NaNo Report – Week One


As many of you know, I’ve committed to doing NaNo this month and so I thought I’d just write a little post about how it’s going, my thoughts and accomplishments (such as they are.)

Jonesing during the lead-in

First, since I had finished the previous book a few days early, I was without a creative writing project for a few days. This was very odd because I have essentially written pretty much non-stop for the last two years. I felt like I did when I quit smoking. Anxious, nervous, worried. But I vowed I was saving this book for NaNo, so I managed to stave off getting my fix for those few days and caught up on some reading. Wrote a few reviews. And got a little sleep.

How many words?

The night before the start of NaNo I couldn’t sleep (also day of the change back from daylight savings time which didn’t help any) and got up at 5:30 a.m. I knocked out about 4,500 words on the first day. I guess because I had a few days of jonesing leading into it.

Naturally, I got so jazzed about that, I figured I’d knock out that kind of production every day. But well, no, didn’t happen. Although, I’m averaging about 2,700 words a day which will definitely keep me on target.

As of today I’ve written 19,343 words. Before you get impressed or anything about it, realize that most of those words will never reach another person’s eyes because… You know? It’s a first draft. And it’s possible this is the butt ugliest first draft I’ve ever written. Still, I am tooling along and hope that the remaining three weeks go as well. Especially since my total word count will be more like 80,000 not 50,000.

The writer connection

One of the reasons I decided to write this book during NaNo was because I thought it would be a good idea to connect up with other writers, get involved in some other writerly activities and so forth. But oddly, I’m finding that not only do I not have time for most of that – it just isn’t my nature to write with the herd. I thought I might try a couple write-ins but I’m thinking I’ll pass.

I have made a couple of writing buddies and we chat a bit, and have agreed to be there for each other for support. Which is nice. And it is nice to meet a couple of other writers who are pursuing the same goal I am.

Best lesson

The most interesting thing to me is that all the motivation that gets talked about during NaNo and that people experience doesn’t seem to be affecting me one way or the other. And I think it’s because I’ve been sort of doing my own self imposed NaNo for quite a while now. So external motivation has little if anything to do with it. The good thing about that, for me, is that I’ve realized that somewhere in the last couple of years I’ve developed real discipline in my writing. And that I write no matter how I’m feeling, whether I’m sick or well, happy or sad, busy or have lots of free time. And that alone was worth joining in with the bagillions of other writers out there in the NaNo mode.

What about you guys? How’s NaNo going for you? Keeping up with the pack? Getting ahead? Falling behind? Given up? Can’t get your internal editor to shut the hell up? Let me know how it’s going in the comments.

In the meantime, write on, brotha’s and sistahs.

The seven best things about first drafts


With the kickoff of NaNo this month, first drafts are on a lot of writer’s minds. Or at least they should be. Much as any writer would like to believe they could write an awesome book on the first run through, most of us know that such a feat is pretty much impossible. Although secretly, I think we all fantasize that we will someday achieve perfection on that first run-through. And maybe someday, it could happen. But in the meantime, there’s lots to love about a first draft, and I give you my list:

1. Freedom. You’ll experience the most freedom in your story during your first draft. You’re in that zone of just getting the darn thing down on paper. There is no time for editing, second guessing, or judging. You have to get it while it’s hot. Rules, internal editor, judgy people be damned.

2. No fashion requirements. While there are many adjectives used to describe first drafts, the most popular are ugly and/or sloppy. The dialogue is awkward, the characters are bi-polar and inconsistent, typos, misspellings, punctuation is cursory, and locations change mid-story. There isn’t time to pretty it up, give it a shower and shave, and pick out an appropriate outfit. Yes, your first draft is dressed in ratty sweats and has its dirty hair pulled up in a ponytail – but since nobody sees it, that’s okay.

3. Judgment free. Except for you, (possibly) no one will judge your first draft. Because it’s so ugly the very thought of showing anyone mortifies you. And during the draft, the only critic of the work is you. Tip: try not to judge, adopt the attitude that you’re free at this point to write any darn thing you want. The judging and editing comes later.

4. The discovery zone. The first draft is where you discover things. If you outline, you may discover that all your carefully crafted ideas don’t translate once you start putting them down on paper. Or that a character name is wrong. Or there is a completely new character that you never thought of, rearing its pretty little head. For me, the first draft is where I discover the story and the characters. I go in with an idea and finish with sometimes surprising and delightful new directions.

5. Rule free. There are lots of rules in the game of writing. Sentence structure, punctuation, correct spelling, plotting – blah, blah, blah, blah. When writing a first draft you can ignore the rules. Love fragments? Go crazy? Want your character to snarl with obscenities throughout? Go ahead, nobody’s watching. Take things over the top and to the edge. Editing will handle any mis-steps. For now, throw open your literary arms and embrace whatever comes into your deviant little head.

