7 things I learned writing my book during NaNoWriMo 2018

NaNo-2018-Congrats

For the first time ever, I decided that 2018 was my year to tackle National Novel Writing Month . If you’re not familiar with ‘NaNoWriMo’, it’s an annual global event that encourages authors-in-the-making to thrash out the first draft of that novel they keep putting off.

I’ve never seriously attempted NaNo before, so this year I decided to just DO IT, partly because I’m a glutton for punishment, and partly because I had an idea for a witchy novel (oh yes) that I was desperate to try on for size.

In all honesty, 30 days later, I’m a mess. But it ended up being an… interesting challenge. I only just managed to hit that 50k on the final day of NaNo, but I’m so glad I took the plunge because now I have 50k of a new novel. Here are all the things I learned…

1. A little planning goes a long way
There’s that saying, ‘You’re a planner or a panter.’ In reality, I fall somewhere in the middle. I can usually scratch out a few chapters of something before I’m chewing on bricks, but it’s always useful to have a roadmap. There’s nothing more terrifying than a blank page and a blinking cursor.

So I spent the first two days of NaNo writing character profiles, planning plot beats and generally immersing myself in the world of the book. Although it meant that, at first, I was writing zero words towards my word count, those days were invaluable in helping me figure out my story – and then formulate a skeletal outline so I always had some idea what to write.

2. Finding time is difficult – but prioritising writing is worth it
We’re all busy. We all have to food shop and brush our teeth and sometimes even work. We might occasionally think about seeing our friends and family. Those are all things we have to do, but that’s the great thing about NaNo – for once, you have to write. If you don’t, you’re not going to birth that book baby you decided to have.

There’s something special about carving out the time to write. Making it a priority. And then seeing what you’re really capable of.

funny-gif-nobody-got-time-for-that

3. When in doubt, just write
I’m a perfectionist. A part of me doesn’t want to even think about writing unless I know I’m crafting pure word-gold.

Of course, ‘perfect’ is notoriously hard-won, and at the start of NaNo, I really had to give myself the ‘bullshit talk’. As in, “This is probably going to be bullshit, but that’s OK. You can make it better later.” That really helped me to loosen up on the perfection leash and just write. My motto: Write badly. Edit goodly.

4. It helps you focus
I’m guilty of being a bit of a fair-weather writer. I often get intensely interested in a project, and as soon as it becomes difficult for whatever reason, be that plot or character, I find a new shiny toy to play with.

NaNo cuts that bullshit right to the bone. You choose a project and you stick with it until the bitter end (of the month), and oh how bitter you may be, but that sort of commitment is exactly what I need. No bailing, no getting distracted by something newer. This is your project for the month and you have to battle through no matter what.

5. Don’t compare!
Some people are sprinters, some people are long-distance runners. Others are amblers. It’s all good. Although it’s tempting to check in on how other writers are doing, or begrudge them their rejoicing when they’re all “I wrote 50k in a week!”, you’ll only drive yourself crazy.

Celebrate your milestones (NaNo handily gives you badges every couple of thousand words that you can flash around if you so wish), and celebrate the milestones other people reach, too. We’re in this together!

6. Quitting is oh-so tempting
Writing is exhausting, especially when you’re using all of your normal ‘down time’ to do it. By week three, I was sorely tempted to jack it all in.

Luckily, I have an amazing support network – my boyfriend (hi, Thom!), friends and other writers were all great cheerleaders who encouraged me along the way. So no. Don’t quit. You can do it. It may be painful but it feels SO GOOD when you finally hit 50k.

giphy

7. You don’t have to finish a whole book
THIS IS THE BIGGIE. You’re writing 50k, but most books average out at 80k, so it’s unlikely you’ll have a full first draft by the end of NaNo (unless you set a different target or had different objectives, like redrafting an existing project).

About 20k into my witch book, I knew the first draft was going to be way over 50k. That disheartened me at first because I knew that even if I ‘won’ NaNo, I still wouldn’t have an entire finished draft to work on.

In the end, though, that was sort of freeing. I decided to just write whichever scenes I fancied and fill in the gaps later. So even though I don’t have much of the third act written, I do have the final chapter done. And I have two thirds of a pretty solid draft. WHOOP!

All right, that was me, now what about you?

Did you take part in NaNoWriMo 2018? How did you do? Let me know below!

The Win Bin: The Seven Deadly Emotions Of Writing

Hello! I’m Joshua Winning and I write things. As I start work on a new book, I’m going to chart my journey from concept to completion. Wanna come? This week: feelings.

mean-girls-feelings

Books are all about emotion. How does a story make you feel? Do the characters inspire empathy or apathy? A book is made to make you feel something, and while emotion is delicate and intangible, the best writers make capturing it look easy.

