On Writing || Their Stories – NaNoWriMo

So, first up, I feel I owe you an apology because I’ve been a proper shoddy blogger these past couple of weeks but I’ve been trying to memorise The Highway Code for my Theory Test and every time I picked up a book or attempted to write a review I persuaded myself to do a couple of mock tests. BUT I have now passed my test so I can go back to reading constantly and making up excuses to not write reviews.


OK, now on to the exciting stuff and this week’s On Writing.  So, in my introduction post, I explained why I wasn’t doing NaNo this year. And, to be honest, I’m actually pretty gutted.
I have two books that I’m currently writing and, although I love the fact that I’ve pretty much written two full stories, I do miss the excitement of starting something new.
I know that not everyone loves NaNo, but I really love it. WIP #2 [Patter, by the way] was written during NaNo and it was so good because I think I will always be that kind of writer who fears putting words down on paper because my ideas seems to be much safer in my head.
I will always be an advocate for NaNo and even when I’m a gabillionaire famous author [far too busy to speak to you little people, naturally] and writing in my pyjamas *cough* I MEAN MY AMAZING WRITING CLOTHES, I hope I will always have time [and the new ideas] to do NaNo.

Because I have always been the kind of person to live vicariously through people and I’m nosey and love hearing about people’s experience with writing, I’ve asked three  of my favourite lady NaNo-ers….

Emily [ Tumblr, Goodreads, Twitter
Reynje [ Tumblr, Goodreads, Twitter, Blog  ] 
and Maree [Goodreads, Twitter, Blog ]

to answer three simple questions:

Why did you do NaNo?
How did it go?
What happens next?


Why did you do NaNo this year?

Emily: Since my early teens, I’ve started lots of novels and promptly abandoned them. But now I’m starting to get serious about my writing dream, so I promised myself I’d finish a first draft by the end of 2012. I thought NaNo would be a good way for me to prove to myself that I CAN finish something. I’d been drafting a YA contemp since August and I was stuck around the midway point. Writing every day was a struggle for me. I used to put a lot of pressure on myself to write each day and if I didn’t (which was often) I’d feel immensely guilty. But I was determined to finish this story, and I thought NaNo would be the perfect opportunity to feed off all the creative energy on the interwebs and finally type ‘The End’. No, I didn’t follow the NaNo rule of starting from scratch and, no, I didn’t write 50,000 words in a month. But I DID finish the first draft of a story I adore, and that feels like winning to me. :-)

Maree: The short answer is because I’m crazy! I was approaching my busiest weeks at uni, I was trying to keep up my reading and blogging and decided that I’d like to start writing a story. The long answer is that I started thinking about what kind of story I could write if I were to do NaNo. I guess I should explain that I’ve never felt like I’d done anything exciting enough to write about, but the story I eventually came up with was one which is very personal and something most people go through at some point. After some good feedback on my idea from fellow NaNo-ers and bloggers I decided there was nothing (except uni) stopping me and I should just go for it! My story (I can’t bring myself to call it a novel yet) is about a girl called Rachel who is struggling to come to terms with finishing school. She’s been at the same school since she was six and can’t imagine leaving it, and her childhood, behind. In the midst of this she meets Joe (how could there not be a love interest?!) who helps her realise that there are new and exciting opportunities for her after school. All you international readers who love Aussie contemp will probably be interested to know it’s set in my home town which is … unique. And very, very Aussie! Although many people from my hometown don’t like it, I can tell you already that my story is pretty nostalgic and probably makes the town sound a million times better than it actually is.

I also convinced my mum to do NaNo with me this year. Unlike me she had a fully researched, planned historical novel idea, but I could just see her becoming totally caught up in the research and not writing, so I challenged her to start NaNo and write, right now. I’m glad to say she’s done so much better than I have and is really enjoying getting everything down.

Reynje: The short answer is: Because all the cool kids were doing it and I’m very susceptible to peer pressure :) Well, kind of. Although I’ve been writing for a long time, I’ve only really spoken about it since joining the goodreads/blogging community and getting to know people with similar proclivities. I’m quite shy about the fact that I like to write, so chatting with like-minded people was a bit of a revelation. That said, I’m a terrible procrastinator. Seriously, I could procrastinate for Australia. Especially when I’m afraid to fail. And because I love to write so much, but don’t want to find that I’m actually really bad at it, I can easily talk myself out of doing it. The fact that this is a defeatist and unproductive attitude isn’t lost on me, I’m well aware that it’s my own self-doubt that holds me back from the possibility of developing my writing skills. So the idea of ignoring that internal voice and just writing for a month was actually pretty appealing. After a couple of encouraging tweets, I joined up. A friend (who was totally Flannery, by the way) sent me a lovely video message that convinced me to just get over myself and give it a go :)

How did it go?

