What I Got out of my First #NaNoWriMo Experience

What I Got Out of my First #NaNoWriMo Experience

I started prepping for my first National Novel Writing Month in mid-October by gathering research and summarizing my chapters and scenes. A little here, a little there, until I had a 38-page word doc outline to run with come November 1st.

I wanted to participate by the rules 100%:

  • Writing Everyday
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  • Logging in and recording my progress
  • Earning my badges for participation as I go
  • Tweeting regularly on the #NaNoWriMo hashtag on Twitter @brookeewayne
  • And keeping to the Nov 1st as word-one rule

In the end, it took me twenty-three days to write a 53,838-word novel, sticking to my outline about 95% of the time.

I found it difficult to get started even though I had everything in place. The words just wouldn’t flow at times as easily as I had hoped despite all the prepping I had done to keep that from happening.

LESSON LEARNED: That setback reinforced my belief that no matter what, no matter when, if the inspiration strikes and the words begin to flow, WRITE THEM DOWN! Don’t let the moment pass believing it will return when the ‘time is right’. It won’t.

The pressure of meeting a deadline of 50,000 words in 30 days wore on my nerves harder than I thought it would at first. As soon as I passed the 50K threshold, I could literally feel my shoulders relax when I was typing. Weird.

LESSON LEARNED: When I’m faced with publishing deadlines someday, I need to brace myself for the inevitable psyching-out that will occur. Cue husbandry duties of nightly back massages…happy wife-happy life.

When I rounded the halfway point, I found my stride.

LESSON LEARNED: Keep moving forward, fighting, clawing, and forcing the words out like you’re digging out of your own grave because you will break through.

I also fought the urge to go back and edit, delete, revamp, and mess with the story every step of the way. I even forced myself to wait until the end to run spell check. Yeah, that took a good twenty minutes of my life away.

LESSON LEARNED: I need to go back. I just do. I have to fuss with the way things are written a little before moving on. Not major editing, just, you know, getting that voice down that drives the story. Every word should matter, right? Not doing that along the way made moments of writing forward feel like I was walking on broken glass.

In the end, a story that had begun as an Adult Rom-Com spoof on an 80s throwback story pieced together from actual events in my HS days emerged as a viable YA novel that I am definitely going to polish after it marinades for a couple of months. And I will pitch it alongside the Adult MS I have out now still surviving in the trenches of querying-round-one.

Between now and the revision period, I’m continuing the practice of writing everyday–specifically, I am going to write a sequel to my queried MS. My “break” from writing yesterday that I allotted myself still yielded three sentences to that story already underway just to keep to my promise.

I am proud that I pushed myself to write a second full MS and even more proud that I wrote it through NaNoWriMo, challenging myself when life was ridiculously cluttered with progress reports, parent-teacher conferences, a sinus infection piggybacking the cough & cold flu, while others in my family were tossing their cookies with the stomach flu, and even adding an afterschool club I had decided to run two days a week.

Of all the lessons learned, I discovered I could handle a lot in a short amount of time without going completely crazy.

When a Plotter Plots for #NaNoWriMo

When I was a kid, I used to jot down every poetic couplet or line of dialogue that popped into my head on anything I could get my hands on—gum wrappers, receipts, and even the palm of my hand if my journal wasn’t within reach. Then I’d transcribe everything into my word processor, plugging all of my ideas and bits of writing into documents that I’d groom until they were nice and shiny.

You see, I lived down the street from an author, and she gave me one piece of advice: Write everything down, always.

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So I did.

And I still do.

Since last weekend, I’ve been pulling together all of my scattered ideas into a single Word Docx. I’ve pecked things into my Notes app, scribbled chunks on loose-leaf paper at work, built a secret Pinterest inspiration board, and even scrawled out a ton of ideas in a spiral notebook that I’ve kept on my night stand for those middle-of-the-night gems.

As of today, I have managed to take detailed notes on 90 scenes (87 solid scenes plus 3 skeletal scenes that need a little more fleshing out for purpose), as well as complete my basic research for my time period references–all of which are now neatly tucked away on my laptop (and forever secured in my Apple Time Capsule).

My project that I am working on will be my second full-length novel, but this will be my first time knocking out a rough draft in thirty days through National Novel Writing Month (#NaNoWriMo).

I’m a little surprised how easily the plot is falling into place.

Although it’s a lot of truth that’s been exaggerated then marinated in romance, I feel that it’s fresh, original, and promises to be something I’ll be proud of when November 30th rolls around.

I’m definitely a plotter/planner all the way.

Although, I have to say that many times through the process of editing my first novel, I did fly by the seat of my pants in a couple of places.

There’s one scene in my first novel where my MC opens the door and meets a man who causes her to rethink everything she thought she knew about love. This man was not in my plot-packed notebooks. When the front door flew open and this salty, carefree, heart-stopping, smooth talker appeared, I was as surprised as she was, but I went with it. Further edits wiggled him in from the beginning, and he forever defined my main character’s overall arc. Breaking free from being a planner and going with the whole pantser feel was exactly what my novel needed to bring everything together.

I’m not afraid to fly by the seat of my pants through any part of my upcoming novel, but as of this weekend, there’s no way I’ll be wondering what to write next especially when I still have two more weeks to plot away. I’m learning that even though I can safely label myself a plotter/planner, I’m capable of pantsing it, too. Either way, I’m embracing the challenge ahead, writing everything down … as always.

#NaNoWriMo Prep

Today, I’m spending the afternoon wrapping my mind around NaNoWriMo, hoping to empty out a 50,000 word bare bones rough draft this coming November that’s been buzzing around in my head for the last few months. I’m a newbie to the event, and I’m liking what I see as I continue to snoop around the website for the umpteenth time this week.

I’ve been taking copious notes today on the plot I plan on drafting. It’s loosely based on the horrors of my 1980s high school experiences that I can freely laugh my tush off about now. As I’m pulling together information on the various characters and scenes that are essential to my story, I’m realizing something about the category I thought I was aiming for… though my novel will be set in a high school, this will not be a Young Adult novel. Just because the characters are teenagers, that does not mean the novel is meant for a YA audience.

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I am decidedly targeting the forty-somethings who regard the glory days of their dayglow turned pastel youth with fondness—like me. It’s also going to be a comical love story, of course, because romcoms are my thing.

Would a YA or NA person enjoy the novel—absolutely… the 80s are back in a huge way, and our youth are obsessed. I see 80s terms on graphic t-shirts at least once a day (I’m an English teacher), and they’ve ALL watched at least a half a dozen 80s movies because their parents were 80s teens and have made them. Who doesn’t love that era right now?

As far as my plans go for the novel, I’m naming it Breaking Rad because it pulls in the 80s generation with the term Rad that’s hot right now, plus it’s a pun-tribute to one of my favorite TV shows that will hook adults, and yes, there will be a breakdancing dance-off at a Sadie Hawkins Dance which is the location of the climax of the story. –But that’s all I’m going to reveal for now. I just wanted to stress that I’d mentioned in my previous blog that I was considering tackling a YA novel for NaNoWriMo, but alas, I’m targeting Adult again with my writing in tone, voice, heat-levels, and whatnot, but I’m sure anyone who loves a bitchin 80s throwback story is going to enjoy it, fer-sure.