After ten years, a different use for NaNoWriMo

2016-10-11-12-42-44The first time I did NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month, I joined at the end of October, so didn’t have much time to prepare. Besides, the guy who started the whole thing was a big advocate of not planning, just write. I finished a novel that year. It’s the only one I’ve written during NaNo that isn’t a coherent enough story to edit into something reasonable. Since I enjoy editing, it’s not lack of willingness on my part. The story just doesn’t have enough of a point to be worth it. (I did use some of it as backstory for a character in my Edinburgh series.)

I already knew that I could finish a novel since I had been writing for years and had completed several mysteries as well as children’s novels. Before NaNo, I hadn’t published, or released (how I term self-published) a novel, but knew how to get to the end. So the next year I spent time on preparation before November, figuring out the major plot points, and sketching out scenes. That worked so well that every year I spent more and more time getting my outline ready. I determine what I’m writing about six months ahead of time, start writing down ideas and plot points, then around mid-September work daily on the outline for about half an hour.

That process has produced a new novel every November. Many of them are ones I’ve spent years editing into something I’m willing to release. (They can be found on my website.) This year, I didn’t see the need for a new first-draft novel. I’ve been working on book two of my French series and after dozens of edits, I have it out to beta readers for input before releasing it soon. Book three was last year’s NaNo effort. I don’t want to draft book four until I spend significant time editing book three since I sometimes find an important thread to work on for the next book during the editing of the previous book. I already have two more books in the Edinburgh series to work on. So I didn’t need another first-draft of a novel.

Instead, I could use material for the website Partners Bridging the Digital Divide, a nonprofit that I’m the VP of Communications for. I haven’t written a partner profile in a while and after a couple of years of becoming more familiar with the issues, I would like to have some easy-to-perform skits that partners could use to explain the importance of computer access for everyone, short stories about the importance of digital inclusion, as well as to highlight the work our fabulous partners are doing.

Since I’m not writing the first draft of a novel this month, I didn’t do as much prep as I usually do. I did start coming up with ideas for things I wanted to write about, and I got the Scrivener file ready including changing my mind about how I was going to keep track of what I was writing on since it’s a bunch of things. I went from listing different things for each day as 1-30 (with some extra) to labeling the items aa, ab, etc and starting a day-one file, and a base for day-two (to copy each day), so I could decide the day before what I was working on the next day. I figured that was more likely to fit my interest during November. I didn’t want not being inspired to work on a¬†particular idea to stifle my progress. One of the lovely things about doing NaNoWriMo is that I can get to the point where the words flow quickly. Focusing on word count each day instead of the content of each sentence has that effect on me. It’s a great feeling and really helps my productivity. I do edit during November, but only a first-pass to ensure the words I wrote were the words I intended, not that they’re the best words for that passage. (That’s what editing is for.)

I wondered if I’d have much enthusiasm for NaNo this year, since I wasn’t working on a novel and haven’t done the usual prep in September and October. Also, I’ve been trying to be more sensible about writing ever since the year I wrote two novels for 200,000+ words and made my gluts so tight that I still have issues sitting in soft chairs. (On the plus side, I now walk at least 250 steps every hour that it’s possible.) I tried to work on prep this year, but once I had a good list of ideas, there didn’t seem to be much more to do with the ideas except wait to write them. I don’t know how to prep a skit without writing it, or a short story. With a novel, there are so many scenes and interactions needed between characters that just deciding how often a character shows up helps create structure. I’m hoping to have some poetry and even a recipe, although they’re not great for word count. A recipe for how to have digital inclusion sounds awesome, but not something I can outline. I found myself eager for November to get here already, which seems a good sign.

In the past, I’ve been so eager to write, that I get up at 4 a.m. to start. This year,¬†I held off until 5:30.

About Katherine Lato

Writer, thinker, observer and participant in life.
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