This may or may not get done during November. Whether it does or not, however, I am very proud of myself for having committed to something and actually achieving it. I’ve managed to write every day, and got further in that time than I thought was possible.

Plans for the rest of the month

I plan on continuing with my fantasy story for now. After the initial frenzied writing had calmed down, I took some time to sketch out a plot and main characters, and have been thoroughly absorbed in the process of wordlbuilding, asking myself questions such as, ‘how do the geographical features of a continent affect political relationships between neighbouring countries?’ ‘What system of magic do I want to portray?’ ‘How do I address race in a sensitive manner?’ ‘What are those things called that are used to tie curtains back?’ (Spoiler: they’re called tie-backs), and ‘Why are orcs green?’

I’m currently in my element, so plan to continue with this for some time while slowly adding to my word count. I say slowly, once I got going I managed nearly 2,600 words on the 9th of November, and nearly 2,000 yesterday, which I am very pleased with.

What I’ve learned so far

I plan to do a whole blog post about this once NaNo has finished, but for now, here is a brief overview of what I have learned so far:

  • Existential crises are part of the process
  • You can think something is amazingly well-planned and then start writing only to realise you could drive a bus through the plot holes
  • When a story grabs you, buckle your seatbelt and hold on tight!

That’s all from me for now (and 900 words for my wordcount) – I’m off to create a fictional language, or possibly to decide what kind of childhood my protagonist had. See you next time!  

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