Scott D. Parker
Are you doing NaNoWriMo this year? I am, and I can’t wait until Monday.
For those of y’all who don’t know, November is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), a fun event where writers are challenged to write a 50,000-word novel in the 30 days of November. I’ve done it multiple times, sometimes succeeding and other times failing.
What I enjoy about it is the virtual camaraderie. On any given day that I’m writing a book, I know that there are thousands (millions?) of other authors also writing. But it’s a little different when you’re doing NaNoWriMo. We’re all in this same boat together. We have to manage our writing time, our day jobs, our lives, and just when we plan to get our words in on Thanksgiving Day.
Throughout this month, I will be updating my progress and offering helpful tips and encouragement to keep going. Because every time you write “The End” on a novel is special, but it’s just a tad more special when you do it during NaNoWriMo.
I’ve spent the better part of the past two weeks preparing. This will be my first murder/mystery that might lean cozy. As I’ve never written a murder/mystery, I took time to create characters (not named at first) and situations they will have to deal with. Who will be the victim? Who will be the killer? Who will discover the crucial clues?
It was this past Thursday when I knew I was ready to start. I mapped out the first few scenes because I wanted to hit the ground running come Monday at 5am (my writing time). During that little session, my imagination began veering and including little tidbits. I’m a hybrid pantser/plotter. I have just enough framework to give my imagination room to breathe, but breathing with focus. That my imagination was already chomping at the bit, I got even more excited about 1 November.
For the longest time—up until yesterday, in fact—I had no names for my characters. They were just Mom, Son #1, Son #1’s Wife, Girl, Guy, etc. I knew that wasn’t gonna fly come Monday, so I named my characters in a first-for-me manner: I typed them to see how they’d feel and to see if my typing speed and fingers misspelled them often. It’s all well and good to name a character Chrysanthemum Bannington, but can you imagine typing that over and over again? Sure, there’s autocorrect but I prefer to type the names.
So I took some names for a test drive and started filling in my list. I also paid attention to the first letter of those first names. I only repeat one letter one time: B. Every other character has a name that starts with a unique letter. Easier for me the writer and it’ll be easier for future readers to keep everyone straight.
Track Your Progress
The nuts and bolts of NaNoWriMo breaks down to 1,667 words per day. If you do that, you’ll hit your fifty thousand by 30 November.
Over the years, I’ve developed a spreadsheet I use to see where I am. Here’s a screenshot of the first couple of weeks.
You’ll see that I track the obvious stuff: date, the 1,667/day pace, Idea is the pace of 1,667/day, Actual is what I wrote that day, Total is obvious, Diff is how far under or over I am on the 1,667/day pace. I also like to track time spent doing the writing so all those other columns do that.
The “Diff” column is very helpful. Not only does it give you a daily reminder of where you are, but it also enables you to build in a buffer. Remember what I mentioned about Thanksgiving Day? Well, if you are, say, 1,000 words ahead, you can get by with fewer words on any given day.
But let me give what is perhaps the best piece of advice: do not skip a day. If you do, you will get behind, and there’s nothing more demoralizing that running behind.
There is still an even better piece of advice: Have Fun! If you do, it’ll be nothing to reach “The End” in a month.