Writing Update #1 | NaNoWriMo 2017

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Hey, everyone! Hope you’re doing well and hanging in there! In case you haven’t noticed from my lack of posting, I’ve been avoiding writing this post. The writing has been a struggle for me personally, and I’ve been waiting for something positive to happen before I write my first update. I’ve realized though that it’s late enough in the month that I need to update or I’ll have no record to look back on at the end of this month, so here I am!

This post comes to you in two parts:

  1.  An update on how my writing is going
  2. The tricks and advice that are keeping me going

Novel Progress

As I predicted at the beginning of NaNoWriMo I did a lot of jumping around at the beginning. I started towards the beginning and as I wrote and learned more about the story, I began jumping ahead to make notes under chapter headings of things I want to remember to write once I get there in this draft.

I started this month with a Word document that contained 30 chapters with headings to remind me at what point I should have major plot points (e.g midpoint, pinches, climax, etc.) happening. I adjust these periodically and by no means am dead set on ending with 30 chapters. I just find it useful as visual representation of the mental framework I want to remember to follow so that stuff is actually happening. (I’m too good at stalling the story while I set up scenes that aren’t fully formed yet.)

There are often a lot of thoughts bouncing around in my head as I write. I’m try to stay in the moment, but my internal editor is always reminding me that I’m telling too much and that I keep changing my writing POV and that holistically the story is a mess and that my protagonist has no personality. But something I’ve found very encouraging to remember, when I’m in the mood to be optimistic are these words from Adam Silvera.

“For the first draft I “Tell Now, Show Later” because I gotta learn the characters and story first by TELLING myself before SHOWING you.

I find it a lot easier to write when I remember that this a crucial first step in writing a novel. I need to get all my ideas out and then select from amongst them the strongest that will make this story more coherent. Not everything will be necessary to include in a final draft, but the final draft will not be reachable unless I get all these scenes out of my head.

I also remind myself that I will be able to commit to a POV after I’ve decided what I want to keep and how to best have the story unfold. At that point I will be able to better develop my protagonist’s voice and better bring her to life.

So right now as I endeavor to catch up, I’m still jumping around to write the most interesting bits and following leads I discover as I write. I’m also rereading what I’ve written, which I know some people advise against, but I always find I’m able to add words as I reread and make things more clear because when I sprint I find I leave out clarifying and descriptive details in my hurry to keep up with the story unfolding in my head.

I also make in-line notes about things I want to fix later or add to make certain details more meaningful. And the best thing about doing it this way is I feel like I’m satisfying my inner editor and adding to my word count!

At this point, I figure I’ll share my current writing stats as depicted in graph form. Bare in mind, that although I’m behind, I have not given up hope!

Screen Shot 2017-11-14 at 10.16.35 AM

Tricks That Help Me Keep Writing

I’m not a fast writer. I also find it difficult to write when I’m stressed out or deeply unhappy about something, because the words I write at these moments are often tinged with those negative emotions. Because I don’t think anyone should force themselves to write if they’re not in the right headspace for it (which, let me be clear, I consider separate from the infamous “writer’s block” headspace), I have found certain ways to keep adding words and not feel like I’m totally slacking.

These are my tricks for anyone struggling to write:

  1. Open a second NaNoWriMo document for all the extra stuff you don’t want cluttering your main story and don’t want to delete for the sake of winning. In my second document, I have transferred scenes that no longer fit, summaries for scenes that I’ve since written, and ideas for spin-off storylines and even related novel ideas I may want to pursue later! Then I just add up the word counts between the two documents when I want to update my NaNoWriMo word count on the website.
  2. Commit yourself each day to time spent with your butt in your writing chair. NaNoWriMo is all about that word count, but I find it much easier some days to think of success in terms of time spent writing rather than words written. If you often find yourself procrastinating on writing because you’re telling yourself you can do it later in the day, this might be something that can help you. I often find myself getting ants in my pants after I’ve written a couple hundred words and feel like I deserve a break, but it’s avoidant behavior that shouldn’t be indulged! If I tell myself to sit down for an hour and not get up, I often find that I’ll end up writing things that surprise myself and make me want to keep writing. These are often things I would’ve never thought of if I was allowing myself to take a break every 20 minutes.
  3. Don’t look at your friend’s stats if you’re behind! When I’m on track or even ahead, I find it incredibly reassuring to look at my writing buddies’ stats and remind myself that I’m doing exactly what I should be doing. But if you’ve not been able to write for a few days and have fallen really behind, comparisons can be really detrimental to your already fragile writing self-esteem. So my advice for catching up is to look up how many words you need to write each day to catch up and focus on meeting or exceeding that goal.

I also wanted to share a video with some good advice for those of you who may be stuck because you do not know what to write next! I was going to share this video in a post that may not end up happening so now’s a good a time as any.

In “WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE? | NANOWRIMO DAY 6” Katytastic provides what I think is excellent advice for this predicament, starting around 1:31 in the video.

End Note

Writing is hard. There’s no way around it. If  you are behind and feel like all is lost, I encourage you to look at your NaNo stats, which provide an estimate of how many words per day you need to write to still finish on time. As I am currently at 6,927 words on Day 14, my current estimate is 2,534 words, which is not hopeless! Especially when I think about how some days I may still manage to write more than that.

I don’t know when I’ll be able to update you all again. My priority is winning NaNoWriMo so I can’t guarantee another one this month, but I do hope to update you if and when I am able to catch up to where I need to be.

Thank you for reading!
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