I realized I did the math wrong in figuring out how many years I have participated in National Novel Writing Month. It isn’t my tenth year…it’s my eleventh!!!
So, with that said, I am writing this to try to help those who are participating this year. Out of the ten years of NaNoWriMo that have passed, I lost three of them…but I also won seven times. It’s been a wild ride. I will never publish some of the stories I’ve written because they weren’t that good. I cringe now whenever I look at them. It’s one of those things where you have to sit back and laugh at yourself.
1.) Back Up Your Novel
This should be a given, shouldn’t it? I don’t rely on Microsoft word or it’s “auto-save” anymore. It’s a pain in the ass to click “save” every five minutes (and it lost 5,000 fucking words in the Author’s Extended Edition of Cheap Guitars–sorry, not sorry, for my language there) I don’t live in an area with the most reliable electricity when Kentucky decides it will give us all four seasons in the span of a week (yesterday it was chilly but nice, and today it’s pouring and I saw my breath when I let my dog go potty).
Yes, I do use a Word document, however. I have decided Goddess of Blood and Winter will have a hardback edition so I’m planning to use Ingram Spark for the first time. Formatting it in a document I’ll upload later makes it easier on me. I have a lot to do so that I can make sure it’s published by my personal deadline. It might sound like more work, but this year I’m writing in Scrivener and backing up/formatting in Microsoft Word. Yes, I’m also aware that you can format books through Scrivener but in my experience, it always does something weird, and I’m still learning how to use Scrivener even though I’ve used it on and off for about six years. I trust Microsoft Word when it comes to formatting my work–and hello, drop caps!–but not for saving my work regularly because my dog is a butthead (he has slapped my keyboard and closed documents on me) and I don’t trust Kentucky weather.
2.) Don’t Box Yourself
It’s easy to say that we want to write our novels in order. That seems logical, right? I know I used to think I had to write everything in order when I created my document for Haunted Desperation. And I did write in chronological order in 2007 and a few after that, but it was when I started really working on my New Adult romances that I started breaking my usual writing mode and wrote out of order.
I can’t stand reading HD anymore. But my romances?
Cheap Tricks and Cheap Sunglasses are some of my best work to-date. The rewrite of Cheap Guitars is still going strong, and I’m not exactly writing that in order, either. It’s also my side-project while I work on The Goddess of Blood and Winter this month.
This is what I suggest to NaNoers: write the scene that speaks to you the most that day. Get it out–write those 1667 words. This is where writing with Scrivener comes in handy because you can write the scene and toss it in a “To Be Added Later” (or whatever you want to title it) folder while you work on the scenes that need to be finished in whatever chapter you paused in writing to get that scene out of your head… if that made sense. I’m in a rambling mood right now, I think. Happens every November 1st!
Also, I think one of the perks this month to participating in NaNo is that we can get trials/discounts on Scrivner. I already own the program but I highly recommend it if you have never used it.
3.) When in Doubt, Longhand
Huh? What do I mean by this?
We’re writing every day–sometimes more than those 1,667 words. My word count–right now–is 5119 words–although I’m not finished with chapter one yet. I’m going to try to keep it to 5,000 a day because that’s usually how long my chapters are. They might get longer since I’m working on fantasy/horror/romance. I’m not sure yet because I haven’t done in in almost ten-fifteen years? I’m not sure anymore.
I have a problem where the computer cursor taunts me, like, Ha! you imposter! You’ll never finish this novel! Give up now!
Writing longhand on paper does something to my brain. It’s like I can think clearer and characters and descriptions pop off the page. I love writing with my fountain pens. My favorite ink is Noodler’s Black Swan in Australian Rose. It’s a purple-pinkish black that is bulletproof, meaning that the paper will disintegrate before the ink will fade completely. Useful when you have an English Mastiff, trust me.
Don’t panic if you get stuck. Pull out a pen or pencil and some paper and see where your thoughts take you. Write the scene that can’t be put in chapter two yet but would work great in another chapter. Type up everything you’ve written at the end of the day since you can’t count it on the website unless they have the document at the end of the month.
Also: free first draft. Take that, evil blinky cursor.
Check out this article I found on writing on paper. It validates everything I just said, but more eloquently.
