Thursday, December 03, 2009

NaNo Success

In 2006 I participated in NaNoWriMo for the first time. And I won. I seem to remember spending hours upon hours working on that manuscript. When it was done, I had met the 50K word count. And put that novel aside to work on "some day." I suppose there were some salvageable nuggets in it but I've never picked it up again.

NaNoWriMo 2007 came and went. I didn't have time for that because I was taking 18 hours of college credits to earn a BA in English with the Writing Minor. NaNoWriMo 2008, I signed up for it but there wasn't time to write that novel. I had one and a half semesters to write a thesis novel. That took priority. I had to orally defend it April 7.

In late September 2009 a fellow writer spoke of a plan she discovered, Book in a Month by Victoria Lynn Schmidt, Ph.D. I found it. I bought it. Chris and I planned to work together. We would do BIAM together in October in preparation for NaNoWriMo in November.

BIAM can be discouraging until you find the secrets of the whole thing. There we were getting lost in some of the activities that we couldn't figure out how to work through. It was easy to set the book aside and ignore it. But I wanted to know the plan before NaNo. What did I have to do to make this work?

1.) Be persistent. When I felt like quitting I had to keep pushing.

2.) Set the book aside and just write. I would do the activities I understood and let the rest go. The important thing was to keep writing.

3.) Figure out where the story was going--beginning to middle to end.

4.) Work into the plan other writerly tools I've collected along my writerly journey.

I probably could number other things, too, but there are some things I want to insert here. I don't want to forget them.

As I was trying to figure out how Schmidt meant the outline to come about I did a few things. First, she suggested using index cards to write the 10 major scenes of the story. Ok. I did that. Then I remembered something I learned a LONG time ago, the "W" format. I grabbed a piece of printer paper and used a ruler to draw a huge W on it. The top three points of the W are Act I, Act II and Act III. The two bottom points are the two major turning points of the story.

THEN, I took the 10 index cards on which I had recorded the 10 major scenes of the story and penciled them in on the proper places on the W. You will have to figure that out for yourself. I suspect it will be different for each author, each story.

THEN, I continued to write. When I felt I was going on a tangent, I went back to my formatting tool and found my bearings. I used a major quote from each of my 10 major scenes that helped me focus on what I wanted to say in that scene. I could keep all my notes together. I could see everything at the drop of a hat...or tangent, and know where I was and how to keep it all in sequence.

I don't know if this will work for you, but I used it when I wrote my NaNoWriMo novel and it worked. As many hours as it took to write that first NaNo novel, I have to say, this time around it came a lot easier. There were days that I didn't write because Real-In-My-Face-Life was beating down my door. And I still made 50K. And I ended up with a novel that I am excited about going back to revise and edit and hone it into something I can submit.

Oh! The other thing...I started NaNo with one novel and ended up changing my mind three days into the challenge to write a completely different novel. And I still made it. I suspect that each novel I start to write will come more easily than the one before. I've always said I want to write 100 novels before I die. If Nora Roberts can do it, Cathy Brownfield can do it. I'm just not sure how marketable that name is...Cathy Brownfield, I mean.

(c) 2009 Cathy Thomas Brownfield