Posts Tagged ‘nanowrimo’

To Whom It May Concern,

Enclosed please find my NaNoWriMo after-action report. Please be advised that this AAR is a summary document of an ongoing project and may be reassessed upon future review.

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Project: NaNoWriMo 2021, Modified Edition (a.k.a. NaYes, a.k.a. NaNoFinMo)

Overview, or The NaNo Plan-Mo

  • Goal, Part 1: Plan a story
  • Did I do this? Yes!
  • Goal, Part 2: Let’s just focus on Part 1, shall we?

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Looking back, how did it go?

  • After years of NaNo pantsing,* was planning the story a good idea? Yes, to a point. It got me out of being stuck mid-month, but then I went a little overboard and realized that I was probably planning myself into a corner. Backing off, making sure I had a solid foundation under the piece, getting inside the heads of my characters, that made the most sense. (And that wasn’t always easy. One of the characters is an alien space mouse.)
  • Was I efficient? Not so much. Taking the word count pressure off was great in many ways, but also allowed me to spend too long vacillating about which awesome idea was the most awesome of all the awesomes. And then writing, backtracking, and writing some more. Not helpful.
  • Was I creative? Yes. See the aforementioned space mouse.
  • Did I accomplish more than a big fat zero? I did!
  • I began the month writing countable words and considered putting out enough verbiage to qualify for the formal challenge. This option was rejected because 50,000 words to no apparent purpose? No thanks!

Notes on the process, using previous related posts and their goals as guides:

NaNo or NaYes?

Yes, I took on the challenge. Go me.


No, I did not actually finish said story. And yes, I will expect this fact to be reflected in my end-of-year bonus package. No need to remind me.

I’m Doing It Again

I am happy to report that I fixed the stopping and restarting problem, picked one idea and rolled with it for the rest of the month.

About halfway through the month I decided that project parameters be damned, I really didn’t care about the word count. At all. What I wanted was a platform to act as a springboard for next steps. So that’s what I did.

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Recommendations & Action Items**

What would I change for next time?

  • Skip the prep reading; it was helpful but now I’ve crossed it off my list.
  • Go faster, not spend the whole month on one idea, develop more stories, spend more time noodling, more wandering the neighborhood thinking up fun stuff.
  • I considered a reading hiatus but then all my library books arrived and I just didn’t want to, frankly. Probably would have helped, though!
  • Make December the official followup month, where actual writing shall occur.

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In Conclusion!

Experimental or not, this year’s NaNoWriMo actually went pretty well. My main takeaway is not to stress very much. Or at all. I’m much more productive when I’m having fun.

Because I didn’t bother with the 50,000 words I didn’t count this NaNo as a “win” in the formal sense. I do count it as a win in the “getting things done my own dang way, thanks very much” sense, so yay. 

I may be the only one in this particular race, but still. I win!

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* A guide to NaNoWriMo strategies, including pantsing. I suppose you could say I’m a “plantser” at this point, but really, that’s a pretty terrible word.

** I just wanted to say “action items” because it’s ridiculous and fun.

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Hey hey, dispatch from the NaNo mines here, and I’m sorry to say that I may be a tiny bit stuck at the moment.

I don’t want you to think that my projects are always a breeze so full disclosure, we’re talking stuck as in deep underground trapped between a boulder leftover from the Pleistocene and a jagged hole leading onto a tiny ledge winding down into darkness, from which I can just hear a river rushing over the sound of war chants echoing through the uncharted cave system in which I find myself trapped for all eternity!


I keep starting and restarting my project, which is a problem I have sometimes. NaNoWriMo’s word count is a tool to get beyond that issue, but my goal for this month is not just writing but finishing. So yeah. It’s time for more thinking, prepping, checking to see how my favorite authors did it, reworking my whole premise, stalling doing.

The good news is that I’ve noticed there’s a problem and now I can fix it. Go me:)

There’s a light at the end of every tunnel, even if you have to turn around to see it.