Emily: The first few days of NaNo were crazily productive. I’d write first thing in the morning and tweet about my daily goals and update my word count like my life depended on it. It was great to become so immersed in my story and talk to other people who were becoming immersed in theirs, too. I wrote some scenes during that week that I’m really proud of. But after a week, I started to burn out. I still forced myself to reach the minimum daily goal, but it was tough going and I was starting to fall out of love with my story. I probably would’ve kept going that way if I hadn’t gotten a migraine that put me out of action for an entire day. I physically couldn’t write – but it turns out that was the best thing. I needed to rest, to refill the creative well. After that, I gave myself another two days off and when I came back to my story, pounding out words didn’t feel like banging my head against a brick wall. It was fun again. Other than finishing a first draft, that was one of the most valuable things that came from doing NaNo this year – learning that I can write a hell of a lot in a short amount of time, but breaks are important, too.

Another thing I found interesting was that when I prioritised writing over reading, my writing seemed to lack something – some spark, some magic. I can’t remember who said this or where I read it, but it really helped to remind myself: “I’m a writer because I’m a reader.” So now I make sure I have time for writing AND reading. For me, the two are linked; spending quality time curled up with a good book is just as important as getting those chapters finished.

Maree: I’ll be totally honest up front: I have completely failed NaNo. In the end uni did get in the way! However, I did actually start something which is important too, right? It’s got me thinking about this story now and it got me to put some words on a page. I enjoyed the idea of the collectiveness of NaNo, it’s just a shame that November is such a busy month for me. I found having people around you to cheer you on to be extremely encouraging and it’s definitely something I’d love to attempt again in the future.

Rey : If winning means writing 50,000 words in 30 days, then I didn’t win. Life got in the way. But for me it was never really about achieving a word count, it was more about teaching myself to just sit down and write. I have a tendency to lock up under pressure, and wanting to write something “good” usually results in me staring at a blank page and a blinking cursor. So forcing myself to ignore that actually turned out to be really helpful. Just letting myself writing something, without agonising over whether it was good or bad, reminded me of why I love to write in the first place. It was actually quite fun, sitting down and bashing out words because I’d given myself permission to write and not over-analyse it. Nano was also made me realise that saying I “didn’t have to time to write” was just an excuse. If you want to do it, you’ll make time. For me, writing requires a certain amount of self-discipline, so NaNo was in exercise in beginning to develop some :) That’s not to say it was all beer and skittles, because it wasn’t. Some days I’d open the document and just think at my characters: “Ugh, not you again. I hate you all, you bunch of insufferable jerks.” But the sense of community about NaNo was brilliant, because I knew that there were people experiencing similar things. Even if I didn’t engage with other NaNo’ers a great deal (I’m more of a lurker than a joiner), just seeing their wordcounts go up and reading their tweets was comforting.

What’s next?

Emily: I will definitely carry on editing! Now that I know I can finish something, I’m in this for the long haul. I plan to teach myself as much as I can about writing, editing and the industry. Once my NaNo MS is all polished and shiny, I’m going to submit it to competitions and begin querying agents. That might not be until late next year or the year after … but I’m on my way and it feels so right.

Maree: Well, I will certainly keep working on this story. I really like my characters and I’m keen to see how their stories will play out. I will be on holidays in about a week and, apart from some work experience, will be completely free to write as much as I want to. Beyond actually writing it, well, we’ll see what happens. The story is intensely personal to me and I can’t see myself wanting to get it published unless I was able to develop a separation of sorts. But, for now, I feel like I just need to write that shitty first draft and see where it takes me.

Rey: I don’t think I even want to look at the manuscript for a while! I think we need a little time apart after November. I haven’t read back over it, (that was one of my NaNo rules) but I’m pretty sure most of it is awful. That said, I still have a good feeling about some of the ideas I was working with, and what they could potentially develop into. I saw this very much as a “zero draft”, getting down the bare bones of something I could flesh out over time into a coherent first draft. Just being able to finish something will be huge for me. Even if it never sees the light of day again, which is the most likely scenario, I feel like it’s a step in the right direction. Like I’m that tiny bit closer to getting where I want to be.


Isn’t that just brilliant? Aren’t these ladies just brilliant? BRILLIANCE.

Seriously, though, what do you think?

Did YOU do NaNo this year? Did you “win” this year? Does the thought of writing 50,000 words in a month fill you with dread? What are you going to do with your NaNo ms this year? And what about the social side of things? I know a few of you did go to the write-ins but do you think you need to do that to get the true NaNo experience?
Get involved!


8 thoughts on “On Writing || Their Stories – NaNoWriMo

  1. Thanks for having me on Jo! It’s great to hear everyone else’s experiences, because that’s the best bit about NaNo – knowing others people are attempting the same thing! :)

  2. Brilliant! And I am in awe of all of you. I love NaNo, but I know it’s not for me at the moment. And I love the idea of a mother daughter NaNo! Maybe not with my own mother though. She would drive me crazy

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