Getting ready for NaNoWriMo and panicking

NaNoWriMo

It is that time of the year again and I am preparing myself for another writing marathon during NaNoWriMo. This time with another story, another theme, different to what I wrote last year.

What is NaNoWriMo?
NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month, for those of you who don’t know. It is pronounced as “na-no-rye-moh” however, I pronounce it as “nah-no-wree-moh” because I’m me. It’s a one month challenge of writing a complete novel from start to finish. And you are expected to write 50,000 or more. Yes, in just 30 days!

The goal of NaNoWriMo is to get people writing and keep them motivated throughout the process. The NaNoWriMo website provides participants all kinds of support. At this point of novel writing, you are not expected to write well; you just need to hit the mark. So, this is the time for shitty first drafts; not literary fantabulousim.

NaNoWriMo comes around every year and asks you to write your novel. For me, last year was my first time. And I did write over 50,000 words —got the t-shirt which I am wearing now.

This year I am a little behind my preparations, to be honest. Although, I have been planning on writing a book about crimes against women in Middle East and Africa for a long time, it took me ages to come up with an idea around how I was going to structure or present the book. When I finally figured it out, I also started to panic. Because, at that time NaNoWriMo was just around the corner.

Is it easy to write 50,000 words in a month, you may ask? I’m not going to lie; it is absolutely not easy. It’s just possible with a little bit of planning, preparation and Scrivener.

Now, if you please excuse me, I have some planning to do. My Scrivener awaits…

No Plot? No Problem by Chris Baty

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I have had this book for a very long time but it looks like I had to wait to read it until I signed up for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) which was last year! NaNoWriMo is a great opportunity to practice writing in public to a certain degree and finish your shitty first draft.

Chris Baty is the founder of NaNoWriMo. He’s been there, done it, got the badge. In this book, he shows you how to survive 30 day of novel writing during November, what to eat, where to write, how to socialise, what to expect from each week and eventually write 50.000 words. Additionally, previous NaNoWriMo winners share their experiences and give you many tips. As you can imagine, they’ve been there, done it, got the badge, too.

I took many notes from No Plot? No Problem and put them all together to go through the important parts as part of my preparations. I particularly liked the section about coffee 🙂

If you’re thinking about participating NaNoWriMo at any stage of your writing life, then I’d say get this book.

What I learnt from NaNoWriMo

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First of all, I got out of NaNoWriMo alive! I marked my 50,000 words three days before NaNoWriMo ended. I’ve got my certificate, my badge and the t-shirt, too! (see below)

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Most importantly, I learnt a few things about myself during last November. Here they are:

I can do this. Well, this was my first time. I have never attempted to write 50,000 words before. I have never attempted to write anything this long before. It was important for me to prove myself that I can do this and that’s what I did.

Deadlines are working for me. Before NaNoWriMo I had two deadlines for two totally different projects. One of them was so personal and so difficult to write because of it. I literally sat down at my computer and bled. Ernest Hemingway would have been proud of me. But I finished them anyway. So deadlines are working for me. They just didn’t seem that way when I was at school, though.

You can grow a writing muscle, literally. I actually did grow a writing muscle during November; my right arm is visibly larger than my left arm now. Also, my RSI can be very expressive sometimes but this time around, even my index finger got plumper.

My inner critique can be silenced. I never thought I would say this but I actually managed to silence my inner critique during NaNoWriMo and felt comfortable about it, too. I mean I didn’t feel comfortable about feeling comfortable but you know what I mean. Let’s face it; what I wrote —at this stage— is a piece of shit but that’s the reason why we call it “shitty first draft,” right? And I’m feeling comfortable about writing utter shit? That is a miracle!

I’m an outliner with a pantser streak in me. I took this course sometime ago on Udemy called How to Plan and Outline Novels (Using Scrivener), taught by Sean Platt. So, before NaNoWriMo, I prepared my scenes according to what I learnt from the course, fleshed them out even further and even developed a few main characters. I just didn’t have enough time to do it all the way through the story, though. So, I left a sizable gap there, floating about totally directionless. Talk about plot holes. I knew that once I stepped into that unknown area of the story, I’d dry out like a menopausal women and that’s exactly what happened. However, when I arrived at the unknown area of the story, I was happily pantsing.

I thought NaNoWriMo was going to kill me. Instead, I really enjoyed my experience. Intense writing gave me such pleasure which was so unexpected. I felt alive and I would LOVE to do it in 2016, too!

Getting ready for NaNoWroMo 2015

I don’t quite remember it but I must’ve signed up for NaNoWriMo almost three years ago. Well, their website says so. I’m not going to argue with those people. However, when I signed up, I didn’t register a novel. At the time, I just had an idea. Today, that idea is slightly more developed into a brief and unfinished outline, parts of the locations are researched and about eight characters are developed to a degree that I’m even pissed off with one of them already! So I decided that this year is the time to register my novel.

Of course, I will have to prepare for this, right? First thing I did was to paste this sign on my door.

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Second, I read No Plot? No Problem by Chris Baty (the founder of NaNoWriMo), printed out my own notes to go over and really prepare for the upcoming torture of writing 50.000 words in 30 days.

At the same time, I ordered our Christmas cards to be printed. They arrived and according to my address list, they are almost ready to be posted. I know that when I come out of NaNoWriMo, there won’t be enough time to post the international ones —we have a lot friends who live outside Australia.

I have just finished a course on Udemy. It’s called How to Plan and Outline Novels Using Scrivener by Sean Platt. I read books about outlining and structuring before. However, Sean’s “synopsis to outline” style really speaks to me. I totally get him. He takes you through the outlining process of their own novel Axis of Aaron and shows you how it’s done. I must admit, I do like the way Sean explains things. Well, I’ve just finished the course yesterday although I went back and watched certain parts every now and then so that I could shape “my” story accordingly. And I know that I will do the same thing over and over again until I’m happy with my own outline, characters and locations. It’s a process, Peoples.

I tidied up my desk, put away potential dust-gathering items, leaving out only what I need for my novel writing month, everything else should find a temporary home for themselves.

I ordered a DVD and a book, relating to my novel. I checked to see if the DVD is working and it is. I’m just saving it for a dry day in the hope that it might help when the time comes. I know that day will come.

I cast my characters and not everyone is good-looking. I even have photos of their homes. I struggled to find the right name for one of my characters who is a shaman/healer/psychic woman from Dayak community in Kalimantan. Who wouldn’t? Anyway, in the end I found one from an obscure book about healers from that part of the world. Sweet!

And that’s where I’m at right now. One last thing though… I just need to warn everybody that I’ll be quite neurotic during this time. Until I finish my shitty first draft, that is. Wish me Happy NaNoWriMo Peoples. If you don’t, I might have to kill you as a character in my book and you may not even be one of the darlings.

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