6. Nothing is written in stone. A first draft is like an exploratory mission. You go in with goals of what you want to achieve but those goals are predicated on what you’ll find. And subject to change. You’ll write scenes that may not end up in the final draft. You’ll kill characters you didn’t expect to. Or characters will appear out of thin air, like rare alien flowers you didn’t know existed. Even if you’re an outliner as opposed to a pantster, you may find that things you never thought of pop up. It’s fine. Just keep going. You can make all the missteps you want. That’s what erasers and delete buttons were made for, right?

7. Characters make themselves known. No matter how much time you spend on writing character profiles, or how many facts you know about your characters, they will still surprise you. Once they’ve taken their first breath, they start to show you who they are, what they believe and how they feel about things – even the story you’ve put them in. You will try to insist that they walk down a certain path only to find they absolutely refuse. They have minds and motivations of their own. And you may find, you’re simply following them and writing down what they do, rather than leading them and putting words in their mouths.

First drafts are loud, rowdy, have lousy hygiene and possess no social graces. They’re like that crazy friend you met in sophomore gym class who brought out the crazy in you. And you liked it. Embrace the draft, go where it leads you and worry about bail money, explaining things to the authorities and fixing the flat tire later. Have fun.

How about you? Do you love first drafts or hate them? Are they fun or drudgery? What do you think is the best thing about first drafts? Feel free to regale or damn first drafts in the comments below.

All NaNo All the Time


National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is quickly approaching and since I’m participating this year, it’s on my mind. So, I’ve gathered up some good posts that give tips, tricks and methods for surviving NaNo. If you want to join in the insanity, you can sign up here.

And now for the secrets of the NaNo universe:

The Glorious Insanity that is Nanowrimo

Getting Ready for NaNoWriMo

NaNoWriMo Prep: 30 Tips for Writing a Book in 30 Days

5 Tips for #NaNoWriMo I’ve Learned from My 464-Day Writing Streak

How to Survive NaNoWriMo: Tricks, Tools and Tips

And as a bonus I’ll throw in my tips:

  1. NaNo is not about completing a totally polished, ready for publication novel. It is about (at best) completing a first draft of a hopefully future totally polished, ready for publication novel.
  2. First drafts are butt ugly. They have typos, they have crude dialogue, undeveloped characters and subplots that meander and get lost in Cleveland. This is okay. This is how first drafts are.
  3. Editing, revising, and rewriting comes after NaNo
  4. Your competition is you and you alone, the other participants are not competing with you.
  5. There are no losers in NaNo. You give it your best shot, improve your discipline and resolve. If you  hit that 50,000 word mark. Bravo. If you hit something less, bravo! The win is in the words, not the count.
  6. Have fun. Challenge yourself. And who knows, you might end up with a butt ugly first draft that you can then skillfully mold into a great reading experience for total strangers who may even pay you money for the pleasure.

Have fun!


Ugly pies and the first draft of your novel

first draft of novelSo last weekend, I wanted something sweet.  But the cupboard was bare and the piggy bank was empty, so I had to think on it a spell.  By and by I remembered I had some blueberries in the freezer and possibly enough flour to make crust.

Gotta love the Internet because I hopped on and looked for recipes that even I couldn’t screw up – or so I thought.  Anyway…the above picture is a pretty good depiction of what I ended up with.  Well, actually it didn’t even look that good.

But as they say from my hometown, “pie is pie, and you don’t waste pie.”  So, we ate it.

Was it the best pie in the world?  Not even close.  Was it the worst pie in the world?  No.  And even though Gordon Ramsey would definitely send me home from Master Chef if I turned in a pie like that – we didn’t waste it.  And it had a very short life because it was gone in less than 24 hours.

So, what does my ugly pie have to do with a first draft?

Actually, first drafts of novels are a lot like ugly pies, because they:

  • Are less than perfect on technique
  • Are sometimes one big hot mess
  • Don’t look the way they ought to
  • Have some cracks and fissures that shouldn’t be there
  • Aren’t competition worthy
  • Are uneven and patchy

However, an ugly pie can still taste good and so can your first draft.

The thing about first drafts is that they aren’t supposed to be perfectly written works of art.  They are the beginning.  The starting point.  They are the uncensored passion you felt for the story when you got the idea.

First drafts are that rush of words that sprang from you fingers as they flew across the keyboard.  The whacky characters and crazy dialogue that bubbled out of the cracks.  The tempest that burst out of the tea pot.  The embryo of what will someday be your fully formed and matured story.

So give yourself a break – play with the recipe

To me, the whole idea of a first draft is about giving yourself permission to do anything and everything with your story.  It’s the time you can put in the scene that you know you’ll probably have to cut later.  The time when your characters get to tell too many jokes.  When your villain practically has Bugs Bunny pointing at him with the big arrow.  The broad strokes if you will.

Every writer is different.  Some outline, some don’t.  Some try to write a first draft and edit at the same time and go Cray Cray, but most don’t.  Some write several drafts and some feel they have it right on the third draft.  But it’s a process and you don’t have to rush it.  It’s your process, only you know when your pie will be perfect, but in the meantime, I say enjoy every morsel.

What’s your process?  Made any ugly pies lately?

Writer Chick

Copyright 2013