4.) Don’t Edit
This might seem contradictory when I said, “don’t edit if you’ve written a chapter on paper,” but I don’t count handwritten pages in the no-editing rule. I have dyslexia so I do weird things on paper. For some reason, I also stumble over words like necessary (I had to ask Siri how to spell it) and it doesn’t make sense. I have to watch letters that dyslexics have trouble with when they are trying to read or write but I don’t need a special font either (I’m fond of Palatino or Fanwood when I’m working). I chalk it up to not being so severe because Mom wouldn’t let me give up when I was a kid (she was told I’d never read or write and she told the therapist to fuck off–I think I wrote a post about being dyslexic once). The quicker I catch weird mistakes, the easier it is for my editors later.
I mean this–don’t edit the main manuscript. Whether you’re doing it like I am or simply writing in Word, don’t let yourself edit. Editing is the next stage in the writing process, as well as rewriting, and rewriting some more. I covet those Indies who can bang a book out in a month and hit a best seller’s list on Amazon (I see it all the time) but I’m not, and probably will never, be one of them. I need at least four months (I type close to 120 wpm and have amazing editors and a solid beta team, so when I’m getting a book ready, it goes fast–also, Grammarly, I love you).
I might sound like I’m repeating what it says on the official National Novel Writing Month website, but December is for editing. You might get stuck if you try to write your first draft perfectly and it can make the entire book fall flat from stifled creativity.
5.) Keep Everything You Write
I’m suggesting this mainly to the newbies.
Maybe you start your novel, and then you realize your POV isn’t working. Or maybe you get ten pages into the book and realize maybe that side character you really love would work better as the main character.
I take November as a time to explore who you are as a writer. 50,000 words in a month is a large task for someone who has never written a book before. Back in 2015, I think Cheap Sunglasses was close to 70,000 words when I finished writing it and my editor widdled it down to 60,000 on me before I realized I had a lot of writing fluff in it from writing during the November NaNo and Camp NaNoWriMo (but I also had a lower word count set since they allow us a little wiggle room in April and July). I might feel like a pro at winning this challenge now, but I’m still coming out of my comfort zone and setting my next New Adult rockstar romance to the side so I can reconnect with characters that have been in my head since I was a teenager.
If you don’t think that first person present POV is working, try writing it in the third person. See what it looks like after 2,000 words and then set it aside. In this case, I recommend reading both what you wrote in the first person and the third person the next day (okay–maybe I’m breaking my editing rule again–but I have a valid reason for this).
It’s not easy converting an entire 63,000-word novel from the third person to first (trust me, doing this with the Author’s Extended Edition of Cheap Guitars). Keeping everything will give you wiggle room for Thanksgiving (if you’re in the US) or for a day where you really need a break.
Also, it could give you the start of the next book where the main character that isn’t working will work. That happened to me–Cheap Sunglasses was going to be the fourth book, but I hadn’t figured out how I wanted to write Cheap Tricks yet, so I switched them around, started writing in the first person, and now I’m editing/rewriting Cheap Guitars.
Let me amend this, however, by saying that I was still figuring out who I was as a writer when I wrote the first two novels and the novella in the series.
6.) Have Some Sort of Plot
This doesn’t have to mean you have to give every character special colored eyes or a peg leg or a deep dark past.
I’m a plantser, by nature. I like my beat sheets and my bullet journals…but I also tend to go off-course, so to speak. Even if it’s just making notes at the end of the day, I suggest keeping track of what you’re working on. If you don’t, you can get lost really quick, and you’ll end up doing something like this:
Yes, this is an actual screenshot from Haunted Desperation. I cringe every time I look at it.
7.) But Don’t Forget to Have Fun
I’m reserving a scene for Goddess of Blood and Winter when I’m stuck and need a laugh: my main character, Adara, is going to force Evander into a dress so they can cross the sea to safety.
A scene inspired straight up out of Final Fantasy VII (with obvious differences because I’m not writing fanfiction, here).
I get to pay homage to my favorite game and laugh hysterically at how uncomfortable my character will be when he has to cross-dress, but also have a poignant moment to address how much danger my main character and her lover are in.
I googled this image and died laughing. I think it’s a perfect depiction of Cloud and Don Corneo.
I wanted to try to make it to ten things to remember during NaNo, but I’m going to end it at seven since this is long. If you enjoyed this post and want another list this month of things to remember, I’ll gladly post another. Or, better, tweet me, and we can talk through your crisis! I’m not opposed to sound-boarding with a writer who needs help!
If you would like to add me on Nano’s website, my name is Angelic_Demon. We can talk there, as well!