Future NaNoWriMo Advice: 2015 Edition

Last year, I wrote myself a few pieces of advice to follow to win this year’s NaNo. Funnily enough, I didn’t actually follow much of it, but I decided to write out the best lessons from this year for my 2016-NaNoing self (and anyone else who’s looking for some advice from a three-time-winning veteran!) Here we go!

1. Plan ahead of time, please.

This is a repeat from last year’s advice, but it’s true. Most of the time when I was struggling to come up with things to write, it was because I didn’t have any direction for where the scene was going. I like to let my characters drive the story, but when it becomes too character-driven, things start to lose direction in terms of the plot.

Next year, I should definitely try mapping out a few of the beginning scenes and scribbling a few notes each time I sit down to write. Aimless writing isn’t fun writing, and it’s a pain to edit later.

2. Build your NaNo spirit on the NaNoForums!

Another repeat from last year because it works! I love hanging out on the forums before NaNo and during while we’re all slowly losing our minds. I’m quite easily distracted, so I need to be careful not to browse too long. It’s a great source of motivation, though (as is the @NaNoWordSprints twitter!) Whether you’re in the mood to complain, despair, celebrate, or laugh about your weird Googles (my weirdest from this year was ‘lunar cycles in 1977’) the forums have you covered!

3. Get ahead and stay ahead.

The first few days of November, I actually managed to write a few thousand more words than I needed to. Those words carried me through some of the busyness of the month, and they really helped me. If I can do the same thing next year, I’ll be set to win even earlier! Starting out ahead and then writing nearly every day, even if I only got in a couple hundred words, kept my enthusiasm and excitement higher and my stress levels lower. Getting ahead early on will be key to ensuring victory!

4. Pick a project you’re excited about.

This was my downfall in NaNos 2012 and 2013–I wasn’t passionate enough about my characters or projects. Honestly, it was the same in 2014, too, but I managed to slog through painfully. This year was so different because, even though I felt like I was copping out to write fanfiction, I was actually excited about writing it! I learned what I valued most in writing by discovering that I’d not had it in NaNos past. Deep characters and well-though-out plots and settings are what I love the most, and fanfiction gave me the opportunity to explore these elements that had already been laid out for me.

5. Find a way to keep it new.

This year I had my first ever 6k day (nearly 6.5!) I have in part to thank the folks over at 750words.com. I found their site five days or so before NaNo was over, but I couldn’t get enough. The cool stats at the end of the day? The simple layout? The badges? I was hooked! That new interface really changed things for me at the end. I excitedly pounded out another 1,000 words using the site, and then another.

Some people really like things to stay the same: write 500 words every morning before breakfast, drink some morning coffee, go to work, write a few more words, then do it again. For me, though, I like a little bit of spontaneity and excitement to keep me interested. At the end of the month it was a new word processor. Other times, it’s been Scrivener, a new music playlist, or an entertaining word crawl. Finding new things to keep me going was vital this year, and it’s something I know will be incredibly valuable this coming year as I try to stay motivated–for NaNo and for just trying to write every day!

NaNo2015 Final Graph

Compared to last year, I did so much better. I stayed mostly on track, wrote almost every day, and even managed a 6k day to finish early! Looking at all those crazy people in the Beyond 50k forums, though, I know I can push myself next year to barrel past this year’s record.

What tips would you give yourself or someone else for doing NaNo better next year? Leave your thoughts in the comments below! You might just help someone out. 🙂

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NaNoWriMo 2015: The Writer’s Journey

Anyone who’s done multiple NaNoWriMos knows that every year is different from the last.

Last year, I stayed behind on my word count, writing 20k in the last week to frantically catch up and finish on a nice Sunday afternoon.

This year, I stayed caught up until the middle of the month, slipped behind a bit, and caught up over the Thanksgiving long weekend with turkey and tea in Christmas mugs! (Our house is now decorated nicely for Christmas, and I couldn’t be happier!)

