|Proof of my Awesomeness...|
But even with this huge boon, I have still managed to struggle to write a whole book in that space of time. There are a number of reasons for this.. Sometimes life gets in the way even if you're a writer, sometimes you have to stop to do revisions on another book, sometimes it's just too exhausting - writing all day, every day for thirty days is a marathon whatever way you look at it. But perhaps the most frequent reason I fail at NaNo is.. THE DARN BOOK JUST ISN'T WORKING!! And half way through the month I falter and fall flat on my face (I so need a gif here of a writer faceplanting on their keyboard). When I am simply no longer able to add word count to a heaving pile of poop that I know is going nowhere. And let's face it, that can happen to anyone. The NaNo theory is you just keep writing and polish the turd later into a glorious gleaming golden book and very, VERY occasionally I can do that, but most of the time I can't because I find myself putting words into my characters mouths or thoughts into their heads and I don't know where the heck they are coming from and as a result my story makes no sense, my characters become cardboard cutouts saying what I want them to say, not what they should be saying... And well, you get the picture, continuing to write when that happens is a complete waste of my time. I have to go back and fix it...
The Virgin's Shock Baby which I ended up loving, the words just flowed during that November, and although I did have to do some revisions on it (because I have yet to manage to write a book which does not require them!) the main bones of the story, the characters and their conflicts, all the key scenes were there. Which is pretty impressive and pretty huge IMHO... *Heidi pats self on the back here* (see what I meant about smug?)
Now as luck would have it, The Virgin's Shock Baby came out this October, so while I was doing publicity for it and I got to thinking at the beginning of October...
Can I do that again? But from actual ground zero this time. Can I repeat that remarkable, uplifting writing experience, with a book that I hadn't even written a synopsis for? Let alone any words? Now at this point, and one of the other reasons why I was considering doing NaNo again was that several things aligned...
Top Tip 1: Incentivise Yourself:
At the end of October I had just handed in another book and was waiting to hear back from my editor on it. I had one book to submit left on my current contract which had actually been due at the end of October, but which I was already late with because the first book in this particular 3-book contract had nearly killed me, took a tortuous six months to write and pushed all my deadlines back several months... So if I could get this next book out in a month it would make up for that nightmare book's messing with my writing schedule. It'd still be a month late, but it would put me right back on track. So I had a lot of incentive - money-wise - to commit to NaNo!
Top Tip 2: Brainstorm/Plot Something, Anything, Before You Start
|Inspiration - Texas-style|
|Brainstorming is Us|
Top Tip 3: Have a Clue for Your First Scene
That first scene is pretty important when you kick off with NaNo on November 1st, because with only 30 days to write your story you have to hit the ground running... If you spend hours, or even waste your first day, trying to figure out what you're going to write for that first scene, you are screwed, because you will already be waging an uphill battle by Day 2, which is going to make it that much harder to incentivise yourself... That said, your first scene doesn't HAVE to be the opening scene for your novel like mine was - that may change during the course of the month anyway... I will cover the non-linear approach to NaNo in Top Tip 5... But before that in my personal NaNo journey this year I have ...
Top Tip 4: Go Off Piste If You Have To
Although I hit the ground running with my first scene and managed to add yet more words to it by Day 2 and was feeling pretty impressed with myself... It all went a bit pear-shaped on Day 3.. Yeah... Day 3! I was flagging because I'd completed my opening scene, I liked it, or mostly liked it, but something was not working. Already. Should I charge ahead and ignore that feeling, or take the time to stop and rewrite the scene, figure out what was wrong? Because I'd been feeling chipper and excited about my great early word count the temptation here was to forge ahead. Bollox if it's not working, I WANT MORE WORDS... But then I stopped to think. And here's the great thing about NaNo, it gives you the scope to do this. Because it gives you loads of stats. You're aiming to write 1667 words per day, which actually isn't very many if you break it down (especially if you've got the luxury of the whole day to write), so if you write extra words some days, obviously you have more leeway on others - and your NaNo novel stats will tell you exactly how much leeway you've got. So here's what I decided... It was early days, I'd got ahead, why not take advantage of that and use the extra leeway to figure out what was wrong, because I knew from my process and my previous NaNos that launching into a book that wasn't really working right from the start was a recipe for disaster which I would pay for later. I didn't get back up ahead of the curve again till Day 9 but taking that break on Day 3 to correct myself meant that I was able to keep up the forward momentum... Which is pretty important in NaNo and something you need to try and do no matter what... Which leads us to...
