NaNoWriMo: Week 1

November 1 began the writing adventure that is National Novel Writing Month. This year’s theme is “The World Needs Your Novel.” This month I’ll be posting on Monday about my experience the previous week.

Many people over the years have told me that one day they would like to write a novel. I’d been writing for years before I heard about NaNo in 2004, and accepted the challenge to write 50,000 words in 30 days. Sound daunting? It is.

This year is my twelfth year participating, and my eleventh year as a Municipal Liaison (the fancy title for those of us who organize local Kick Off parties, weekly Write-Ins, and TGIO parties). Does this help me each year? Yes and no.

Yes, because having done it before I know I can do it again.

No, because each new story is a new adventure in plot, characters, dialogue, setting, theme, and all the other things that go into crafting a compelling read.

Each year I’ve been able to count on having 28 or 29 good writing days in the month. This year I’ll be visiting family (including a new baby!) for Thanksgiving weekend, and I really have only 25 good writing days. Instead of a daily word count goal of 1,667 to reach 50,000 in 30 days, my daily word count is 2,000 words per day.

The first week has gone really well. My word count after the first 7 days was 15,000+ words, so I am where I need to be to get to 50,000 by Thanksgiving. 

The first week is historically easy. The story that you’ve been thinking about for the past few months (or weeks, or days) comes gushing out once November 1 kicks off the month-long writing challenge. It doesn’t need to be coherent, and at this point it isn’t. Writing is rewriting, and that’s what December is for. November is for getting the draft done.

I’m working through my story idea, and although I’ve outlined roughly, once I start working the details I see where the gaps are, what I need to fill in, and who else needs to die (I’m writing a murder mystery). Past events, current events, and my personal life all affect what I’m writing about, and how I write it.

I write an outline with the beginning and end of each act and the midpoint. I include days of the week, so that I don’t have characters reacting on Friday to something that happens Saturday. I print out this rough outline, and pin it to the corkboard in front of my desk. 

This keeps me going when I run dry. I can look at the outline and see what dramatic action needs to occur against the backdrop of solving the mystery. Sometimes I write scenes out of order, when I have one fleshed out and I haven’t gotten to that point yet.

Sometimes I write in circles, trying to find the kernel of the story. I’ve found that keeping my fingers typing on the keyboard, even if it doesn’t seem to be part of the story at the time, can lead to breakthroughs that I might not have gotten to if I had stopped writing for the day. 

When I’m on a roll, I keep going. Having words in the bank, so to speak, makes up for the days I either don’t have enough time to write my 2,000 words, or for the days when the story isn’t coming no matter what tricks I use to tease the muse out from her hiding place.

The good news: I’m on pace. The bad news: My back, hands, and neck ache. Sitting in a chair for as long as I have been, writing as much as 5,000 words in a day, takes a toll. 

I remind myself to stay hydrated, which benefits me in two ways. I function best when I drink about 80 ounces of water a day. When I drink 80 ounces a day, I am getting up at regular intervals and take the opportunity to walk around, shaking out my hands, and stretch out my back.

Week 1 is done.

Week 2 begins.