That’s the great thing about NaNo: every year it’s a journey, and every year it’s new and exciting. A new project, a new writing pattern, a new enthusiasm – for people who need a little change every once in a while (like me!) NaNo is the kick in the pants we need to jump start our writing into the new year!

My journey this year was an interesting one. You can see a lot of the highlights in the progress graph:

NaNo2015 Final Graph

I maintained my enthusiasm until around day 17 before I fell behind–and it never got as disastrous as my previous attempts (writing 20k in 5 days, anyone?) I also finished early this year, which is another huge first for me! I’m hoping to add another few thousand to my word count (if my tingling fingers don’t kill me, of course) before the month is over.

One thing I did differently this year was switch stories about 10,000 words in. I began with a fanfiction story I’ve been meaning to finish for about two years now. Unfortunately, it got very old very fast. Me from two years ago had failed to come up with a good motive or plan for the villain, and I began to realize just how terrible the plot was–so I switched over to my second project earlier than I’d planned and fell in love with it. Enthusiasm is one third of the equation of a hefty word count, and though there were still some rough patches, I fell in love with the characters and the story during the month, and I actually plan on touching it after November is over and finishing it, for a change!

And now, for a good and proper reflection, I’d better see if I followed my own advice from last year’s post-NaNo blog post:

1. Write every night, and forfeit your health a little if you need to.

Ah, well, I did stay up a little later occasionally; but I actually found it wasn’t 100% necessary. The only reason past!me recommended this is because I fell behind crazy early and was floundering to catch up. I stayed on target for the most part this year, so late nights weren’t needed! Hooray!

2. Write or Die. Enough said.

Actually… I didn’t use Write or Die at all this month! Huh.

What I did use, though, were a number of other handy resources: namely, Scrivener’s full-screen function and, for the last 3 days, 750words.com. One of my favorite bloggers, Thomas Frank came out with a video about his favorite writing applications. 750words was on there, and as soon as I started using it, I was hooked! I wrote so much with it that today I even surpassed its 5k word limit for non-members. I know what I’ll be asking for this Christmas…

3. Plan ahead of time, please.

This was the bit I struggled with again this year! I planned much more than last year, but I still found myself writing pointless filler scenes trying to figure out what to do next. The balance between letting my characters drive the story and making sure the plot happens is a tricky one to manage.

4. Write regularly outside of NaNo.

Did I write much after November? Well, I wrote more. But not much. *sigh* I’ll be adding this one to my NaNo 2016 advice post…

5. Build your NaNo spirit on the NaNoForums!

Finally, a piece of advice I actually followed! The forums were awesome as usual. I made some great friends and got some awesome advice there this year. SpaceFlowers, I’m lookin’ at you! 😉 The “Get Your Butt Kicked Here” thread and the fanfiction forums were the most motivating this year. Gotta love fellow fic authors and a good kick in the pants when you need one!

This year has come to a close, and it’s bitter sweet. I’m incredibly busy in the following weeks, and I’ll be glad to have the extra stress off my plate… but I’ll really miss the community and the excitement of word sprints and updating my word count. I think nearly everyone feels this way at the end of the month; it’s a relief, but it’s also sad.

Congratulations, winners; and be proud, those of you who haven’t quite made it–you’ve got more words than you did before, and that’s the whole reason NaNo exists!

See you all next year!

NaNo Update: Nearly 20k Words in!

It’s 10 days into November, and not only am I on track, I’m actually ahead!

I can’t recall a single NaNo that I have ever managed to remain caught up and in fact be ahead at this point in the journey. If you’re curious about how previous NaNos have gone, here’s last year’s graph outlining the chaos:

glass princess stats INSPIRE

I stayed behind on word count from day 2 and wrote 10k words in three days to catch up at the end…

Without words, this graph expresses the insanity that was the last three days of NaNo! I’d pretty much given up by day 20 (you can see where I went days without writing anything) and managed to pull through just in the nick of time.

Here’s my graph for today (so far):

in progress nano 2015

So far I’ve fallen behind twice (by a measly few hundred words or so.) YAY!

