This was my first year participating in NaNoWriMo, and I chose to write the third and final novel in my Striped Ones Series. The first novel, Shadow Cat, is complete and in the final stages of editing. Feel free to read the excerpt here. Still looking for beta readers, by the way. 🙂 Or if you would like to review it, drop me a note (reenajacobs at reenajacobs dot com). The second in the series, Stray Cat, only has about 10k written. But since NaNoWriMo is about writing a novel from start to finish, I skipped to the end. And so we have Alley Cat. A quick look at my stats.
- Current Word Count: 52,029
- Date hit 50k: 11/23/2010
- Highest word count in a day: 3397 (November 12, 2010)
- Lowest word count in a day: 685 (November 25, 2010)
- Wrote for 25 days straight
For the record, I haven’t written since November 25, 2010. So what do I have to show for my 25 days worth of work? I have a nearly finished rough draft of Alley Cat. I have yet to write one chapter, possibly a epilogue, and two or three scenes I skipped. For now, I’m setting Alley Cat aside. I’ll fill in the missing chapters when I return for a second pass in a few months.
Sure winning NaNo is great, but truly the biggest advantage of participating in it is the rough draft. I finally feel like a real writer. Why? Because now I have two stories under my belt. After writing Shadow Cat it was more of a hobby feeling–yeah, I did it. One more thing I’d tried. This time around it was more of a feeling, I did it, and Shadow Cat wasn’t a fluke.
I’m sure lots of folks have tips and tricks on how to win NaNo. I won’t even pretend I have some secret ingredient, but I’ll share what worked for me.
- Set goals: Despite not having a day job other than chasing my rugrat around the house, I knew writing 16 hours a day seven days a week wasn’t for me. So I set a goal to write 5 days a week M-F, which came to about 2300 words a day. I managed to meet that goal all but two days. Though I didn’t schedule writing for the weekend, I managed to squeeze some in anyway. I set a tentative goal of 1667 words, which is the daily word count suggested by NaNo. If I didn’t meet it, no big deal, but it was always a boon when I did.
- No excuses: I’m not talking about family emergencies and such. Real life can definitely get in the way of writing. I’m talking about the lame excuses which really are about lack of motivation and the desire to procrastinate while diminishing the guilt. There were days I didn’t want to write. It would have been so easy to say I had church that day, had to play with my son, or had to prepare for my Thanksgiving guests (who stayed from November 25-28). Sure I had all those things in my life, but really church doesn’t take up 24 hours of my day, my son naps and doesn’t need me to entertain him 24/7, and preparing for Thanksgiving doesn’t take 30 days. Granted, most folks don’t have as lax of a schedule as my SAHM one, but in the end it’s about dedication. Even if people don’t have the time on their hand or the typing speed to crank out 1667-2300 words a day, I bet they have at least 10-30 minutes they can squeeze in somewhere to add a few words to their manuscript.
- Outline: A couple of days before NaNo started I created character profiles for my hero and heroine. Kind of a get to know you session. Then I created a thorough outline, plotting every scene I planned to write. Shadow Cat I wrote by the seat of my pants. I’d tried outlining in the past and have quite a few on standby. But Alley Cat is the first story I’ve finished from beginning to end using an outline. Having an outline was useful because when I hit scenes I didn’t want to write (and I had quite a few of them), I could skip ahead to a scene which interested me without worrying about plot integrity. I will admit my outline changed slightly as I progressed. I eliminated one plot arc dealing with scenes I’d previously skipped. I figured if I couldn’t interest myself to write them, no one else would be interested in reading them. haha
- Knowing the best times to write: I’m a night owl, and mornings and I don’t get along. In fact, I can remember the last time I went to bed at 6 am, but can’t remember the last time I woke up at 6 am. Getting any significant writing done in the early afternoon didn’t work so well for me. But about 4 pm, my brain woke up, and we were revved to go. Knowing that, I didn’t force myself to write early in the day. In fact, most of my major writing occurred past 8 pm.
So now that NaNo is over, what’s next? I gave myself the rest of November off. I’m not going to pretend. Writing like a maniac for 25 days wore me out. Come December 1st, I’ll be back to putting the finishing touches on Shadow Cat. I’m setting a goal of 1 scene a day, no excuses. 🙂 I have 20-30 scenes left, so finishing it up in December should be no problem. Come January, I plan on doing my own personal NaNo and knocking out book two of the Striped Ones series.