As we enter the last week of NaNoWriMo, I thought I would share my experience of the challenge and share some tips.
National Novel Writing month is a crazy experience, whether it is your first attempt or one of many. We all tend to become rather manic as we write to our daily goal of 1667 words (or more if possible). I remember my first NaNoWriMo was back in 2009. At the time my writing experience was minimal, and my longest piece of writing was maybe three paragraphs long, substantially less than fifty thousand words.
The panic I felt at the mind-blowing word count and the deadline date made me completely obsessed. I would race home from work to write, threw the easiest meals together for my family and ignored household chores, for the most part. This was my focus. Now, after twelve years of the challenge, I have become more relaxed knowing I am capable of writing at least 1667 words in an evening. My average daily word count fluctuates between 1700 and 1900 words this year. That is not to say I do not experience some anxiety; I just know how to handle the challenge better now. As with everything – practice makes perfect, or in this case ‘bum in seat’ makes an achievable word count.
Here are a few tips I found worked for me:
Cultivate your story idea before NaNo starts. It may be a character, a location or even a whole scene that propels you into the story.
Jot down notes for plot, character names & personalities, anything that you see being included in your narrative.
Find a time and a quiet place to write that works for you and your family. Designate a time, if that helps.
Don’t make excuses – write first then watch TV or scroll social media.
Use unexpected spare/free time to write, even if it’s only a paragraph. Every word counts.
Try writing bursts – time yourself to write a certain number of words in an allocated amount of time.
Aim to write over the daily word count of 1667 this helps you stay ahead. So, any unforeseen circumstances are not so drastic to your end goal.
Let the words flow – leave editing and revision for later.
Use the word count tracker on the website, it helps you stay on goal.
Mark or highlight a sentence if fact checking is required. This stops you going down internet rabbit holes.
Believe in yourself, your story and your success.
Celebrate the smaller victories – hitting a sprint goal, writing a smashing paragraph, learning a new word.
Make sure you rest, exercise and eat.
Enjoy the process of immersing yourself into creating a world of your imagination.
Even if you don’t achieve 50,000 words you have managed to write a fair amount – that is success. Remember this challenge is only the beginning of your narrative’s journey. The editing and revisions come later.
A little bit of both. When I’m really into a chapter and it’s practically writing itself, I get pumped and full of energy. When I’m having trouble with a chapter or scene that isn’t coming easily to me, I end up at the computer working on it for hours. That is exhausting.
What is your writing Kryptonite?
Sometimes a little too much narrative. I can go overboard with detailed descriptions. I end up taking a lot out when I edit.
What are your writing strengths?
I’m a good storyteller and I’m good with dialogue. Dialogue can make or break a story. It moves the story along and shows how the characters relate to one another.
Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?
No. I’d get too confused.
What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?
I’ve been in a few writing groups and have formed friendships with several authors. I was the founder and facilitator of a group of women writers for 9 years. I currently belong to a group of men and women writers at a local library. We all help each other. I have a writing buddy who also writes romance books. We critique each other’s work on a regular basis. This is a great motivator. I highly recommend it to other writers, especially aspiring ones.
Do you want each book to stand alone, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?
I write my books to stand alone. I am working on a series called Tucker’s Landing. LOVING DANIEL and LASTING IMPRESSIONS have many of the same characters and they both take place mainly in Tucker’s Landing, but each book can stand alone.
What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?
Probably when I started writing for newspapers. I did travel and feature stories for a while. It always amazed me when people came up to me and asked questions about a story of mine they’d read and wanted to know more about what I thought.
How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
At least two half-finished and a couple more only in the early idea stages.
What does literary success look like to you?
My favorite authors: Nora Roberts, Anita Shreve, Barbara Delinksy, Debbie Macomber. That’s success. To me personally, it’s getting my stories and books out there and having them read. If I can do that, I’ve achieved success.
What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
I rarely do much research before beginning a book. I do my research as I’m writing it. Certain things that I need to know come up in the process. That’s when I look things up. Research is not a part of writing I like doing, but it has to be done. You have to be accurate.
How many hours a day/week do you write?
It varies, depending on what else is going on in my life. I try to do a couple of hours a day. When I’m deep into a chapter, I can spend several hours on it.
How do you select the names of your characters?
I often drive myself crazy trying to come up with the “perfect” name for a character. In LOVING DANIEL, I wanted to use my grandmother’s family name of McRae. I researched names to go with it and used Aidan because I liked it. When I was looking for a name for my hero in LASTING IMPRESSIONS, I told my ten-year-old granddaughter I needed a name for a male character. (She likes to write.) She thought about it for only a minute or two and said, “Dylan.” Just like that. Kids don’t hesitate. Dylan Granger was born.
What was your hardest scene to write?
My first love scene. I wanted it to be hot, but not too hot and I didn’t want it to be explicit. I brought it to my writing group for critiquing and was too embarrassed to read it out loud myself. I had to have someone else read it.
Why did you choose to write in your particular field or genre? If you write more than one, how do you balance them?
I liked writing essays and personal stories and found I had a knack for writing nostalgia. I loved doing that, but always wanted to write fiction. Now that I have more time, I’m into the fiction writing and loving it. I balance them by writing whatever I’m in the mood for or whatever my muse tells me.
How long have you been writing?
For as long as I can remember, which is a long time. I used to make up stories when I was a child. I wrote a short piece with a couple of other kids in the fifth grade that was published in a yearbook. I think that was my first published piece. I still have the yearbook.