My editor on Vicious Rumer crystallised that for me when he suggested removing the book’s epilogue. “I’m not sure it leaves you with the right feeling,” he said of a coda that didn’t really do anything, and he couldn’t have been more right. Cutting the epilogue meant the book ended with a very specific feeling.

In my last post, I talked about planning a new book. I decided to research, write character bios, make mood boards and all that fun stuff. I ended up doing it for two projects – one a locked-in psychological thriller, the other a gay YA horror.

All that was great fun and really helped me zero in on exactly what I wanted to achieve with each book, but the big thing I realised is this: the book I’ve decided to sit down and write is the one that captured the feeling I want to explore at the moment.

That got me thinking about all the crazy stuff you feel as a writer throughout the whole process. Writing, editing, publishing, promoting… Sometimes those feelings are overwhelming. Here are a few that crop up time and again for me…

sadness-emotion

The Seven Deadly Emotions Of Writing

Fear
“Oh god this is going to be awful. I can’t write. I shouldn’t be allowed to even try. Where’s the coffee/biscuits/pacifier?”

Apathy
“There’s no point doing this because it’s way too much effort when I could be sitting watching repeats of RuPaul.”

Excitement
“Woohoo, this is so new and everything’s shiny and I can basically do whatever I like because it’s my world. This is sooooo fuuuuun!”

Irritation
“Why isn’t this written already? What do you mean I have to figure out what everybody says and what happens next? Can’t this just be done?”

Pride
“Wow, that sentence was actually good!”

Serenity
“Well it’s done now. It is what it is. It’s done and I can’t do anything about it.”

Guilt
“Why am I eating dinner when I should be starting the next book?!”

 

Until next time!

Are you working on a new project? Are you experiencing your own seven deadly emotions? Let me know below!

Visit The Win Bin archive here

The Win Bin: Starting a new book

Hello! I’m Joshua Winning and I write things. As I start work on a new book, I’m going to chart my journey from concept to completion. Wanna come? This week: ideas.

idea

Is it possible to have too many ideas?

This is the problem: it’s been a while since I’ve started something new. Last week, my YA thriller Vicious Rumer was published by Unbound. In July, the third book in The Sentinel Trilogy – Splinter – is being published by Peridot Press. I’ve been editing both projects for roughly a year, with no time to write anything from scratch.

So the prospect of starting something new is both terrifying and exhilarating. I feel like a clown in a costume shop. Which curly wig will I choose? Which enormo floppy shoes will prove the most rewarding?

Most of the time, I’m worried I don’t have any ideas. But the weird thing is that, as I start thinking about what I might want to write next, I find I’m drowning in little proto-concepts. I’m talking tiny book nuggets that could grow into full manuscripts, or could merely be brain farts that amount to nothing more than smelly, passing distractions.

Apparently this is a problem lots of writers contend with. And it has a name: TMIS, Too Many Ideas Syndrome. There’s a great post at Writer’s Digest here about how to overcome the trauma of having a brain just TOO FULL of the good stuff.

I currently have four (yes, four) ideas kicking around in my head. I’m not saying any of them are good, and I certainly don’t want to be all ‘poor me, I have so many ideas and my diamond shoes won’t come off’. But I really want to write something new and I honestly don’t know which one of the four I’d enjoy writing most.

Ideally, I’d like to thrash out a first draft of something by December. Not because anybody’s waiting on me or anything, but because it’s good to keep the ball rolling. You learn by doing, right? And I feel like I’ve learned A LOT in the past few years.

So this is what I’m going to do…

  • Write character profiles for all four projects. These will be as in-depth as possible (their fears, their loves, their favourite music) because stories are nothing without well-rounded characters. If a particular character really grabs my attention, that’s a great reason to tell their story.
  • Write single-page plot outlines for all four projects. This is the toughie because plot details can be tricky and I’m not hugely specifics-oriented. I’ve been both a planner and a panter – I planned Splinter meticulously but I wrote Vicious Rumer on the fly and really found the plot in the first edit. In that case, though, the character of Rumer was so clear in my mind that the plot almost came naturally. I know, living the dream, right?
  • Brainstorm titles. Sometimes coming up with a killer title can really make an idea come to life.
  • Create Pinterest boards. I’ve only ever played around with mood boards once, on Splinter, and it was fun but felt sort of like procrastinating. I’ve noticed a lot of writers using Pinterest to create mood boards as they prepare to write, so I’m giving it a whirl to see what happens.

Once I’ve done this, I’m going to leave them for a few days. And then I’ll figure out which one gets me most excited. I know, that’s a fair bit of work, so I’m aiming to have all four ideas plotted by mid-May so I can start writing.

70,000 words by December is doable, right? RIGHT?!

I’ll report back in the next Win Bin.

Wish me luck!

Are you starting something new? How are you tackling the ‘ideas’ problem? Let me know below!

Visit The Win Bin archive here