What I Learned About My Manuscript During NaNoWriMo

Note: I am one of those weird people that subscribes to the notion that my work-in-progress should be called a manuscript throughout the development process. During NaNoWriMo, I follow the established nomenclature of “novel,” but I’m reverting back to manuscript.

NaNoWriMo is thirty days of frenzied writing that, in many cases, involves lots of caffeine, little sleep, and forgetting your characters aren’t real people and discussing them as though they are (“Yeah, Cassandra was a little difficult last night but I finally figured out that her driving relationship can’t be a love interest.”)

I truly believe writers are conduits for their characters and should follow their intuition, exploring development arcs and narrative quirks that arise during the writing process. Having a plan and a general outline is great, but adapt — especially for the sake of your characters.

God, writing in Arizona can be the absolute worst.

God, writing in Arizona can be the absolute worst.

Going into the month, I had an outline. Probably the best thing that happened is that I saved it in another Scrivener file by mistake and couldn’t find it. I had to remember major shifts entirely from memory, which meant if I didn’t care enough (or more likely, if the development didn’t resonate enough), I forgot it happened. What resulted was genuine characters driving plot.

I ended up finding the outline on November 30th — the timing couldn’t have been more perfect — and I was surprised at how “wrong” I’d initially called it. What I crafted was a much tighter narrative, with some characters lasting much longer than I anticipated and some not even appearing (yet). The interpersonal conflicts I outlined never made it onto the page. Some of the basic tenets of the plot shifted. Here’s a brief, broad example from the first act, designed to be alternating storylines featuring two female characters and their “groups” (one family, the other…loosely defined). Strikethroughs mean that the planned plot point didn’t happen at all, italics are for items that remain in some form, though were significantly different than planned.

  • Seaside w/ C
    • Decent conditions but writing’s on wall
    • Group comes
    • C escapes with S to forest
    • C & S — > capital
  • Mountains w/ B
    • Accepting, natural
    • Training
    • Rising
    • Departure due to family issues
    • B’s family — > capital

Or: the entire first act changed shifted in focus, tone, and narrative. Also, now there are three anchoring groups, not two (and those aren’t dominated by the characters B and C). The character dynamics have shifted and those groups are somewhat loose in the sense that it’s obvious what connects them, but the ties that bind aren’t always the strongest.

I initially planned for the manuscripts to be four acts, and it seems content with that so far. However, it’s going to be long. I didn’t anticipate finishing the writing during NaNoWriMo – I thought I needed at least twice that for a solid first draft, since I usually write all character arcs and dialogue and then go back and indulge the senses with imagery and the like. Most of NaNoWriMo was dedicated to the first act – and the aforementioned character moments – so this manuscript is shaping to be 150K in first draft mode, easily. God help me.

Oh, and a general tip: always back up your files. I read enough horror stories about losing tens of thousands of words that I didn’t want to risk it. So I also learned that my laptop is almost at capacity now. Thanks, NaNoWriMo!

Thanks for reading! What did you learn from your NaNoWriMo manuscript?

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NaNoWrimo 2015: The Post-Game Analysis

You know, I fully anticipated updating my NaNoWriMo progress throughout the month — not every day, but at least once a week. That didn’t happen, and I only managed my kick-off post. I’m kind of glad, because it meant I spent the month writing and focusing the majority of my efforts on the task at hand. That focus reaped serious rewards for me:

NaNo-2015-Winner-Banner

Yep, I did it. 2015 is not the first time I’ve tried, but it’s the first time I succeeded.

I know I should be like “Woo! I did this! I achieved greatness!”…but that wouldn’t be entirely accurate.

Major props to my across-the-country writing partner-in-crime Natasha. Natasha’s one of the 1:1000 editors and we texted throughout the month. Natasha ended November with 42K and the birth of her second child, and she’s my writing hero right now. I could not have kept up with writing or gotten off the struggle bus without her, and she kept me accountable throughout the month. I am 100% on board with writing buddies and support systems and writing tribes and the like.

Oh, and speaking of writing tribes — having spent the last two years writing with 1:1000, I felt more prepared in terms of crafting the story and hustling throughout the month. Normally I get stuck with character development, and while that happened a couple of times, I just jumped to another character and focused on their path until inspiration struck.

Oh, and it is hard. NaNoWriMo is a month of frenzied writing, but I didn’t write every day (which I had hoped to do). It can be draining and exhausting and some nights I just ached thinking about writing, but I made myself do it. I’m nowhere close to finishing, but I’m above 50K and that makes a massive difference.

My general tips? Create a daily routine. Be aggressive when you can (some days I wrote 5K+ because I had the time and mental capacity to do that), and adapt. Don’t let numbers get you down, and keep your characters at the forefront. It can be a personal struggle, and sometimes you have to just force yourself through that wall.

I’m not sure if I’ll do it again next year, but I know I’ll throw some support for to any 2016 participants.

Up next on the blog: The nitty gritty manuscript progress during November.

Thanks for reading! How did your NaNoWriMo attempts fare?

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NaNoWrimo 2015, Day One

Well, here we go.

I woke up having finally gotten a decent night of sleep, the first in weeks. I was also terribly congested, but I took a ClearQuil for that and a Zyrtec for my allergies. After forty-five minutes of checking Feedly and waiting for the meds to kick in, they mercifully have. So, game on NaNoWriMo! I am participating this year, working on what’s shaped into a post-apocalyptic fantasy piece that desperately needs my focus and attention.

Here are a few posts I found helpful this morning:

50K or bust!

giphy

Thanks for reading! Are you doing NaNoWriMo?

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