Top Tip 5: If a Scene's Not Working, Write Another
Some times you have the luxury of going back and rewriting... Other times you might need a bit more time to percolate a particular scene in your head.. Or maybe you're just bored with the chonological order of the story and you've got this really vivid idea of a scene that comes much later which you want to write first. This happened to me a couple of times during my NaNo story. Ordinarily I wouldn't jump ahead, because I tend to panic that I'll never want to go back and finish the other scene, or the scene I want to write might never end up in the book - I'm a bit of a completest on the sly - but with NaNo you can totally use your dogged pursuit of all things word count to free up your writing that way. And for me that turned out to be liberating. When I actually ended up incorporating my jump-ahead scenes into the story, I had to change them quite a bit, because stuff that had gone before had changed too in between the time when I wrote it and the time I got to add it on the timeline, which is why I wouldn't recommend doing this too much - I would also advise not writing in capital letters on your ms "ADD SEX SCENE IN HERE LATER" when your son is looking over your shoulder! But it was still cool having those jump-ahead scenes ready and waiting for me to give me a crucial road map to follow as I filled in the blanks... For this reason I would also suggest going with ...
Top Tip 6: Don't Sweat the Small Stuff
I found that while I was keen to change things up occasionally (Tip 5), and I did stop and re-edit a couple of scenes that weren't working so as not to stall my forward momentum (Tip 4)... It was also invaluable not to freak out too much about the actual quality of my writing. You know, that moment while free-writing a scene when you wince and think, oh crap did her blush just go radioactive AGAIN!! ie: that moment when you realise you've already used that stock phrase about two dozen times before in the story... I'm telling you now, don't worry about that, you can fix all that when you re-read the story, figure out a more original way to describe her blush, or maybe stop having her blush like a nun every two seconds... That's all in the finesse you'll bring to the story later. NaNo isn't about finesse or fine, finished, perfectly polished prose, it's about spewing out that rough draft in a month. And rough in my case meant rough (or even radioactive!)
Top Tip 7: Manage Your Procrastination
Now, as I said before, life sometimes will get in the way. In which case you give yourself a pass... I'm not someone who can write when my kids are sick, I'm sick, my boiler just blew up, or during the myriad other things that might go unexpectedly wrong. That said, I am also someone who loves to procrastinate... Procrastination is not life getting in the way, people. It's you getting in the way of your writing. Now, that said, I also am not someone who can do NO procrastinating at all for a whole month. I would have to cut off my fingers and blow up my modem to achieve that... I love social media, I'm addicted to fricking Instagram at the minute (thank you so much to my sons for introducing me to that handy timesuck) and I also love to go on trips. With that in mind, I made sure I only agreed to one weekend away in November (more on that later in Tip 8) and I also made a concerted effort to limit my social media fiddling... I will admit that it didn't hurt at all that by the middle of the month I was so into Zane and Cat's story I was actually keen to write it, so piddling about on Facebook finding out what my spirit animal was or who I'd been in a former life (Cleopatra btw, if anyone is interested) didn't appeal as much as it usually would, but that won't always be the case. Although having said that, maybe getting into the story was actually a result of abiding by Tip 8...
Top Tip 8: Write Every Day, No Excuses
|Write Everywhere & Anywhere|
Top Tip 9: Get Addicted to Updating Your Word Count & Other NaNo Tricks
Updating my word count obsessively definitely worked for me, incentive-wise. It was one of the things that got me sitting my butt in the chair each day, unplugging my internet and forcing myself to put words on paper, because I wanted to see where I was on the curve, wanted to get that little badge saying I'd updated my count five days in a row, or reached a particular milestone, etc. On those days when I had found it hard to write, or my procrastination management took a hit, I got into updating my word count every time I took a screen break, just to convince myselt that I had made some progress. During my normal writing life, I write in the mornings, but because of my word count update addiction, I discovered that on days when I'd been farting around too much I would have to write in the afternoon or even the evening to get those words done. The NaNo site also offers other incentives to writing. Find what works for you - maybe chatting in the community forum, or doing one of your local write ins at a coffee shop.... But whatever it is, use it. And keep updating that word count.
Top Tip 10: Keep Fit and Don't Get Pissed Too Much
|View from the morning run!|
So there you have it, my Winning NaNoWriMo 2017 journey.... In ten super-smug Top Tips.
I sent the book wot I wrote off to my editor at Harlequin Mills & Boon yesterday, and I've yet to hear back whether she thinks it's publishable or a pile of poop (ie: I might well be feeling a little less smug shortly). But whatever happens, I will always be super proud of my NaNoWriMo 2017 Winner's Certificate. Have I mentioned that already?