First Time NaNoWriMo Winner!

I just won NaNo! What’s that you say? Why yes, it is the very last day of the month, but that’s not what counts. What matters is that I set this goal to write 50,000 words in one month, and I did it!

My local writing group knows I love to start new stories. I’m really good at first chapters, and even seconds and thirds. Short stories, poems, essays? Totally! But I’ve never attempted a whole novel. I’m easily distracted with shiny new story ideas.

The more I learned about fiction writing and novel structure, the more I wanted to give it a try. Then the doubts set in. Could I write an entire novel? Did I have the stamina? The perseverance?

I owe my success today in large part to a local writing conference I attended where a presenter taught how to set goals and make them happen. Namely it came down to making an actual contract with yourself, setting up rewards and consequences, and recruiting people to check on you throughout the process. The stick, and the carrot, for all us little bunnies.

This worked beautifully for me, and since I won, I don’t have to go scrub out my husband’s work car. Yes, the stakes were high! πŸ™‚

My husband and my kiddos were also a huge part of making this happen. If I succeeded, there was a reward for the kids too–a fun night out, so that helped, but I think they would have done it anyway. Carving so much time for writing out of my days wasn’t easy, and they really picked up the slack.

The best part is that this last week my kids, ages 6-15, have literally begged me to read them a chapter or two from my manuscript each night before bed. It is an upper Middle Grade book, designed for ages 10-14, so it has been perfect to share with them. Their enthusiasm reminds me why I’m doing this.

My word count goal for this novel is more like 60,000 words, as it is science fiction, so I still have about 10,000 to go. And lots of editing! But, I never would have been motivated to push myself this far without the NaNo challenge.

Now that I’ve established a daily writing habit, I plan to keep it up. Perhaps not for as much time, but every little bit gets you one step closer, right? December is going to be a recovery month, filled with family, white sparkly Christmas lights and hot cocoa!

All the Feels

Something that has surprised me during this NaNo experience is how emotional writing a novel can be. Sure, I’ve poured my heart into my writing before. I know the power of words. But never before have I been with the same characters for 47,000 words. All in the last four weeks I’ve laughed with them, cried with them, and felt the adrenaline rushes, right alongside them, on their adventures.

When I first started exploring fiction, I didn’t realize what a story was about—that it really boiled down to conflict. In a nutshell, there’s a person with a goal, and something keeping them from that goal.

The problem comes when you grow so attached to your characters that your natural instinct is to protect them. Authors have to fight that instinct. Authors have to be mean. πŸ™‚ Authors have to tear their characters to shreds, so they can give them the chance to pick up the pieces and become better people. The story is in the journey, not the HEA (happily ever after).

While everyone is out shopping Black Friday deals today, I’ll be here at my desk helping my characters conquer their inner demons and overcome the destruction their choices have brought about. Two days left of NaNo and only 3,000 words to go!

Antagonists, Traitors & Villains, Oh My!

I passed the 40,000 word mark today and am nearing the All is Lost moment–that’s the point in the story when your main character is devastated and everything that could go wrong, has gone wrong.

It wasn’t until today that I realized I didn’t have my villain nailed down well enough to do him justice in the story. I’ve had to take a step back and work out some of the nitty gritty.

Now I’ve got a villain that is much more fleshed out with a backstory, motivations and character arc all his own. It should make writing his character much easier!

This is the last week of NaNo. Everyday is a struggle to get all my words, but I just keep pushing, and scene by scene, I work it out.

A War of Words

Two weeks in to this challenge, and I just hit 25,000 words. The first week was exhilarating, the second week was grueling, but I am right on schedule. On Saturday my region had a large “Midway Write-In” event. It was fun to write alongside others on the same journey.

I experienced my first “Word Wars” at the event. Basically they last anywhere from 5 to 45 minutes, and you write as fast and furious as you can. It’s all stream of consciousness writing. It’s messy and creative and ensures that your inner editor can’t come out to play.

Since you can’t stop to think or consider how you want a scene to play out, you just jump in. Sometimes I would change my mind part way in, and instead of going back I would just start again, right where I was. The whole focus is on your total number of words written.

It did help me get words down, but honestly, I wasn’t sure how helpful it was for me overall. I don’t want to just write 50,000 words, I want a coherent first draft at the end of this. To do this, I need to strategize and weigh options as I write.

