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.