I’m so, so excited! This is my busiest, craziest November ever, and somehow I’m managing to write faster than ever! It’s only going to go downhill from here, I think, because this year I’m rebelling–I’ve just started a second, brand-new project that’s turning out really, really awesome. So far I’ve written 8k of it in just a few days, so I have a feeling it’ll boost my word count significantly. My goal by the end of today (which is a convenient school holiday!) is 20k, so on to more word wars and sprints!

If you’re doing NaNoWriMo, how are you doing this year? Is it going better than you’d hoped, or has NaNo eaten your soul? 🙂 Keep going, even if you’re not winning! Every word you write is one more that you wouldn’t have without NaNo. I know you can do it!

Psst! You can find me on the NaNo website under the username NightWings. Feel free to add me as a buddy!

How to Win NaNoWriMo: An Unofficial Guide

Would you believe that every November thousands of writers around the world sit down and type out approximately 53 AP English essays—or 160 pages—in length of fiction? National Novel Writing Month, usually shortened to NaNoWriMo (or simply NaNo), has been a 30-day writing-intensive event since 1999. Its challenge is simple: write 50,000 words of fiction in the month of November. At the end of the month, winners walk home with 50,000 more words of a manuscript than before and a certificate to hang on their wall; many, though, don’t finish and walk away defeated. The challenge itself sounds simple: just write. That simplicity, however, hides the more complex truth that winning the challenge isn’t just about your typing speed—it’s about preparation, motivation, time management, and willpower. With the right mentality, any writer can cross the 50k finish line! Continue reading

Advice to My Future NaNo-ing Self

Before you ask: yes, I won! I hit 50,042 words (with the NaNo word validator–Scrivener says 50,073) today at about 5:30 pm. SO much earlier than the 10 and 11 pm sprints I’ve made during 2011 and Camp 2013. I’m up a little late typing up this blog, but… this is fun. Not stressful.

As I was flying towards the finish line, stumbling over pretty pathetic prose, wishing it could be over–I started to think of some advice I would give to myself for next year’s NaNo. I’ll have the same crazy schedule revolving around my drama troop for most of the time, the same stress and work level (perhaps a bit more since I’ll be a junior). Next year will be the first year I’ve attempted NaNo one year right after winning another. I didn’t do much for NaNo 2012 (I may have plotted something and written a few hundred words, but I certainly didn’t get past the first couple of days), so this time I’ll have some fresher memories under my belt. However, I know I’ll need some help along the way. So here’s my advice for next year’s NaNo–and for you, if you’re wondering if anyone has some advice for you. It’s advice for everyone! Continue reading

Day 29 Burnout

It’s the second-to-last day of National Novel Writing Month (or NaNoWriMo), and I have 6,244 words left before I hit 50,000.

As you may have seen in my previous post, I’m quite the procrastinator. I spent part of today changing the blog’s theme to a Christmas one and sifting through the settings and other unimportant things. I’m allowing myself to peruse the NaNo Forums and chat with other people who are also behind (and some who’ve hit the quarter-million mark: 250,000 words. How and why.) I feel the exhaustion slipping in, even as I can see the finish line, others in my NaNoWriMo Malaysia Facebook group posting their winner’s certificates, my wordcount chart climb steadily higher. Continue reading

Just a NaNoWriMo Procrastination Project

Hello there!

Currently, I’m on day 28 of NaNoWriMo, and I’ve got about 10,400 more words to write in three days. So what am I doing? Creating a WordPress blog. I don’t know how many blogs I have, stacking up all my Tumblogs, Blogger things, and now this. At least this one is a shiny, official one with my name as the URL! Also, WordPress blogs tend to look slicker than Blogger blogs or Tumblr layouts.

I’m struggling getting the words out on the page in my last attempts to win the beautiful NaNo 2014 winner’s shirt with a dragon and knight. I need that shirt. It calls to me from the depths of the writing abyss from which I am being dragged away from. If I can only get in another 1,000…

A happy belated Thanksgiving to anyone reading this! Now, to get back to writing after an hour’s detour. 😛