A twist on #NaNoWriMo

FullSizeRenderOver the past two years, I have participated in National Novel Writing Month, which involves writing a 50,000 word novel during the 30 days of November. This is roughly 1700 words a day. I didn’t find the process all that challenging, but I have a big advantage there: I did not need to squeeze my writing around another job. I just took on slightly fewer professional writing projects during November, and carved out 60-90 minutes daily to write what I had to write.

A key component of NaNoWriMo (as the kids call it these days) is that the novel need not be good. It can be downright awful. I obliged! But I actually want to do something with the novel draft I wrote in November 2015 (ideally, publishing it by the end of 2017).

So, I am doing a twist on NaNoWriMo. I am committing to edit my manuscript intensely for at least 90 minutes daily during November. At the end of the month, I want something I could actually get reader feedback on.

We are only one day into November, but so far so good. I got through the first 6000 words, roughly (the manuscript is 60k words — I suspect it will be about 75-80k when I am done). Of course, I knew as I was flying through that segment that these were probably the best 6000 words in the novel. The lifting will get much heavier as I go. There are whole chunks that have notes like SOMETHING BIG HAPPENS HERE. I should probably figure out what those crucial plot points should be.

In any case, if any readers are participating in NaNoWriMo, I would love to hear about it! And if you want an accountability partner to keep you going, let me know. As always, you can reach me at lvanderkam at yahoo dot com.

In other news: Interested in my fiction? Please check out my novel, The Cortlandt Boys, which is available as an ebook from Amazon, BN.com and elsewhere. It is not about productivity. It is about a high school boys basketball team that wins the state championship on an unlikely, last second 3-point shot, then sees the ramifications of that lucky break play out over the next two decades, forever linking them to their little town that has its ways of refusing to let you go. That said, if you read my time management books and liked my writing style, the novel is by far the best thing I have ever written. Thanks for giving it a read.

27 thoughts on “A twist on #NaNoWriMo

  1. I am not one for monthly challenges (Our Whole 30 turned out to be a Whole 4) but I am tangentially participating in NaNoWriMo this year. Most of my day to day involves managing my business, but I’m committed to carving out 60 minutes each day to write a big project I’ve had percolating since Easter. It’s not a novel, and I may not finish it in November, but I will make significant progress.

  2. I’m in the final stages of my PhD and need to be cutting words rather than adding them so for AcWriMo, I’m aiming for 90 minutes of focused editing time every morning. Fell a bit short today with teaching but spending this evening clearing the decks for a big editing session first thing tomorrow am.

  3. I used NaNoWriMo in exactly the same way for a re-write of a mystery a number of years ago, so the word count I sent to my accountability partner each day was the word count for however long a section I’d edited each day. This varied considerably from day to day, depending on how much re-writing the section du jour needed, but I did get all the way through it–and then sent it out for feedback on the Dickensian installment plan, which I also highly recommend, especially for mysteries, as what most concerned me was the pacing and the progress of readers’ suspicions, so sending out chapters for feedback serially enabled me to monitor this in real reading time.

  4. I have the same plan for NaNoWriMo, except the novel I’m revising is one I spent 3 years (!) drafting. I just spent 6 months pretty much rewriting the first third, but it’s going much faster now — it’s amazing how much better I got after three years’ practice 🙂 I just want to find — and stick to — a daily fiction writing habit, wherever it fits around my day job/kids. A 2,000-wd blog post on See also cross references is a different animal from 2,000 wds of fiction (there’s surprisingly a lot to say about cross references!).

    1. @Meghan – it’s probably that you get better at writing AND that the draft gets better the more you work at it. I feel like there’s often things even the writer can’t see or understand the first time through, and you get a better sense for the layers later.

  5. I’m lightly participating in NaNoWriMo, in between last-minute tasks for my wedding in ten days (!). Just for fun, as I can work it in. I actually think having other activities like this helps me get more done. Along those lines I’ve been training for a half marathon, which I’ll run on Sunday–it kept me calm, made me exercise regularly, and gave me something else to focus on besides the wedding.

      1. Hi Laura,
        Real life and and accident intervened in my nanowrimo plans. I’m currently doing physical therapy for a shoulder injury so Nanowrimo is just not going to happen this year.

  6. I’m so excited to participate for the first time this year! I have 6 chapters of a middle grade novel finished and my goal is to write a scene (approx 1000 words) each day. So far so good.

  7. I’m doing NaNoWriMo this year for the first time, and it’s an extra challenge because I’m trying to do it with a newborn (my daughter was born less than 2 weeks ago). Luckily, she’s a decent sleeper, so it’s working well so far (4,500 words in the first 2 days). I’ll look forward to hearing how your twist on this challenge goes! Also, I’m glad this post reminded me to read the Cortlandt Boys again. I haven’t read it since I was your beta reader, and I’m interested to see how it changed. That novel started during NaNoWriMo, didn’t it?

    1. @Leanne- it was sort of a NaNoWriMo novel, but worked on over many years. Congrats on your baby- and starting your book! The Cortlandt Boys changed a reasonable amount since the beta stage but not in its overall plot.

  8. (I’ve read your blog for months now, thanks to RSS feeds, but this is the first time that I’ve commented.)

    Best of luck editing your manuscript, Laura; it’s a neat way to participate in NaNoWriMo. I laughed when reading how you use “SOMETHING BIG HAPPENS HERE” placeholders; I do something similar when I’m focused on writing dialog and I don’t want to slow my writing pace by writing description.

    This year is my third time participating in NaNoWriMo. Last year, I didn’t reach the 50,000 word goal (as I did in 2009) because work and family responsibilities just became too much. Now, I’m trying to reach the daily word count while working full time, being mom to 5 (ages 3-12), and expecting #6 in late January. I use what little “me” time I have to write. 🙂 Back to my story!

    1. @Robin- thanks so much for de-lurking and commenting! I can imagine that work and family responsibilities might get in the way if you have 5 (almost 6!) kids and a full time job. Phew. I would love to see your time log some time to see “how she does it.”

      1. You’re welcome, Laura!
        So far I’m only a few hundred words off of the pace for the total word count so far for 9 days of NaNoWriMo. I’m not worried; I have plenty of ideas, and I hope that I get some time this weekend to make up the word count difference.
        I added a line to my task list to transcribe my time log–I usually write on paper & use my own shorthand, so I need to take time to type it in full words–and then send it to you. 🙂
        How is your editing coming?

        1. @Robin- going great! I’ve stuck with doing at least 90 minutes/day. I’m about halfway through – though there’s much additional editing work to be done. 20 days to get through the manuscript then another 10 days to do another major clean up.

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