Diary of a NaNo Newbie

by Shanyn Hosier

I’ve been writing since 2008, yet never participated in NaNo before. Once I became aware of it as a thing, it either seemed too high-stakes (arbitrary deadlines and word counts!) or bad timing… I was usually either halfway through a current WIP or in edits.

This year, I had no excuses. I haven’t written a single first-draft word in a year, possibly 18 months. I’ve felt sapped of inspiration and motivation for a very long time. I was standing with my toes dangled on the Cliff of Maybe I’m Done With Writing when the call from my RWA chapter went out: Word War was on! Our chapter accepted another chapter’s challenge to see who could achieve the highest cumulative word count during NaNo.

I decided what the hell. I decided to accept all the encouragement and none of the pressure. I decided I’d give this writing thing one more chance.

Now, I’m hardly starting from scratch. I had an 11-page, 6K outline-slash-synopsis where the characters and plot was all planned out. Not to mention scads of research related online bookmarks, actual paper books, notes, etc. When November 1 rolled around, I was theoretically ready to hit the ground running.

Nov. 1:  Euphoria! Kids were at school, chores were done, the house quiet. I’d written down some ideas for the opening paragraph while I was outside last night, passing out candy to trick-or-treaters. And marvel of marvels, I wrote. Not gobs—only a few hundred words, actually—but it felt wonderful. I was grinning, a bounce in my step. It felt so good to be writing again!

Nov. 7: The first week went great. I wrote something every single day. I was up over 3.5K (well below the targeted 11K at that point). I was nearly 3 chapters in!

Nov. 9: This day, and the next, were crazy busy with volunteering, school holiday, scout activities, birthday party. I did squeeze out a paltry 50 words near bedtime on the 9th, but then forgot to update my word count at the NaNo website. <sad face> My daily streak was busted.

Nov. 11: I was about to call off the experiment, thanks to a very busy weekend. What was I thinking, imagining I could spare writing time this close to the holidays and end-of-semester? But during an unexpected few quiet moments, I decided to sit down at the computer. It wasn’t a lot, but the words just came to me, and I knocked out a paragraph or so.

Nov. 14: I finally broke 5K words! And hit my first significant deviation from the outline, finding a new opportunity for hero to convey backstory & motivation in a conversation rather than inner thoughts. This is why I’m a plotser, LOL.

Nov. 15: Chapter 5 of 18 is done, and I’m halfway through my first NaNo experience. I’ve never set out to write a novella before, but this is what the story seems shaping up to be, and it’s been fun so far. <smiley face>

Nov. 20: Progress is coming much slower now, with less time for sitting down at the computer and less brain-power to devote to story and prose. Non-writing family activities are ramping up with no end in sight. I’m mainly parsing barely-dressed outline info into designated chapters at this point. That being said, I’m sneaking spare minutes when I’m not at home to more research reading. Especially enjoying As Various As Their Land: The Everyday Lives of Eighteenth-Century Americans and Tories: Fighting for the King in America’s First Civil War.

Nov. 23: Well, I skipped any writing this day. Couldn’t draw myself away from family and food. But I was thinking about writing—specific sentences, paragraphs—several times today. I’ll try again tomorrow. Sometime before this experiment ends, I’d like to try a sprint.

Nov. 27: It was a lean weekend, as far as writing goes (definitely the opposite as far as food goes). I will end up far under the 50K word goal for my first NaNo, but I have to admit, this experience was a positive one for me.

What about you? Any NaNo veterans out there with advice? War stories?

Shanyn Hosier adores reading and writing in the same way she loves breathing and eating, deriving a similar nourishment from each. Her latest two novels, An Experimental Phase and Theory Versus Practice, are available in ebook format on Amazon. For more information about current and upcoming releases, please visit her website, www.shanynhosier.com. You can also connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.