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Really, it’s fine. Photo by Daniel Burka on Unsplash

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I like NaNoWriMo for a lot of reasons. It provides a useful set of constraints, a deadline, and a global group of fellow travelers with which to share the journey. It’s also completely bonkers, in a good way. I remember the sheer sense of glee when I realized that I could actually produce that many words in that short a time.

First question: Can I churn out 50,000 words in a month? Yes, yes I can. Go me.*

Next question, and one that most NaNo participants come up against as the first flush of success fades: Do those words mean anything? Are they useful?

In my case, and no surprise here, the first draft was not 100% terrible but certainly needed work. Writing to a tight deadline with a high word count left me, at least, with the sort of prose I don’t usually write in fiction.

  • Contractions? Nope, they only counted as one word, and why write one word when you can use two?
  • Blah blah blah descriptions that were far wordier than necessary? Absolutely.
  • Unnecessary plot detours? Oh yes. Have my character stop off at a roadside ice cream stand and discuss the relative merits of lemon lavender versus pomegranate basil flavors on the way to the dramatic shootout? Sure, if it helps me meet my word count target.

That part of NaNoWriMo wasn’t as helpful to me. This year, I’m rewriting the rules.

  • I know I can write a lot of words on demand. Check.
  • I know I can write every day. Check.
  • I don’t need more of that. What I want to practice now is finishing.

So this November I’m being a bit of a NaNo radical. Word count is not my focus. I’ve chosen one story idea and will work on it until it’s done. That’s it.**

The end:)

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Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

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* I bet you could do it too. Need a pep talk? Check out the NaNoWriMo archives.

** I may or may not also be participating in an imaginary mentorship program with Ilona Andrews. Because what good is imagination if it can’t take you where you want to go?

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It’s been a while since I used November for its true purpose, which is (of course) writing a novel in 30 days.

Is it time?

I think it might be time:)

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Photo by Arash Asghari on Unsplash

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So, November.

Yeah. Like that.

November is (of course!) National Novel Writing Month. I’ve taken part for the past however many years, and it has been fun. I laugh, I write, I cry, I win. Then I collapse in a mostly useless heap for the next many weeks. The holidays don’t help post-NaNo productivity, of course, but I don’t know that a draining push to write write write write does either. I’m looking for sustainable output.

I’m also distracted this year. As mentioned, I’ve taken up woodworking and it’s fun. I like the challenge, I like the creativity and idea generation, the inevitable roadblocks, problem-solving, and the triumphant conclusion.

It’s a lot like writing, actually, only with more finished product and results that don’t depend on the vagaries of editorial preference.

So this November, I decided to do something a little different. Instead of NaNoWriMo, I opted for NaNoMakeMo.

Me, one month, making stuff, with the definition of “stuff” being flexible. Words, wood, whatever. I’m one of those people who can be well and truly stuck on one project but super productive on another. As long as I’m working on whatever my secret brain wants to pay attention to, much gets done.

I decided to use this quirk to my advantage. It’s a classic productivity trick called structured procrastination. I may have mentioned it here before.

The first rule is there are no rules.

Write, turn, bake, sew, whatever. The goal is what’s important, not how to get there, and for November the goal was simple: Make more stuff.

I pulled on my big girl work clothes and got to it.

/insert 30 days of work work work work work.
/ok, fine, I didn’t work all 30 days
/some days I sat inside by the fire and read, because winter and cold and snow, people!

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So how did the first inaugural NaNoMakeMo go?

My original plan was to post updates (with photos and witty commentary even!) as I went along, sharing each and every project through the twists and turns of the creative process. When that didn’t happen, I decided to make an awesome advent calendar-style image map linking all of the awesome into one aesthetically-pleasing package.

Yeah, that didn’t work out. Images and updates take time. Thinking about how to frame a project takes time. Stepping back from the desk or workbench or computer takes time and also the sort of mental space I don’t always have when I’m mid-stream. And the interweb informs me that image maps have been out of style Like For Ever.

