NaNoWriMo Virgin

Navigating the first week through my new adventure.

False Start

In 2018, I began writing a novel loosely based on my teenage years growing up in coastal Orange County, California, during the late 1970s: an era of sex, drugs, and rock-and-roll. After completing 12,187 words, I got distracted and tabled the project. But in October, I read a Medium story about NaNoWriMo and became inspired to continue the project. 

Prepping for the Competition 

After logging onto the site, I perused all the tips and took copious notes on plotting and character development, with a particular attraction to the “Save the Cat! Beat Sheet” method of plot organization. On the evening of October 31, I finally read my original draft of 12,187 words only to determine that it was largely unusable. Written in first person, it was way too autobiographical, and sadly written in a “tell” more than a “show” format. Still, I figured some of the content could be reworked. 

The Plan

My original idea was to write in the evening around 9:00pm, after my family was settled for the night. Fortunately, most nights I got busy writing shortly after dinner. My goal was to write 2,000 words each night.

Week 1: Stats and Lessons Learned

Day 1: 2,042 new words ~ 3:00 hours worked ~ 2,042 of 50,000 word goal, (14,229 total words).

  • Lesson: Keep moving forward and don’t go back. Don’t bother trying to fix things from my earlier draft or closely edit my new work. Wait until later to correct the imperfections and make major changes. Just write! Where necessary, place notes in the text regarding what needs to done in the future. 

Day 2: 2,341 new words ~ 4:35 hours worked ~ 4,383 of 50,000 word goal (16,570 total words).

  • Lesson: Have a direction for each scene you are writing, but allow the characters to drive the action.

Day 3: 2,003 new words ~ 2:15 hours worked ~ 6,386 of 50,000 word goal (18,573 total words).

  • Lesson: Focus on writing new scenes rather than attempting to “weave” old material together or fill in holes in the content.

Day 4: 2,065 new words ~ 3:00 hours worked ~ 8,451 of 50,000 word goal (20,638 total words).

  • Lesson: Maintain a master – or mother – document. As clearly defined parts of the book emerge, spawn them off into fresh, new “child” documents. This way, the book will be broken into manageable components.

Day 5: 2,034 new words ~ 3:25 hours worked ~ 10,485 of 50,000 word goal (22,672 total words).

  • Lesson: Start a list of characters in order to keep the names straight and as a reference or source for future scene development. Minor characters can be recycled in sub-plots.

Day 6: 2,079 new words ~ 3:25 hours worked ~ 12,564 of 50,000 word goal (24,751 total words).

  • Lesson: Write scene ideas on index cards and place them in a semi-chronological order to provide inspiration for later writing sessions. Attempt to stay in chronological order while working on the story, but skip ahead to a later scene rather than getting bogged down in existing narration.

Day 7: 2.017 new words ~ 3:00 hours worked ~ 14,581 of 50,000 word goal (26,701 total words). I spent a few hours during the afternoon editing some of my original 12,187-word document, which resulted in a net loss of 67 words.

  • Lesson: Don’t let obstacles sabotage your progress. I actually broke my ankle last night following my writing session. I took a 1:30am trip to the ER: check-in, X-ray, temporary splint, home after an hour and a half. I could use my pain and stress as excuses to derail my commitment, instead I plan to use my convalescence to focus on my writing; I am limited on most everything else I would normally do with my days and nights.

I am satisfied with my Week 1 progress and am looking forward to Week 2: Stay tuned!

How are my fellow NaNoWriMo companions coming along? Do you have any writing insights to share?

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