I survived another NaNoWriMo

It’s one thing to give out advice on how to write 50,000 words during NaNoWriMo or how to tackle shitty first drafts but it’s another story–a completely different story—to follow your own advice while you are under pressure yourself.

Anyway, I survived yet another NaNoWriMo…

I reached 50,000 on November 19. Actually, my total word count on that day was 51,050. On November 23—which is our wedding anniversary by the way—I had 61,549 words written. I have one embarrassing day with a ridiculously low word count but let’s just not go there, shall we?

Well, in the end, I finished NaNoWriMo—or survived NaNoWriMo for another year—with 72,000 words!


I did a few things differently this year…

First of all, I participated in forums happening within the NaNoWriMo website’s structure for participants like me. It’s something I haven’t done before. Through one of those forums, I made friends with a lovely girl from another part of the world. We have so much in common and are planning on keeping in touch even outside NaNoWriMo. And the book she has been working on is so interesting even though it’s not my genre, I will definitely read it when it’s out.

Second, I donated money to NaNoWriMo to support their writing programs, especially for your writers. We all know how important it is to be encouraged in writing at a young age. For that, I got a halo over my head in my profile photo. I look good 😊

The book I worked on this year was not fiction. It is part memoir; part travel journal and part self help book. Putting it all together and structuring it in an appropriate way was a little bit of a challenge but it was worth it. I’m still working on the last section and have a few more recordings to transcribe, too.

Soon after NaNoWriMo I started to perform my Xmas rituals. It’s not just the tree and decorations; I have more…

I try to do this pretty much every Xmas time. It’s a kind of a personal ritual. You know those coins that we don’t want to carry around with us because they are heavy and the moment we walk through the door we dump them somewhere and in the end, they grow in jars and bowls? I put them into small bags and take them to homeless people in Sydney CBD. Unfortunately, their numbers are increasing and sadly I see more and more women among them.

This year, a friend of mine asked to join me in my Xmas ritual. She did not have coins but she had some food instead. So, we located homeless people and gave them money and food. It felt good, Peoples. It really did.

Have pencil cup(s) and ready for NaNoWriMo. Well, sort of

How bad can it be?

I mean I don’t have an outline, characters to last through a book or a proper plot. But, once I sit down to write, magic happens.

What I have though… is pencil cup(s).

Here’s one…

pencil cup

This pencil cup is from New Zealand and a gift from my husband. I just love the koru (monkey tail) so much, I get presents like this all the time. I also have koru photos on my wall.

For those of you who do not know what a koru is… Koru is New Zealand’s most enduring art form. It represents renewal of life, energy and new beginning. It’s also seen in the fern and breaking wave. I think it’s very appropriate in this case, don’t you think?

The other NaNoWriMo related gift is something that I bought for myself and it’s such a surprise that my gift to myself arrived a day before NaNoWriMo starts. And that is…

pencil cup

… another pencil cup! I saw this on Amazon and bought it like 10 days ago. Some call it Hemingway pencil cup. I absolutely LOVED it when I saw it online. It was love at first sight.

Today, I cleaned my desk, pulled out my minuscule outline of sort, printed out my NaNoWriMo word count calendar (as seen in the photo below), ordered my Xmas cards, Dad’s desk calendar and my 2018 personalised diary, tidied up my notes and watered my desk plant (just in case I forget for like a month, or something). All I need right now is: direction in my writing.

pencil cup

My Scrivener is ready. Thank God, I’m an advanced Scrivener user. That on it’s own makes things (I mean, writing) a lot easier. Things were very easy for the first time around because of Scrivener. God bless its binders.

For this new story, though, I’m still looking for some bisexual female people to interview. And painters. Do you know anyone?

I hear Pink Floyd playing downstairs. Dark Side of the Moon. During November, that’s what I’ll be facing. But who cares? I have my pencil cups…

NaNoWriMo 2017: Shitty First Drafts

Shitty first drafts: we owe this technical term(!) shitty first drafts to Anne Lamott. It was mentioned in her book called Bird by Bird. By the way, it is still one of the most recommended books on writing to date.