Too bad, I was going to use this fun image. It pretty much sums up my month.

Instead you get this uber post. Also, I made this list.

(Yes, that’s my list handwriting. It is both teeny tiny and impossible to read, or so I’ve been told. I have no trouble with it at all. Let me just get a magnifying glass;)*

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So how did it go? Pretty well, actually.

I got a lot done on a lot of different projects, which I find very satisfying. Rather than feel I’ve ignored much of life in order to focus on one dimension, writing, I’ve made progress on multiple fronts.

For evidence of same, please see Exhibit A (note: some projects have been excluded in the interest of maintaining holiday-related surprises;)

I made things, I broke things, I learned more about what to do and what not. Yay:)

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What would I change? Next time I might plan a bit more. Fifty thousand words is a little nuts but having a target helps your aim, you know? Goals and also alternatives, for when the old attention span is minimal and absolutely everything looks interesting except the work on the desk. Maybe I’ll list the different possibilities on little pieces of paper and keep them in a jar for when I need to pull out a new project.

(Teeny tiny lists on teeny tiny scraps of paper, in a Swedish glass jar. Because that’s how I roll, and if there’s one benefit to the passing years, it’s figuring out new ways to work around my own crazy:)

In sum: NaNoMakeMo may be a less dramatic way to approach creativity than NaNoWriMo but it’s also, at least for me, more sustainable. And in the end, a productive, constructive life is the true goal.

And so I declare the inaugural NaNoMakeMo a pretty not-bad success. Here’s hoping you enjoyed your month too!

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* The point usually isn’t the reading. It’s about thinking, and the process of sketching out an idea or problem helps me think it through. I find that works best when I’m scribbling on the back of some envelope, or a scrap bit of paper or the corner of a random flyer. Who says no one uses the mail anymore?

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It’s November. Days are cold and nights are frosty. The cat wants in. And out. And back in again. It’s also the time of year for NaNoWriMo.

Yep, I’m doing it! My plan is to win (because of course) but most importantly, my goal is to get back on the regular-everyday-seriously-stop messing around writing train, and to practice a select number of specific writing skills. I haven’t gotten around to updating my official NaNo information, but I am working industriously away, so double handful of yay there.

Right now it looks as though the story I’m working on will involve superheroes and science fiction, but you just never know when a story will take a left turn. Will there be elves in the closet? Magic cotton candy machines? Or a secret bio lab planning to doom us all?!? One never knows:)

As I’ve mentioned in years past, I tend to be a pantser who heads to the keyboard and tackles the project head on, but I’m mixing it up this year.

Now I’m off to do some planning, some pantsing, and lots of writing:)

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It’s a beautiful day today, the birds are singing, the clover is growing and I’m plugging along, making progress on numerous fronts and feeling fine.

It isn’t always this way.

Some days I can’t get a thing done and nothing seems right no matter what I do. I’m not alone in this, as I was reminded by a recent discussion on one of my listserves. A member had finally had it up to there with the frequent failure to find editorial acceptance. Folks chimed in, discussions were discussed, and this particular writer hopefully left the thread more optimistic than when it began. I know I did.

What some call failure, I call pre-acceptance. Have I mentioned this before? I probably have, because it’s a fairly critical component to my writerly attitude.* No one is going to like everything you write, no matter who you are. There will be rejection.

And that’s ok.

That’s progress, that’s experience, that’s learning one more way not to make a lightbulb. All writers, all people, get rejected.

Let’s take words out of the equation for a moment. I’m on a cookie kick so let’s stick with that.

Are you handing out delicious cookies at work? Someone will say thanks, but no thanks. It may be that they aren’t keen on chocolate chip, or that they are lactose intolerant, or that their doctor just read them the riot act about Type 2 diabetes. You don’t know, and that’s ok.

This isn’t about them, it’s about you.

Do the best you can, of course, and keep bumping that line higher. Practice. Follow Angela Duckworth’s research and go on grit rather than talent. Go online, and find helpful pep talks like the one Neil Gaiman wrote for National Novel Writing Month:

One word after another.

