November is National Novel Writing Month
The first time I tried my hand at NaNoWriMo was back in 2010. I had only recently discovered the opportunities for authors and writers offered on the internet, and had decided to try once more to make a go of writing, so I was exploring my options, but didn’t really know what I was doing as a writer at that point. And I had no idea how to go about writing a book, or how to go about writing a book very quickly, and I failed miserably.
Since then, I’ve put an M.F.A. and an M.A. under my belt in the creative writing arena, and so I gave it a second shot in November of 2022. I chose to write The Rock Star & the Outlaw, a western time-travel romance adventure. This time I was better prepared, with my project outlined and actually had a 21,000 word start before the writing challenge began. I also had recently read Booked to the Gills, by Aisley Oliphant, which offers strategies like time blocking and reserving out time for self-care in order to be easier to live with during the challenge, and prioritizing, and I was anxious to see if I could apply some of these strategies in my own writing. You can read my full “Review in Practice” here.
The challenge, for those who do not know, is to write 50,000 words in 30 days, which is no easy task. I figured if I succeeded, I would have a 71,000 word novel, but even if I didn’t complete it, I wouldn’t be far from a completed novel. What you’re about to read is a summary of my experience with the 2022 NaNoWriMo and what I learned from it.
- Time blocking – this was a strategy suggested by Aisley Oliphant in Booked to the Gills. It involves planning out your schedule and making blocks of time specifically dedicated to the writing of your story. It’s good advice, which is helpful in getting the story written in the allotted amount of time. I found that with my busy and unpredictable life, it was better for me to block out shorter time frames, sometimes only 15 minutes, to squeeze writing in between everything else. It was nice when I could dedicate a few hours to a stretch, of course, but that wasn’t possible every day, espesially days I had to work my day job. I tried blocking out writing times during different times during the day, and I didn’t hesitate to create an unscheduled block at three a.m. when I couldn’t sleep.
- Prioritze self-care – also highly suggested by Ms. Oliphant in order to maintain friendships and family during and following the challenge. Self-care should be a priority and not allotting time for tending mental, physical and spiritual needs can make one cranky and unbearable to be around. I made sure I took time out for personal pleasures, such as going out to dinner, allowing myself to clear my mind and gather my thoughts, along with all the other activities I have going on in my life. This was another reason that shorter time blocks seemed to work better for me.
- Get adaquet sleep – This is a necessity. While I could write into the wee hours of the morning when I was younger, I find that these days, I can barely stay awake past 10 p.m. I now find myself falling asleep at the keyboard. Also, I find that when I’m tired, my thoughts become muddled and I have difficulty focusing. This was another reason that I wasn’t very productive on days when I worked the day job.
- Be prepared – This one wasn’t a strategy offered up by Ms. Oliphant. This was one I learned on my own. Going into a writing challenge like this, with a 21,000 word head start, I assumed I was ready to do this. But on November 1, I realized that I should have matched up what I had written with my working outline. When I did that on the first day I found a couple of places where it didn’t match up, creating plot holes which needed fixing before I could move forward, so my whole first week was spent smoothing those out and it wasn’t until Day 8 that I was able to exceed the daily goal of 1,667. To truly succeed with the NANoWriMo challenge, I think it is important to be ready to hit the ground running.
- Choose a project you are passionate about – This may be the most important lesson for me, because I don’t think I would have done as well as I did, had I not been so exciting about writing this story. Inspired by the music of my favorite rock band, The Pretty Reckless and other artists, I had began writing this story two years prior, and was writing on it full speed ahead when I ran into a road block concerning music copyrights. But I never forgot about it. In fact, over the past year I came up with a work-around to my roadblock, so it was never far from my mind. Even two years later, pulling it out still stirred the excitement within me, and that’s how I knew this was the project I wanted to use for this challenge. To write prolifically, such as the 1,667 words per day required for this challenge, I believe one must have this passion for the project to be properly motivated.
There were good days, when I was able to exceed the daily word count, and there were days when I didn’t even come remotely close. Although I tried to clear my November schedule as much as possible, scheduling blog posts a month ahead of time, etc…, I still had to struggle through life’s trials, and go through the motions of daily life, making the blocking of writing time tricky at times. At the end of November, when all was said and done, I had a manuscript of 52,000 words, but I did not truly meet the challenge, because of my original 21,000 words. The NaNoWriMo gang congratuated me when I hit the 50,000 mark and gave me a winner’s certificate. My real word count at that point was 29,000 words, and I knew that, but I claimed the winner’s certificate anyway, because in my mind, I was a winner in my own challenge. I was walking away from this challenge 29,000 words closer to having a completed story, and I managed to bang out another 2,000 words before the month came to a close.
I kept working on the story through the month of December. Although I couldn’t dedicate as much time to it, as I prepared for the Kickstarter for Delilah in January, I finished off the month with 59,000, but the story still wasn’t finished. I hope to have the first draft done by the end of February. Of course, even then, it won’t be publish-worthy. It will need to have a first edit by me, then go to beta readers,then another editing pass by me with revisions, then to another set of eyes for an edit, then back for a last pass by me. The idea for NaNoWriMo wasn’t to produce a polished manuscript, but just to get the words down on the page. The polishing comes later. I’m estimating a release date for The Rock Star & the Outlaw toward the end of 2023.
For Kaye Lynne Booth, writing is a passion. Kaye Lynne is an author with published short fiction and poetry, both online and in print, including her short story collection, Last Call and Other Short Fiction; and her paranormal mystery novella, Hidden Secrets. Kaye holds a dual M.F.A. degree in Creative Writing with emphasis in genre fiction and screenwriting, and an M.A. in publishing. Kaye Lynne is the founder of WordCrafter Quality Writing & Author Services and WordCrafter Press. She also maintains an authors’ blog and website, Writing to be Read, where she publishes content of interest in the literary world.
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Booked to the Gills by Aisley Oliphant is designed to help those participating in the National Novel Writing Month challenge to write 50,000 words in thirty days. Many writers who would like to be more prolific may find the advice and strategies outlined in this book to be quite helpful. In fact, many of the time management tips, such as time blocking, can come in handy for any writer who juggles several projects along with a day job, and relationships with family and friends, and ‘me time’.
For many of us, that ‘ me time’ is what is forfeited when things get to hectic. And the author openly admits that she has not a fun person to be around during previous NaNoWriMo challenges. For others, relationships might be strained when family and friends are put on the back burner and writing takes the forefront. And the author openly admits that she has not been a fun person to be around during previous NaNoWriMo challenges. This book is packed full of strategies to salvage relationships and keep your sanity, while still cranking up the word count.
Topics which are covered include time management, setting boundaries, adjusting wordcounts, prioritizing…
I have mentioned before that I am not a prolific writer. Authors such as Kevin J. Anderson, who can crank out right or ten books in a year, totally blow me away. But in these pages are strategies which will certainly be useful in increasing my writing output and helping me be a more productive writer, as well as giving me organizational tools that will be helpful in managing the numerous writing and publishing projects which I always seem to have going.
I attempted the NaNoWriMo challenge once, back in 2010, and failed miserably. When I picked up this book, doing this challenge was the furthest thing from my mind, but thinking about putting some of the strategies in Booked to the Gills to the test, I’m thinking it might be worth another try this year.
Join Kaye Lynne Booth & WordCrafter Press Readers’ Group for WordCrafter Press book & event news, including the awesome releases of author Kaye Lynne Booth. Get a free digital copy of her short story collection, Last Call and Other Short Fiction, as a sampling of her works just for joining.