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Writing Reveals the Story: NaNoWriMo 2010 Recap

01/06/2011

I’m just getting started on the 2011 Cannonball Read, so I figured I should get something jotted down about doing NaNoWriMo 2010 before I start to forget what it was like – as if I could!?

It was one of the most grueling things I’ve ever done, honestly. I got behind on the suggested word count right away, and I was behind for the whole month until I pulled it out and finished on 11/30 with 50,072 words at 11:30 pm.

NaNoWriMo word count.

Screenshot of my running word count

I stopped working out in the morning because I wanted to get up and write.  My husband complained because I was writing at night when we usually hang out together. But I did it! I made it to the end and won. I even have my certificate to show for it.

NaNoWriMo Winner's Certificate

My 2010 NaNoWriMo Winner's Certificate

In December, a few people asked me if my novel was “done.” The answer to that is a resounding NO. What I did, instead of starting at the beginning and writing through to the end, was to each day write a different section of the story. The pieces were whatever came to mind, and if they happened to continue the story from the previous writing, then fine. For the word count, I copied each section into one long total document, and pasted that into NaNoWriMo.

If I were to give these pages to someone, the lack of punctuation, etc. would really interfere with their reading. In fact, I believe it would make a certain coworker’s head explode. <g> I’ve got a lot of work to do to be “done.”

Here are a few things that I jotted down in the little notebook I kept handy:

  1. You have to carve out the time to write. Plan it out, the words won’t write themselves.
  2. The internet is really distracting! See #1, and don’t spend all of that time on Twitter.
  3. I spent a lot of time writing early in the morning, like I’m doing now, but that was at the expense of exercise. This year, I’m going to try to fit a little of both in every morning, because I think it will help my quality of life in general.  So carve out your time, but be aware of what you’re sacrificing.
  4. Writing with the correct punctuation, when I was in full swing, slowed me down. At some point I abandoned capital letters. I did keep periods, but commas were forsaken. Oh and don’t get me started on quotation marks. Those really threw me off my rhythm. So I moved to the inconsistent use of apostrophes, just to give the dialogue some designation. I also ditched the “he said,” “she stated” phrases (have since seen whole pages of dialogue without that.). Just get the thoughts written, and correct later.
  5. Good names are hard to find. I didn’t plan out my character names ahead of time, so when I “encountered” someone new in the story, I just gave people quick names that  weren’t necessarily appropriate. I added those names to my master list, but I am sure that about 99% of them will be changed in the rewrite.
  6. I really like jotting things down on paper. I kept a notebook with me when typing on the computer. It helped to jot questions, ideas, and comments down as I was going. I type pretty quickly, but having pen and paper as an aside was a big help. Drawing arrows to items, crossing out lines, and writin in tiny print was very satisfying.
  7. Writing reveals the story. I knew this from teaching long ago. I told students, “Just get writing and the story will come.” This was the first time, really, that I experienced it myself.  Characters and situations just came into being as I tried to fashion a tale, and I found myself in places I hadn’t anticipated. New Orleans, anyone?

Now that the holidays are over, I plan to do some editing and rewriting of the pieces I have. Someone in the Facebook NaNoWriMo group posted a link to the Amazon.com Breakthrough Novel Award, and while I don’t think I’ll be ready to submit anything this year, I’m shooting for a submission next year. There’s nothing like a deadline to make me productive.

When I got back to my office after the holidays, my quotation calendar had this to say to me,

It is never too late to become what you might have been. — George Eliot

In 2011, I’ll be taking that to heart.

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