Sunday, 1 November 2015

Will It Be Third Time Lucky?

#NaNoWriMo.  Will it be third time lucky?

In 2013, as part of my resolution challenge, I took part in my first NaNoWriMo competition.  NaNoWriMo, which stands for National Novel Writing Month, is a writing challenge open to anyone, and it entices entries from across the globe.  The task is to pen a 50,000-word novel in 30 days – no pressure!

The 50,000-word target works out to 1667 words per day, every day, for the thirty days of November.  Of course, when you throw in work, family and lifestyle it isn’t always possible to squeeze in 1667 words.  This is where dedication and dumb pride come in. 

When I did NaNo for the first time, I announced it to the world via my blog.  The reason for this was so I couldn’t back out.  It worked, and I hit the 50,000 point by the second week.  I did the same last year, hitting my target in the third week.

To win this competition, you merely have to cross the word count finish line by 11.59pm on November 30th.  You receive a winner certificate (which I printed out and proudly displayed on my fridge) and, probably more importantly, you have a first draft of a book.

My debut young adult fantasy book, Guardians of the Dead, started life as a NaNo draft.  It took me a year to edit, but one month to write.  I wrote book two in the trilogy during last year’s NaNo, and so it only seemed fitting to complete the series by writing book three in 2015.

You are allowed to pre-plan and get your story outline done in October, but strictly no writing until November 1st.  Having an outline of the story you wish to write gives you a head start, and you can begin writing with a clear plan of who your characters are and what they are going to do. 

The key to success is to turn off your inner editor and write, write and write some more.  It was so hard to stop myself from going back over what I’d written and begin correcting grammar or sentence structure.  Time is of the essence, and the red pen must wait until December. 

When do I write?  I find it easier to write first thing in the morning, and according to Book Baby 49% of participants agree.  28% of NaNoers do write before bed but when I tried this I found my head was crammed full of scenes and dialogue, and I couldn’t sleep!  Finding the perfect time to fit into your schedule is vital to success.  It may be on your lunch break, or you might want to set the alarm a couple of hours early and write before the family wakes up.  We all have twenty-four hours in our day, it’s what we do with them that count.

My biggest distraction has to be the internet and my social media platforms, as a writer I need to maintain a ‘voice’ so my readers can find me and hopefully enjoy my blog posts and interact with me on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.  The time can run away with you and during November I have to be especially careful that I don’t eat away at my writing time by surfing the net.  When Book Baby did a cross section of NaNo writers’ they discovered that 42% were also distracted by the internet, 21% couldn’t resist reading a novel over writing, and 14% just couldn’t give up their television viewing.

For me, NaNoWriMo is a gift to myself.  A dedicated month where I can turn down my friends and family’s invitations for coffee without the guilt, a month of uninterrupted creativity, a month when my three teenagers test drive their independence by cooking dinner, using the washing machine and clean the house un-nagged.  They understand how much I love this competition and are always stood by my side when I type the words and watch the word count tick over to 50,000.  It becomes a family success, and that’s priceless.

Will I succeed this year?  I don’t know.  I’ve plotted the entire story; I know my characters, and I’ve stocked up on Cadbury chocolate and coffee, so the rest is down to me.  If I want it enough then I’ll make it happen, but life does have a way of taking over, and if this happens I will just try again next year.  That’s the beauty of NaNoWriMo.

If you are interested in finding out how I get on then, I will be publishing my Diary of a NaNoer posts over on my author blog – every week.  Feel free to wave your pom poms and offer words of encouragement in the comments.  Parcels of chocolate will also be gratefully received!


  1. Good luck Shelley. Waving pompoms like mad here! You'll do it I'm sure xx

  2. Cheering you on from the sidelines, Shelley. Go girl!