The NaNo experiment

Some of my favourite writing advice, but I still screw this kind of thing up.*

For November I ran a writing experiment (most everything is an experiment for me, a side effect of being a scientist in my day job), I signed up for the National Novel Writing Month or NaNoWriMo. The goal was to write 50,000 words over the month. A whole horde of people do this, including a large group on my Pacific Island, there was even a steady stream of writing get togethers (I went to one).

The book I chose to write was book 3 of my Settler Chronicles series titled Abandoned Ships, Hijacked Minds, which can as simply summed up as space horror. By the end of the month, I successfully completed a first draft. Considering it’s a ‘shitty first draft’ I’m very happy with it – especially the ending. I’m itching to share it, but I need to finish polishing the first two books first.

So here’s what worked for me (and this is all common advice):

  1. I started with a moderately detailed outline, so I knew where I was going. Whenever I’ve tried working without an outline, I’ve always reached a point where I have to stop and write one. To write a book in a month (while working full time and not totally ignoring my family), I knew I wouldn’t have time to stop and worry about story structure.
  2. I found a writing buddy for support and we regularly got together to write. Find her here.
  3. I wrote every day, which went better than expected. My daily word count ranged between 200-2700. A migraine struck on one of the weekends (why do migraines always strike on weekends?), but I managed to do a bit of writing reaching the low end of my word count range.

With an outline to work from, I decided to start in the middle. Since I typically follow a three act structure, my starting point was the beginning of the second act (yeah, I started in that ‘muddy middle’). I came back to the beginning scenes at the end of the month. The reason I did that is my middle was full of action, which I prefer writing, while the beginning was focused on character development, which I find much harder to write.

I thought I’d be done with two days to spare. But, when I inputted my wordcount onto the official site, my total came to 49,999 words. I was a single word short! What was the probability, I’d get that close? I since added another few lines of dialogue, which put my comfortably over the required number.

I found NaNoWriMo a great way to get a draft novel done and I think I’ll do it again next year (assuming my writing buddy is willing).

*sadly I don’t know who originally made the zombie image

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