Nancy: NaNoWriMo: A Multi-Purpose Writing Tool

NaNoIt’s that time of year again. In the northern hemisphere, the air has turned crisp. Leaves are changing colors. Children are choosing Halloween costumes. And writers across the globe are stocking up on coffee, hoarding chocolate, and doing finger stretches in anticipation of National Novel Writing Month.

Here at 8LW, Michille has shared her plans for her own run at NaNoWriMo gold (finishing 50k words of original fiction in the month of November), Elizabeth has been getting us into shape with writing sprints, and several of the ladies are contemplating whether they’ll join the party.

Until this past week, I was undecided about my own NaNoWriMo plans. I’ve participated in it in the past, with mixed results. I ‘won’ twice, completing all my words, but the first time, I later got rid of most of those words. My second win yielded better results, and I was able to use about 70% of what I’d written. That seems to indicating an increasing return on investment, and I could certainly use a surge in word count to get my series plans back on track. But as is usually the case, there’s lots of non-writing stuff taking precedence in my life and it would be easier to not commit.

Then I read an article by Kathleen McCleary over at Writer Unboxed. Among the advice in the post is to pay yourself first, advice often given to small business owners. In this case, McCleary isn’t talking about monetary pay. She’s talking about taking time for yourself and your writing, putting it – if not first – at least somewhere closer to the top of your to-do list. This falls in line with advice about identifying priorities and organizing your day by doing the things most important to you first. An alternative approach is to identify the times of day during which you have the highest-energy level and scheduling writing (or whatever else you identify as a high priority) during that window.

While that sounds like a great idea, actually doing it is the hard part. It might be helpful to have some external impetus, a support system, maybe even thousands of other crazy writers working toward their own goals. You can see where I’m going with this. So, rebel that I am, I’m setting  my own NaNo goals, which include writing every day, preferably early in the morning before everything else in the world crowds out my writing time, and working hard to disengage my hypercritical inner editor while doing it.

You have to make prioritizing writing a habit. While there is a school of thought out there that says it takes 21 days to form a habit, that is, unfortunately, probably inaccurate. But November is 30 days long, and even if that’s not long enough to make daily writing a habit, it’s long enough to get back in touch daily with my story, get some words on the page, and make a good start toward prioritizing my writing.

Writing goals take many forms beyond racking up word and page counts. Maybe you’ve wanted to start writing every day, or every weekday, or every weekend day. Maybe you’ve been meaning to set aside a certain number of hours for your writing, or more time to study more about craft. Whatever your personal writing goals are, you might consider using NaNoWriMo and the camaraderie of tens of thousands of other writers to take the first steps toward establishing new writing habits of your own. So what are your plans for November?


11 thoughts on “Nancy: NaNoWriMo: A Multi-Purpose Writing Tool

  1. I dusted off my outline and have now added 40 ideas/topics for scenes, character sketches, backstory stories, and other stuff that will provide fodder to help meet each day’s writing goal. There isn’t necessarily 1,667 words needed to flesh out all the topics, but it’s a start. The backstory on Great Aunt Gertrude’s ex-wise guy boarder could be 1,667 words, but finishing Finch’s character sketch won’t be. I’d like to add more ideas to my chart to help get to my goal.

    And one huge upside will be exactly what you’ve talked about here, Nancy – I will be writing every day, getting back in the writing saddle and hopefully forming a more consistent writing habit.

    • I think Aunt Gertrude sounds like a fun old gal. I look forward to learning more about her story! And we’ll both be rebels, as you’ll be working on multiple story elements, not just getting words of the story on the page. Maybe we can ‘meet in the middle’ and go to a write-in together :-).

      • Have you gone to good write-ins. I went to one the first time I did NaNo and it was a bunch of weird people wearing fuzzy hats shaped liked animals, except for the guy with some kind of reptile riding his shoulder (I would have thought the coffee shop would frown on bringing your own reptile).

        • Yikes! That sounds like a bad write-in experience. The ones closest to me have been somewhat poorly attended, but checking on the regional boards this year, it looks like there are more participants in my area. I would think that events in higher-density areas like Baltimore County might be better/more successful.

        • I’ve gone to good ones, but there were only at most three of us. No reptiles (although, I think my stories could benefit from random reptiles, LOL). We were all quite serious for 45 minutes, then chatted for 15, then got down to business for 45 and had a nice mutual admiration song and dance after we were done. One woman was Canadian and I forget where the other guy was from originally — Eastern Europe, and I don’t think he was writing in English.

          If you are with people who are serious about writing, it’s really great. You feel a little pressure to stay at the keyboard for the whole designated writing time, and there’s something powerful about being with likeminded people.

          We never discussed what we were writing, though. We were supporting the process of writing.

  2. I’m not going to do a formal NaNo, but I’m almost finished with the Time-Sucking Non-Writing Project, and I want to get straight back to writing every day. I’d love to know how you ladies are doing, but I don’t need write-ins or word-count goals, just a little nice, quiet, uninterrupted quality keyboard time. Even if I can’t get that, by hook or by crook Cam and Mary are going back to the top of the payment queue, starting next Monday. I’ll let you know how I get on 😉 .

    • Go for it, Jilly! I had to rearrange/reprioritize some things in my life, because my kids school was turning into a time vacuum. I could literally spend all my time doing stuff for my kids’ school, and I had to draw the line. Next time someone asks me to step in and be VP of the Parent Service Organization, tell me to say NO!

    • Maybe we can add NaNo counts to the comments section of the Friday writing sprints. We could also share any prompts, dares, word challenges, etc. (all of which are part of being in the NaNo community) that we found particularly fun or helpful. I’m sure you’ll be sick about hearing by our progress (or lack thereof) by the end of the month ;-).

  3. Pingback: Michille: Getting Ready to NaNo | Eight Ladies Writing

  4. I’m still debating (it’s November 5). I’ve written twice this month, and not anywhere near the word count. But hope springs eternal before November 15th! I should probably log in my words so far, just in case. It’s not a real NaNo, but I do feel I’m starting the story from scratch, in a way. A year of research, and several thousand words have passed, but it still feels new. Which is kind of nice.

  5. Pingback: Michille: Getting Ready to NaNo – Eight Ladies Writing

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