That’s the only way that novels get written and, short of elves coming in the night and turning your jumbled notes into Chapter Nine, it’s the only way to do it.

Whatever it takes. Your goals are worth it.

* I should mention that I didn’t start out this way. It took some time to be ok with rejection, and if I can do it, you can too. The 350+ pre-acceptances I have accumulated so far helped a lot:)

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Am I doing NaNoWriMo this year? Yes. Am I doing it the way I have for the past several seasons? I am not. Here’s why I think that we should all feel ok about making NaNo into whatever works for us.

Reason One: Because why not? This whole endeavor is borderline batty anyway (in a good way!), so if you aren’t doing it for yourself, why do it at all?

Reason Two: NaNoWrMo is a tremendous opportunity to start something, and to finish something. That does not mean that we all do those things the same way or that we are all at the same stage in our particular journey.

For example, I have managed to hit my word count target every year. Yay. So I know I don’t have a problem with word production at the most basic level. Given that, it strikes me as sensible to ask how I can use this time to address some of the other issues popping up along the way.

So that’s what I’m doing this year. I’m using the month of November to focus on what is giving me trouble. Word count just doesn’t happen to be one of those issues, so I’m not focused on it right now.

I’ve made a deal with my creative side: write a decent amount a decent number of days, get back into the habit of constant production, and let me know what you need to keep the awesome ideas coming. Seriously, chocolate cake, sunset-colored drinks with umbrellas, giant cups of tea lattes from the cafe around the corner, a detailed schematic of the Death Star, you name it.

And if I need to take a day to brainstorm and that day only happens to net me a thousand words? I’m ok with that. Heck, I’m more than ok, I’m pleased as punch, because it means I’m working on the solution, not just throwing more words at the problem.

Now, I’m hardly the first person to say these things. Check out the NaNo author pep talks or any of the multitude of related discussions and you’re likely to find bits on writing in ways that work for you.

Got news for you: You don’t have to do it that way. Anything that gets words on the page is the Right Thing to Do. — Diana Gabaldon

This is the first year I’ve given myself full-on permission to do it the way that works for me. I’ve got to tell you, it feels great.

However you decide to work this month, happy noveling!

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I appear to be in a fallow period. Scary as that might sound, it’s probably a good thing even though it means I haven’t written much in the past couple of weeks. There’s nothing wrong with taking a bit of a break, so long as it doesn’t become a habit.

Breaks can be useful because you can’t produce if you don’t take in. It’s good to refill the well, give your eyes a break, take a deep breath and head out into the woods. And it’s good because hey, it’s the end of October and NaNoWriMo is right around the corner!

I haven’t decided what I’m going to work on this NaNo but I will do… something. And however that project comes together, it will require focus, and stamina, and excitement.

So I’m going to take these last couple of days to rest up and make ready. Stock up on snacks and tea and various forms of adult beverage. Then I will write.

Here’s hoping you are rested and ready too, for whatever projects you are planning. What’s that, you could use a little seasonal inspiration? No problem, here’s my father in a super-cool White Rabbit bunny* suit on some long-lost Halloween. Because awesome:)


* My father would like it to be clear that he in no way neglected the Lewis Carroll portion of my education;)

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In the wake of NaNoWriMo, I thought it instructive to point out Jim C. Hines’s new book, Rise of the Spider Goddess. This is an annotated version of a novel he wrote in his formative years. In other words, it is a bad book. And he’s sharing it, on purpose, for entertainment, for edification, and to help other writers recognize that we all start somewhere.

So, fair NaNo’ers (and others), as you review your 50,000+ word opus, do not despair if you realize that the draft over which you slaved is actually really very awfully bad;) And as Jim says in his introduction to the book on John Scalzi’s Whatever:

Writing a bad book is nothing to be ashamed of, because dammit, I still wrote a book. Then I wrote more of them. And with each one, I got better.

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