I realized today, though, that it had been a helpful exercise. While I still prefer to take things a bit slower and imagine each scene before writing it, the after effects of the weekend’s Word Wars helped me shove many of my editing urges aside and embrace a more creative approach. Today I am grateful that the words flowed freely. Now I just need to get my snacking under control!

Breaking through the Barriers

I was really struggling getting all my words written today. Since it’s my first attempt at writing a novel, doubts come at me all the time that I can even accomplish this goal. This morning I told my husband that maybe I just know how to spin out the beginning of a story, not bring all the threads back in and weave it into something satisfying. He reminded me that I felt the same way when I only had the first two chapters done, and now I’m on chapter ten.

It was just the reminder I needed. If I can bust through the wall of self-doubt at the 2 chapter mark, then I could do it again on the tenth.

And you know what? I did. And I’m pretty proud of my work, too. So take that brick wall. πŸ™‚

Blazing by 10,000 words today!

It’s the 6th day of NaNoWriMo, and I am getting the hang of this daily writing gig! I just blew by the 10,000 word mark without even noticing. It is exhilarating to be able to keep the story in my head enough that I can just jump right back in the next day.

I’m 1/5 the way to winning my first NaNo, and I know I can do this. So much of accomplishing things is determination. When you find ways to leave yourself no choice, somehow you find a way.

NaNo – day 1

Yesterday was the first day of NaNoWriMo, a challenge to write 50,000 new words in a month. I woke up with a terrible head cold, but I didn’t let it stop me! My pace remained slow and methodical, but I have hopes that I will get faster and faster.

It is fun to “discover” the details of the story more quickly as I sit down to write large chunks. At the end of the day I was proud of the 2,550 new words in my story! Some authors can write that in a much shorter amount of time, but I am okay with learning the ropes and going at my own pace. My project is a middle grade sci-fi novel, so I am doing a lot of world-building and character development as I go. It just takes time.

When I finally emerged from my office to join my family for the evening, I found they had posted this NaNo chart on the fridge, so they could cheer on my progress. Each square represents 500 words. How did I get so lucky to have such a supportive crew?

Will I Have to Wash My Husband’s Car? β€”3 days ’till NaNoWriMo

Most people look at me like I’m speaking a different language when I mention NaNoWriMo. In a way, I guess I amβ€”the language of writers, novelists in particular.

It stands for National Novel Writing Month, and it’s basically a month-long marathon of writing. To “win” you have to write 50,000 new words in the month of November. You don’t actually win anything other than digital “pins” and bragging rights. It is a non-profit, after all. But the idea is to get a complete rough draft version of a novel fleshed out.

Switching between creative writing mode and editing mode is difficult and time-consuming. I read somewhere that editing while writing is procrastination, and I agree. There’s no doubt about it, harnessing our creative energies into the written word is hard. So, rather than push forward, we go back and re-read, we edit, we move things around, we edit some more, until finally we’re satisfied. Then we have to work hard to get back into our creative mode and work out more of the story. It’s a slow process, which I have struggled with.

Many writers have successfully drafted their first novel with NaNoWriMo (or “NaNo” for short). You simply don’t have time to edit. You need WORDS on the page! If it can work for them, then it can work for me. This will be my first NaNo, and I have much fear and anticipation.

To further hinder my inner editor, I have signed a contract with myself that includes rewards and a looming punishment. You may have guessed from the title of this post what my self-inflicted punishment is. Yes, if I fail to win NaNo, I will have to wash my husband’s car inside and out! So, now I have to do it, right?

If I do win, I have promised my family that I will take them out for ice skating and dinner at a favorite BBQ restaurant. Now they are all onboard and ready to help out so I can achieve this.

This weekend I went to my region’s NaNo Kick-off Potluck Party. I won a coveted “marble” plate for my humble pumpkin bars. If that’s not a good omen, then I don’t know what is!

The Courage to Reach

Creative endeavors are often intimidating and scary, full of highs and lows. Although I’ve always been a writer, I’ve never had the courage and perseverance to complete a novel.

That is, until now.

Over the course of this last year, as I’ve devoured fiction writing how-to books like a bag of Peanut Butter M&Ms, I have learned so much and come far in developing my craft. It’s time to reach for my dreams. I encourage you to follow along as I spread my wings.

I believe the first step to achieving a goal is to to visualize that you are already there.

My name is Sarah Lynne John. I am an author.