NaNo Victory #2: What Worked for Me (Again)

Once again, I climb the mountain…Photo by Jason Hogan on Unsplash

Way back in November (which feels like years ago now), I posted my first ever blog about how I owned NaNoWriMo on my second try as I devised a system that worked pretty well. Like any first draft born from that event, mine needed a *lot* of work. I think that, with the project born out of my first ever attempt the year before, I was afraid to admit the sheer amount of work that would need to be done–I knew it intellectually, but I didn’t know it like I do now. So instead of trotting down the same road this time around, I changed strategies in the months between NaNo and Camp NaNo:

  • I buckled down and did a ton of research. Not just the variety where my computer is open while I watch Netflix. I read what I needed from Mary Beard’s SPQR (So good!). I targeted exactly what I knew I was missing historically from my first draft; many interesting finds will be posted in a later blog post.
  • I refined my prep routine even more. I began this journey with the assumption that I would survive as a pantser. Dear reader, I am NOT a pantser. That much is evident in my first drafts. I struggle with worldbuilding trying to write that way, and I’ve learned I need to at least kick the tires on a scene before I actually write it. If I at least chart the bare bones, I can fill in some of the gaps, and things are much smoother from there. Speaking of which…
  • I finally made use of my purchase of Scrivener. I purchased it on sale last summer, before I had the means to use it — I was writing on an Andrioid tablet then, but I upgraded to a brand new lappy in February. Since downloading Scrivener onto my new rig, I’ve made thorough use of the planning sections of the binder, where I’ve stored all my links, maps, and so on. In addition, I tweaked my outlining process on Excel, with a hat tip to Assaph Mehr, from whom I borrowed the idea:
This way, I can keep track of everything happening at a given point, without trying to cram too much into a single box.

Armed with all of this information, I scrapped nearly all of my November draft and started back at Chapter 1. It needed the least work, and still gave me a jumping off point for where I’d be going in my story (you’ll get to see that later!)

I’d been adding about 300-500 words a night to my draft before my state went into lockdown in the middle of March. This was for a couple of reasons: work was wearing me out, and I was trying to be a little more precise this time around with my details.

Thus was how I began Camp NaNo in April. I was already approaching 20,000 words in draft #2, and I decided I could add another 20,000 by the end of the month. This would require a minimum of 666 words a night (I know, I know…). Knowing that, I decided I’d take it up a click and aim for 700 words a night. This would pay off later: Often, I’d at least attempt to finish my train of thought at the 700 mark, so I’d end up around 750 by the end of the night. My data looks like this:

Business business business….Numbers?

A steady hand was my biggest goal this month. No matter what else was going on, I had to hit my nightly goal. By about the 10th day, I was cruising well ahead of schedule. The first major hump toward the middle was a point in my story where I managed to stitch in a scene from my first draft, which made for the easiest night of Camp (I even allowed myself to indulge in watching Picard while I tweaked the scene to fit the new story).

You might notice the gigantic leap at the end. All last week, I decided to up my nightly goal to 800 words — an easy enough task given my performance. I wanted to make sure I nailed Camp and finish early because this week, I have day job stuff rolling in that needs to be done. Finally, last Friday night (probably far less exciting than Katy Perry’s song), I went all-in and doubled my goal to 1600. It had been a hot minute since I’d written that much in a night (I was putting in 2k a night at the end of November), but I managed. Thus, with Camp vanquished, I’m taking this week off of writing to handle the aforementioned day job items and to cleanse the palette before I tackle the last third or so of the story.

That’s been my April. Aside from seeing my family nearly every minute of the day, I sectioned off a chunk of each night that I held as sacred and made it happen a few hundred words at a time. If you’re in a rut trying to find a way to write, maybe give one or two of these tricks a try.

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