NaNoWriMo—Week 1

Last Year's Best Friend
Who else is trying NaNo? This year, I’m determined to “win” NaNo. Some sad family events made it impossible last year.

To get ready for inevitable interruptions to my writing schedule, I decided advance preparation was my best friend. So I spent some time plotting my novel. I got some help with my outline (some invaluable help that really my story to a great new level). I took a class on character creation and subplots. I thought I was ready.

Life has a way of getting in the way.

November 1 saw me sitting in an airport, on my way to Pittsburgh for my father’s 90th birthday. During a three hour layover, I was able to slog out 1700 words. It wasn’t easy, but I managed.

I repeated the exercise on the way back.

Finally, Day 3. I was sure I’d be able to get in lots of writing and the words would just flow. Nope. More slogging, putting one word at a time on the page. The story I was so excited about writing seemed to land on the page with a thump: dull and lame.

Day 4 was full of distractions. In the morning, my husband and I went to vote. We hadn’t counted on an hour and a half wait. In the afternoon, I had a doctor’s appointment.

But somehow these interruptions helped me. The words started to flow. New ideas for fleshing out my outline just came to mind and I couldn’t write fast enough to keep up with the creative flow.

Those are days when the writing is a joy in itself. When you have them, savor them, remember them, for they don’t come often.

As happened to me. Day 5 was another day when I had to pull the story out of my brain, like tugging a weed with deep roots out of dry soil. Still, by making a great effort, I’m at over 11,000 words, well ahead of NaNo pace.

I purposely got ahead for two reasons. One is I know November is full of distractions: several family birthdays, my wedding anniversary, and Thanksgiving. And those are just the ones I know about.

Secondly, I’m sure my novel will be more than 50,000 words. My plan is to keep pushing on into December until the draft is done. Since more holidays are coming up, I want to finish as early in the month as I can. We’ll see how this works out.

So what have I learned so far?

I’ve come to the conclusion that my first draft is basically what happened and who said what. Not a lot of detail, not so much on emotions or reactions, and very little setting detail. I do include these elements if they come to mind, but my priority is getting the bones of the story on the page. When I go back to edit, that’s when I’ll fill in all those things, refine the dialogue and help the reader see and feel what the characters do.

I wish I could capture all these elements on the first pass. But I don’t seem to be able to. What I have to remind myself is this is just a draft, and there’s no need to reach for perfection.

So I’m keeping my eyes on my goals: 50,000 words by the end of the November, and a finished draft before Christmas.

We’ll see how Week 2 goes!

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