Tag Archive | NaNoWriMo

Ready for NaNoWriMo!

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Writing a novel is never a speedy process for me, but I’ve always found the initial first draft can be done quickly once my momentum gets going. As long as I have my story worked out beforehand, my characters defined, and my outline arranged into rough scenes or chapters, then my first draft flies. The longest part of the whole process is rewriting and perfecting from the second draft onwards – that bit usually takes me several years.

With my last novel, I managed to plot the outline and draw up the character sketches in only one month, back in October 2012. The first draft was completed two and a half months later. I’ve always wondered if I could do it faster, but I haven’t had the chance to try because I haven’t started another new novel since then.

Since I became a writer I have been aware of a project called National Novel Writing Month, more commonly referred to as NaNoWriMo. Every November, thousands of writers around the world join up, and each writer tries to complete a first draft of 50,000 words in 30 days. That’s about 1,667 words a day, or 12,500 words a week.

The event was started by freelance writer Chris Baty in 1999, and in that first year there were 21 writers. The following year there was a website created for it, and 140 writers signed up. The year after that saw 5,000 signing up, including overseas writers. The numbers have grown to over 400,000 in the last decade and a half.

Of course, many people write novels without actually joining the group – I’ve done this for years – but joining the group sounds like fun, and the camaraderie aspect of writing a novel alongside 400,000 other writers has a lot going for it. The writers who join up inspire and encourage each other, even as they track their daily progress. Those who hit the target of 50,000 words by November 30th are said to have “won” and this can be a huge personal victory, especially for those who have never before managed to complete a first draft.

For those of us who have already written novels, we know how lonely the writing process can be, tied to our typewriters for months on end, bleeding all over the page, so I’m looking forward to plunging in with a good heart and buckets of enthusiasm to share around.

So why have I never done this before? When I lived in South Africa, the month of November was my busiest time of the year, filled with preparations for the annual pantomime in the theatre where I used to work. So, while I was aware of NaNoWriMo, it wasn’t practical for me to consider doing it. Last year – my first November in Australia – I was close to finishing my lengthy work-in-progress and I didn’t want to be distracted by the next novel so I didn’t join in then either.

But this year is different! I have a rough one-page synopsis ready for my next novel. I wrote it – together with a tentative first chapter – back in January for a competition, but until two months ago I hadn’t looked at either of them again. I have been thinking about this new novel a lot though, and a month or two back I decided to change the time frame from the present day to 1955, because I wanted to write it as an historical novel. This meant reworking the entire synopsis as well as completely re-motivating all my characters who are still recovering from the devastating Second World War a decade before.

I have now spent October working on my characters and outline. The original first chapter is no longer relevant, because it doesn’t fit the new story, so I’ll be starting that from scratch. I am finally ready for NaNoWriMo. When November starts tomorrow, I plan on “giving it a go” as they say in Australia.

If you’re a regular reader here, please allow me to apologize in advance: you probably won’t hear much from this blog in the month of November, but once December starts, I’ll report back on how it all went – the good and the bad.

If you’re a writer, have you decided to join NaNoWriMo this year?

I Didn’t Do NaNoWriMo, But…

I didn’t sign up for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) in November this year, but I did receive an enormous amount of encouragement from those who did. I hope that all who entered (and those who didn’t) were able to make the most of the opportunity to advance their current writing projects in the same way that I did.

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To tell the truth, I’ve never actually signed up for NaNoWriMo, but there’s something about the last few months of the year that fires up my novel-writing desires and makes me forge ahead with whatever novel I happen to be busy planning or writing.

Regardless of whether I’m at the beginning or the end of the writing process, the coming of Spring (I live in the southern hemisphere) heralds a time of new buds, green shoots and the warmth of the growing season. While I am not a gardener like my sister, her enthusiasm rubs off on me, albeit in a different sphere. The promise of a productive season followed by a new year ahead spurs me on to think that I’m invincible, a prolific spewer of words, and that everyone else is going to LOVE what I’m busy with, as much as I do.

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Of course, it could also have something to do with the fact that this is the time of year when the South African Writers’ Circle (SAWC) has a particular competition that I’ve always loved entering.

I joined the SAWC during 2007. Later that same year, I finished the wordy, meandering novel on which I had been working for almost four years, and submitted it to a publisher. Finally freed from the shackles of that novel, I began casting around for a new project. To my delight, I found that the SAWC’s November competition was for a synopsis and first chapter of a novel, so I set about turning another long-held idea into my second novel. I composed a synopsis for it, wrote the first chapter and submitted it.

It was awarded first place.

Thus began my end-of year pattern for the next few years. In due course, the First Chapter of a Novel competition moved from November to January of the following year. By January 2012 I had settled into a seasonal pattern. In the course of five competitions over five years, I entered the first chapters of six novels, three of which won first place, and the other three each won a placing in the top four.

I haven’t entered anything for the last three years, because I’ve been busy. Not just working on the novel that came third the last time I entered the competition, but busy with other things. Anyone who follows this blog regularly will know that I had a few small delays while packing up my life and moving to Australia, but now I’m firmly back on track.

The novel that’s been so long in the making is finally nearing completion after just a few months in Australia. I don’t want anyone to bust a lung holding their breath, but I am almost at the end of the ninth draft. Yes, it’s nearly done. Another paragraph or two to round up the final resolution, another read through, and it will be finished and on its way out into the world in time for the New Year.

At the end of January 2016 I hope to be free to enter my favourite SAWC competition again, with a totally new story. I have a lot of work to do before then.

Watch this space…

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