My First NaNoWriMo

I've never made it a secret that I'm not a big fan of NaNoWriMo. The idea of pushing myself to write on someone else's schedule doesn't sit well with me. And I find the whole community aspect to be possibly more distracting than helpful. Don't get me wrong. I get why people take part every year, and if it works for them, I think that's wonderful. It's just that up until now, the idea hasn't worked for me.

November is a busy month for me. The holidays start rolling around (I decorate for Christmas on Black Friday, so the last week of the month is particularly harsh). And it's often one of my busiest client periods of the year. I don't know what it is about Thanksgiving time, but I usually get slammed by requests on the holiday and the day after. Trying to write 50k words of fiction on top of that? No thanks.

This year things are even crazier with our house on the market. We're trying to decide whether to keep it listed or pull it off until spring when buying picks back up. I have a lot on my plate. In a recent post I explained why I took several months off from work, and the house was a part of that. But now that's precisely why something like NaNo is just what I need -- a kick in the pants.

I can't afford to jump back into work slowly. Projects have been sitting by for far too long. My hope is that taking part in NaNoWriMo might push me to make some serious progress on some of those projects before December rolls around and things get even more hectic holiday-wise.

My NaNoWriMo Plan

I'm going the "rebel" route with NaNo for my first year. I'm not starting something from scratch. I'm continuing a mystery novel (the first in a planned series) that I've struggled with.

I lost my original first few chapters quite a while back. My hard drive was fried, and the back up flash drive ended up being corrupt. I rewrote that material and continued with several other chapters. But I wasn't feeling it.

For NaNo this year, I'm scrapping all but the first two chapters of the new version of the manuscript, and I'm picking up the story from there. I deviated a bit too far from the outline the last time and the story lost its way.

But you know me. I never have just one thing going on. And NaNoWriMo is no different. Another reason I'm in the rebel group this year is because I'm pursuing two series of shorter works in addition to the novel. One is a horror short story series. I have a couple of stories written already, but I want to have one or two more drafted by the end of November. The other is a series of picture books. I hope to get at least two of these manuscripts together next month. My plan is to have a few stories in each series ready to go before I send them off for edits.

If you want to follow along with my progress on these and other projects, just check out the sidebar here on the blog. I'll periodically update my word count for the novel and my story count for the other two series there. (I don't expect to have 20 horror short stories next month. That's the long-term goal before publishing them as a collection.)

Anyone else here taking part in NaNoWriMo? If you've done so before, how did it work out for you? If it's your first time, why did you choose to take part now?

Word Count Trackers for NaNoWriMo Authors

Don't forget. I have a free word count tracker you can use to share your NaNoWriMo progress on your website or blog. Give it a try.

Word Count Tracker

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Jennifer Mattern is a professional blogger, freelance business writer, consultant, and indie author. She runs numerous websites & blogs including All Freelance Writing, Freelance Writing Pros, NakedPR, and Kiss My Biz.

Jenn has 25 years' experience as a professional writer and editor and over 20 years' experience in marketing and PR (working heavily in digital PR, online marketing, social media, SEO, new media, and thought leadership publication). She also has 19 years' professional blogging and web publishing experience (including web development) and around 18 years of experience as an indie author / publisher.

Jenn also writes fiction under multiple pen names and is an Active member of the Horror Writers Association.

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10 thoughts on “My First NaNoWriMo”

  1. I understand your reservations Jenn, but I can also see that NoNoWriMo can be very good at motivating people to actually sit down and get their writing done.

    And having multiple big projects going can be interesting with a lot of variety, but it can also make it hard to get them done and out the door in a timely fashion.

    • I think NaNo is probably great for first-timers who aren’t professional writers but who have dreamed of writing a novel for years. If I were in that boat, I probably would have done it years ago. And if it helps any of them reach their goal, I’m all for that.

      For me, having my hand in several different projects is the only way anything gets done. When I hit a block on one project, I need something else to move onto. It’s better for me to do that and keep writing than to stress too much about one particular project, whether we’re talking about books or blogs. My business has always done best when I diversify my projects, but strike a balance between that diversity and simply being overwhelmed. The shorts in this case don’t take me very long, so they’re a great way to break up the larger story when I need to get my head in something else for a while. I know not everyone can work well that way. And I certainly wouldn’t recommend it to most people. It just happens to be the way my brain works best when it comes to business. Nothing kills a project faster than me getting bored with it. And I get bored very easily. Mixing things up can get hectic at times, but it keeps me moving. 🙂

  2. “My business has always done best when I diversify my projects, but strike a balance between that diversity and simply being overwhelmed.”

    I agree Jenn. I like to move from project to project depending on what I most feel like doing, with an eye, of course, on important deadlines.

  3. I am also taking part for the first time this year, for two (kinda weird) reasons: 1. I was registered to run a half marathon on November 9, but hurt my back and haven’t been able to train. NaNo will be a replacement challenge for me 🙂 2. I seem to have a weird block when it comes to writing fiction. I’ve always wanted to, but have trouble finishing stories. I don’t know if it’s “mushy middle syndrome” or simply fear of writing crap, but whatever it is needs to be broken through.

    The “rebel” approach seems like a good idea for your particular situation. Will you register and all that, or simply set daily word count goals, or making the story goals you outlined in the post your main objective? (I’m actually going to register and be all official and whatnot. There’s a great discount on Scrivener for people who “win” NaNo.)

    • I think those both sound like great reasons to give it a try Dava. 🙂 I wouldn’t worry about writing “crap.” Personally, I embrace that with fiction. I look at a first draft as a way to just get all the ideas down on paper. Get that story out! It can be refined to our hearts’ content later. 🙂

      I did register on the site. My username there is jhmattern (I think?) if you feel like adding me as a writing buddy there. I don’t know that I’ll check in on the site very often, but we’ll see how it goes. I’m mostly tracking word counts using the word count trackers I have here on this site (in the blog sidebar — the tools are in the Resources page if you feel like using them).

      I bought Scrivener a few months back, so I won’t need that offer or anything. But I’m not sure I’ll use it during NaNo. I haven’t had as much time to play with the software as I would have liked, and I don’t want to waste time trying to figure things out when I’m in the middle of the challenge. I’ve also already started this novel in a standard Word doc, so I’ll probably just stick with that. I’m looking forward to getting to use it more next year though. I asked people about it on the HWA forum and got a couple of good suggestions on how to make it work for me, especially in the planning and organization phases. 🙂

  4. I did the free trial of Scrivener several months ago, and it is powerful, but even in 30 days, I didn’t quite figure it out. There is QUITE a learning curve, so I’m sure you are making the wise decision by not using it just yet.

  5. Scrivener is an awesome tool for more complicated, cast-heavy books like your mystery, so it’s definitely worth spending time learning. Also, if you’re going to be publishing your own books, they’re compilation tool is unbeatable IMO.

    • Good info to know. Thanks!

      I’ll definitely spend more time with it after NaNo. I’m not crazy about my outlining technique as it applies to mysteries. It worked great in other circumstances. But the complexities of different suspects, motives, alibis, lies, etc. could definitely be handled better. Hopefully Scrivener will help me keep better track of things moving forward with that series. 🙂


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