Sai decided to write a novel in the month of May. Some of you may be aware of National Novel Writing Month which typically takes place every November.
I wrote my first novel during one of these NaNoWriMo’s which you can read about here.
Though this event usually takes place every November, Sai decided to write her second novel in the month of May. In this
In this post, Sai shares her experiences of writing 30,000 words in 30 days and shares how you can also do it too.
30,000 words in 30 Days – A NoWriMo Experience
Struggling with that unwritten novel brewing in your mind for months or years?
I have been in your place.
Writing my debut work of fiction, Abhaya taught me to prevail through years of soul shattering writers blocks and just write the story with all honesty and commitment.
Writing “The First Queen”, my second novel (soon to be published), taught me about the more important aspect of balancing selling and marketing.
I realised that as I write more, I would need to streamline each activity and jealously guard my writing time.
Alternatively, I needed to work on achieving an efficient writing process. The luxurious days of dream weaving on a couch are gone. The sooner they go, the better it is for a writer. Because what gets us to success is not just passion, but commitment and execution as well.
A NoWriMo (Novel Writing Month) is one such activity where a writer commits herself to completing the first draft of the novel/novella in her mind. A whole draft in 30 days! That is impossible!
Or so I thought before this drive to push my comfort zone and get myself to write everyday took over me. Fortunately, when I announced my idea on twitter, a bunch of committed and passionate women writers joined me.
We socialised over a Twitter DM group and the experience was till date one of my best learning experience, thanks to these wonderful writers mentioned in Adite’s blog.
Let me now share about things that got me past the finish line for the current draft. Hope you find them useful too.
I have been a sworn ‘pantser’ for a long time. But a writing sprint such as this needed some level of plotting to check my own progress. Also, my Sophomore experience taught me the importance of plotting.
The idea of this novella was brewing in my mind since end of 2016 and it was in March 2017 that I got to write down the plot outline for this novella.
Once I got the sequence of those crucial twelve to fifteen plot events (level 1 plotting), I set upon expanding each of them into chapters, summaries and pointers.
I asked myself, those uncomfortable questions, actively answering, rewriting the plot where needed, etc. I call this level 2 plotting. (I use a paper notebook for this process so that the amount of work is visible in terms of struck out lines and pages as opposed to the risk of coming back to a blank sheet on my laptop).
Once I typed out the level 2 plot, most of the uncomfortable questions in mind have mostly been answered. Actually, the process of typing it out also leads to a round of reviewing the whole plot and making the necessary changes. This skeleton is crucial for the month-long sprint to go on smoothly.
Wri-Mos work very well in the first week, with the initial excitement fuelling the writing. But as it gets to the middle of the month, the momentum tends to decrease.
Even the initial burst of creativity gets extinguished and needs a refuel. We need to push ourselves increasingly and keep at it.
There were a few days where my word count was zero, despite my best efforts. But on such days, I made it a point to go through the latest written section and sleep over what to write next. That way, I saved some valuable thinking time for the following day where I could make up for the lost day.
Beating the Inertia
Sudeshna Ghosh had a great Mantra – “50 words are better than 0 words.” Need not be 50, may be 100 or 150. But the point is that inertia affects us the worst during the spell of initial 100-200 words.
Once we cross the barrier, the next few hundred words tend to flow. Some days where I had almost given up as duck days, this 250-word minimum word count helped me take the actual day’s word count to over 600. Isn’t it better than not writing?
Put up with Bad writing
In an intense writing sprint like this, we can’t be our best every day. And we need to make peace with writing badly. What counts more is that we write. A bad patch here and there can be analysed, edited, corrected and perhaps rewritten in the latter stages.
A bad patch here and there can be analysed, edited, corrected and perhaps rewritten in the latter stages. But write, we must!
I have this belief that bad writing is just a test that the Goddess of Creativity subjects us too. She tests our belief in our own selves and our commitment to show up and write come whatever might.
So, face those bad patches. Rest assured, the process of editing IS going to take care of those.
Taking a break is also important to refuel the creative juices. Just that in a writing sprint, we need to manage our down times efficiently.
In fact, a month-long sprint is a way to take our endurance to newer peaks and make ourselves less dependent on long down times.
I used to time mine and plan a day off after every 5000 words and then took it to 8000 words before the next downtime.
The short breaks are good for we can plan about what to write ahead or whether to pursue a different thread in the novel than the previous one.
Just be sure to not let some down time turn into a long barren period of no output.
Don’t Edit midway
Given my fear to read my own fresh drafts, I never venture to edit my writing midway through a draft.
I highlighted and marked what I know would have to be trashed, but never removed it till I declared the draft.
Some authors insist of perfecting the previous sections before they move on. I don’t know how they do it because that has always proved disastrous in my experience and has even given rise to soul-crushing writers blocks. Sometime in future, I might want to challenge this comfort limit of mine. But editing midway is never advisable when one is doing a Wri-Mo.
“What about Quality?”
I am a big time Social Media bee. I declare daily word counts, milestones like 10 K, 15 K, 20 K words and celebrate each milestone well and aloud.
Other than MyNoWriMo buddies who knew what it is to write that way, I encountered questions. Questions and suggestions like:
- “Why do you count words?”
- “Don’t get obsessed with word count, focus on quality.”
- “Is sprinting through all that matters?”
Now, these are friends who wish me well and not some spoil sports. And theirs are valid concerns.
But the celebration is crucial for you to maintain the momentum. And I dare say, momentum is all that matters when writing is concerned. Ensuring quality is paramount, but there is a whole editing process for the same.
Be it introducing some discipline, self-indulgence, timing your breaks, facing your fears, a writing sprint makes us emerge stronger out of the whole process.
Have you completed a NaNoWriMo? If you have done it previously, do share your experiences by joining in the conversation in the comments below or like and share!
Saiswaroopa is an Indie novelist who writes Hindu Mythological fiction. Abhaya, a story set in Ancient India, was her debut novel. Subscribe to her list to receive updates about her upcoming novel, The First Queen. You can also follow her on Twitter @Sai_Swaroopa.
Also published on Medium.