What inspires you?
A lot of things. I never know where it’s going to come from. Even the smallest of every day events and happenings can create a spark for a story or a scene. Observing people often inspires a character. Listening to conversations in restaurants, at the hairdresser or in line at the supermarket.
How do you find or make time to write?
It’s much easier to find time for writing now that I’m retired. I do a lot of my writing in the morning. If a chapter is working for me and I’m on a roll, I just ignore everything else and write for hours.
What projects are you working on at the present?
Book Two of my Tucker’s Landing Series, Lasting Impressions. I’m hoping to have it out in late February or early March of 2018.
What do your plans for future projects include?
Definitely another romance novel. Most likely, book three of the Tucker’s Landing Series, Worth Waiting For. It was supposed to be book two, but it wasn’t working for me at the time so I made Lasting Impressions the next one. I’d like to write another Carousel Kisses book of nostalgia. It’s one of the half-finished books I mentioned. Maybe putting together a book of short stories. I’m also working on a presentation on self-publishing that I’d like to do at local bookstores or libraries or writing groups.
Lina Rehal is a self-published author who writes nostalgia, memoirs, slice of life stories and contemporary romance. Her first book, Carousel Kisses, is a collection of nostalgic stories, personal essays and poems about growing up in the late ‘50’s and early ‘60’s.
She combines her passion for fiction and love of storytelling in her contemporary romance novels. Her two seasoned romance books, October In New York and Loving Daniel, Book One of her Tucker’s Landing Series, are available on Amazon.com in both print and Kindle formats.
My current flu has made concentration rather difficult so my creativity has suffered this past week.I think it is struggling against a ‘fuzzy’ head that has made creation arduous.
What illness / situation has made your creativity stall?
However, I was able to begin beta-reading two manuscripts for author friends, one is a thriller and the other a memoir. Both are intriguing in their own way. I am reading each one at separate times of the day so that I am ‘clear’ of one story line before reading the next one. I have shared a list of tips on beta-reading for those of you interested.
I continue to enjoy Beyond the Precipice by Eva Blaskovic. The writing is creative and the interwoven music elements make the story unique.With my other reading projects it is nice to let the story embrace me and lead me forward.
Does the story begin with an interesting hook, creating a desire to read more?
Does the manuscript begin in the right place?
Characterization & Motivation:
Are the characters compelling, sympathetic, or someone you can root for?
Do the characters feel real and three-dimensional, with distinct voices, flaws, and virtues?
Are their goals clear and proactive enough to influence the plot (not passive)?
Do their motivations seem believable, with well-drawn and appropriate emotion?
Are the secondary characters well-rounded and enhance the story rather than overwhelming the story or seeming like they should be cut?
Are the relationships between the characters believable and not contrived?
Plot & Conflict:
Are the internal and external conflicts well defined for each main character?
Are the internal and external conflicts organic and believable, i.e. arising out of characterization and circumstance rather than feeling contrived or forced?
Are there enough stakes and/or tension throughout to make it a “page turner”?
Does the premise avoid cliché and/or bring a fresh perspective to an old idea?
Are the plot twists believable yet unexpected?
Do the characters act or react to events in a plausible, realistic, or believable way?
Do scenes progress in a realistic, compelling manner and flow with effective transitions?
Does every scene add to and seem important to the story?
Does the story move along at an appropriate pace, without rushing or dragging?
Is there a hook at the end of each chapter or scene that makes you want to read more?
Is the story free from information dumps or backstory that slow the pace of the story?
Setting & Worldbuilding:
Are descriptions vivid and give a clear sense of time and place?
Do the details enhance rather than distract from the story?
Is the dialogue natural and appropriate for the story, not stilted or overly narrative?
Does dialogue move the story forward and reveal the characters?
Are characters’ voices consistent and distinct from one another?
Is there an appropriate mix of dialogue and narrative?
Does the writing “show” the scene with the senses, using “telling” only as appropriate?
Does the writing quality allow the story to shine through and draw the reader in, or are flaws jarring or intrusive?
Is the tone appropriate and consistent for the story?
Is the point of view (and any changes) handled appropriately and consistently?
Is the voice unique, fresh, or interesting?
Does the story deliver on the promise of its premise and opening scenes?
From a reader’s point of view, did you enjoy reading this story?
Additional Questions for Comment:
Are there any confusing sections that should be made clearer? (Mark in the manuscript)
Do any sections take you out of the story? (Mark in the manuscript)
Is the story a good fit for the stated genre, and if not, why not?
Who are your favorite—and least favorite—characters and why?
What aspects are especially likable or unlikable about the protagonist(s)?
What three things worked best for you?
What three things worked least for you?
Recluse – definition: a person who lives in seclusion or apart from society, often for religious mediation
The sentence that came with the word of the day was: The writer was a recluse all his life and never socialized.
I will have to dispute that. As writers we require social interaction to enable us to create believable and intriguing plots and fully rounded characters. People watching is one of my favorite pastimes and I’m sure many writers are the same. Observing gestures, and listening to speech and accents is actually research for our narratives. The following article reinforces my view.
Of course when I am actually writing I do prefer to be alone but that is not always possible. To achieve the illusion of a recluse, I put in the headphones, turn on the music and ‘disappear’ into the realm of my narrative.
Today is a celebration and time for family so this post is short and sweet.
Whatever your belief, enjoy the love of your family and friends today.