What are shitty first drafts? How shitty can they get? Do they have to be shitty?

Shitty first drafts are the ultimate raw material. It’s your dumping ground and yes, it is messy. It has to be. It’s the nature of this type of mess in writing. Every writer in the history has written them. No exceptions! That is your starting point. It’s your unpolished turd. When it’s time to polish it, your end product will read differently.

Here, I put together the best advice out there when it comes to writing shitty first drafts…

When you’re writing a first draft, don’t worry if what comes out is any good or not
Like Natalie Goldberg said: “You are free to write the worst junk in the universe.” Give yourself permission to write atrocious first draft.

shitty first drafts

Quality is not concern, quantity is
Because you’re writing a shitty first draft (please refer to the section above for it if you need to: the part that says turd), quality of it is not your concern here but quantity of it is what you need during NaNoWriMo. Learn to pile up that turd.

Don’t judge, don’t analyse, just write
Like Bob Dylan said: “The first thought is the strongest.” The first thoughts are the ones you will need to capture.

When writing, don’t listen to your inner critic
You need to learn to get out of your own way, so that creativity can work through you. Julia Cameron has something to say about that: “Make this a rule: always that remember that your Censor’s negative opinions are not the truth.”

Get through your shitty first draft as quickly as you can
Dump, dump, dump. You don’t have time for anything else.

Don’t worry about grammar, punctuation or what you’re wearing when you sit down to write
The rules for morning pages or sex apply to first drafts, too. They are (probably not in that order, specifically):
• Don’t think
• Keep your hand moving
• Lose control
• Be specific

Your shitty first draft will be rewritten anyway
Did you know that Tolstoy made several attempts to write and rewrite War and Peace? Eight times!

Embrace the uncertainty of a shitty first draft
Listen to this:
“Writing a first draft is like groping one’s way into a dark room, or overhearing a faint conversation, or telling a joke whose punch line you’ve forgotten. As someone said, one writes mainly to rewrite, for rewriting and revising are how one’s mind comes to inhabit the material fully.”
Ted Solotaroff

Most of all, enjoy the process. Good luck everyone!

P. S.: While I was writing this piece, I was wearing my NaNoWriMo winner 2015 t-shirt. I thought you might like to know. And, if you’d like to be my buddy on NaNoWriMo website, my user name is agulden.


NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) 2017

NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) is just about a week away, and I am participating this year again.


As always, I’m excited and freaking out all at the same time. But, this year I have a better reason to freak out. Here’s why…

Well, I was going to hide quietly until November was over, even carry on with my singing lessons. That was the plan. Then I remembered the rush, the excitement of writing a book. You see it’s easier for me. I don’t actually find it difficult to write because you spend quite a bit of time alone. I’m an only child and I enjoy my own company. But those two books I’ve written before, were well planned. The ideas brewed enough at the back burner of my mind, it was a matter of time I sat down and wrote them.

This year, I only have two pages of character sketches, one page being the description of brushstrokes of my protagonist. Thank God, at least she has a name! Other than that, I’m pretty stuffed. I have a feeling that wearing pink coloured knickers to write for the sheer positivity just won’t cut it this time.

What’s ready for NaNoWriMo then, you might ask?

Well, my calendar. You know, the word count calendar I use every year with my name on it. The one I scribble down my daily word count on. That’s ready but I still don’t have coffee, snacks to get me through the month or even an outline.

Having said that, I decided to prepare myself for NaNoWriMo today. I guess, the pre-NaNo jitters eventually got me. And I had to do something about it.

I went over a couple of books that I read before, putting together the information about ‘shitty first drafts’ as I felt like I needed to convince myself again that it’s okay to write something messy.

I will talk about it in my next post before NaNoWriMo starts. Now, if you excuse me, I have some coffee to order.

Getting ready for NaNoWriMo and panicking


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


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


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.

IMG_4988 (1024x768)

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.