Writing & Publishing Articles, Writing Craft & Tips

NaNoWriMo 2014: Lessons Learned and Post-NaNo Plans

This will be my last NaNoWriMo post until next year’s event. However, before I put NaNoWriMo 2014 to bed, I think it deserves a bit of reflection.

When I consider where I started in October, I am amazed by the progress I made in my writing career – in only 30 days at that! If you want to read my pre-NaNo post, you can do so here. But, long story short, I began NaNoWriMo as someone who called herself a writer without a steady writing routine or finished manuscript, but with a lot of hope, determination, and a Bachelors of Arts in English. For me, NaNoWriMo was a chance to prove to myself that I studied the right subject in university, to justify my decision to postpone graduate school, and to show myself that I have the discipline and the guts to turn writing into a full-time career.

In case you have not been following my NaNoWriMo journey (and have a lot of free time on your hands), you can catch up here or simply read my final day recap here. Again, long story short, I won NaNoWriMo on Day 19 and finished my manuscript on Day 30.

Here are my totals:

Total Word Count: 80,060

Average Daily Word Count: 2,668

Total Hours Spent Writing: 56 hours

Average Daily Writing Time: 1.87 hours

Average Words per Hour: 1,430

While all these numbers are nice for reference, I know: we writers aren’t normally numbers people. So, here are my qualitative NaNoWriMo results, aka, my lessons learned.

  1. The only way to write a novel is to actually sit down and write it. Yes, this is entirely self-evident, but a lot of writers tend to do a lot more talking about writing than actual writing (myself included until November).
  1. When you stop worrying about every word being perfect, writing is easy. Okay, this may not be true for everyone, but I found that the moment I shut off my mental editor, the words flowed through my fingertips, and I produced a huge volume of work very quickly.
  1. Speaking of this, I learned that I am a prolific writer. I have never thought of myself as a fast writer, but given my averages, I feel like I can call myself one now.
  1. Writing is so much more fun with a community. Having that NaNoWriMo community on Twitter and WordPress was awesome! I loved cheering on my fellow writers and receiving support in return. While I know the enthusiasm will die down as writers crawl back into the woodwork, I hope that some writers stay out and social and keep the spirit alive!
  1. Writing a first draft is only the beginning. This is not something I learned during NaNoWriMo, but it is something I feel now that it is over. The first draft is step one. Then comes editing, revising, marketing, branding, publishing, etc. The fears of draft writing may be gone, but now they are replaced with a whole new box of nerves and excitement!

So now what? In a previous post, I offered suggestions for what do post-NaNoWriMo. You can probably already guess, but I fall into the final category: “I won NaNoWriMo, my manuscript is complete, and I want to seek publication.”

Currently, I am working on my plans to transition into writing as a career and start my own author business. Of course, this will be a slow project, and I will probably be working a day job for several more years.

I won’t go into much detail in this post, because there is simply too much to discuss! However, I will say that this is going to be the main focus of my blog from here on out. I will be sharing everything I learn about business, independent publishing, marketing, and of course writing. I will also still offer “Feedback Fridays,” but I will focus on reviewing books for writers related to craft and business. And, of course, I will share tidbits from my personal life as well.

If this sounds useful, entertaining, or interesting to you, I hope you keep coming back and reading my blog. I don’t want this to be a place just for me, but also for you all to learn, be entertained, and engage in discussions of all things writing. Thanks for reading and staying with me through the next steps of my writing career!

What are your post-NaNoWriMo plans? What do you want to know or need to learn about writing, publishing, and creating an author business? Share it all below!



Fiction Blog, Writing Updates

NaNoWriMo Update: Day 30 Recap

I DID IT! I can finally say that I have written a novel. It is a very rough draft. I already have a laundry list of things to edit, add, and subtract, but I’ve done it! This is a dream come true for me. This was the Number One item on my bucket list, and I can finally cross it off tonight.

Thank you so much to my family, friends, fellow writers, and random strangers who have supported me throughout this journey. Most of all, I have to thank my husband, Daniel, who has shown me that I can be the person I’ve always wanted to be. I love you.

Even though NaNoWriMo is now over, I hope that you all will stay with me on this ride. I have truly enjoyed hearing from you all and sharing in your writing journeys. And I promise you, mine has only just begun, and there are big changes coming in the near future! Stick with me, and let’s launch into the next steps of our writing lives.

Today’s Word Count8,195

Final Word Count: 80,060

Estimated Writing Time: 4.5-5 hours

Feeling: Elated, amazed, triumphant!

Motivation: Being able to truly say that I wrote a novel in 30 days.

Inspiration: Reminding myself of who I want to be and where I want my writing journey to take me.

Biggest Triumph: Finishing my novel!

Biggest Setback: I sat thinking about my last paragraph, especially the last line, for at least ten minutes. It took me forever to write it, but finally, I talked myself into settling on something with the promise that I can fix it later. I’m not sure that I’ll need to do much to it, though.

Helpful Insights: If you did not win NaNoWriMo or you did not finish your manuscript this month, that’s okay! Take it from me: sometimes it takes years, nearly 23 years even, to finally get that novel out. However, when you do, even in that rough, dirty first draft form, it is the most blissful, triumphant feeling. You will feel exhausted and happy and in disbelief. It will be a lot of hard work, but it will be worth it.

Do you want to know the secret to writing a novel? Here it is: make up your mind to do it. That is all it takes. If you decide that you will do it, sit down to write it, and visualize it as an inevitable addition to your life, it WILL happen. But if you do not take those three steps, you won’t get there.

Share your NaNoWriMo experiences — good or bad — in the comments section and come back later for my National Now What Month guide and future writing plans!


Fiction Blog, Writing Updates

NaNoWriMo Update: Day 29 Recap

This is it, Wrimos. As Day 29 ends and Day 30 begins, we are left with only one writing day left in NaNoWriMo 2014! It’s been a crazy ride, and I appreciate you all taking it with me. Now, excuse me while I maintain radio silence in an effort to finish this manuscript. I am so close I can taste it!

Today’s Word Count3,612

Total Word Count: 71,865

Estimated Writing Time: 2 hours

Feeling: Everything — excited, petrified, determined, prepared.

Motivation: Getting through “the big scene” so I can write the fallout and finish my manuscript tomorrow.

Inspiration: Watching the NaNoWriMo winner announcements pour in over WordPress and Twitter, sending me positive energy and reminding me I’m not alone in this crazy journey!

Biggest Triumph: Writing “the big scene,” the one that changes everything and puts my protagonist in incredible peril. I’ve pictured it in my mind as I have written the rest of the novel, and now that it has happened, it feels incredibly surreal. I love it.

Biggest Setback: Because what I wrote today was the most important material of my novel so far, I got very nervous and took a while to start. However, I gave myself a pep talk, promised myself I could edit later, and wrote with abandon. For a first draft, I think it’s good.

Helpful Insights: If you’re like me, as you reach the end of your manuscript, you may begin to feel nervous and/or freeze up a little. If this happens, do whatever it takes to snap yourself out of it. Look at yourself in the mirror and give yourself a pep talk. Browse through the rest of your novel and remind yourself that you can do this. Write yourself a note allowing your writing to suck and promising yourself you can edit later.

Whatever you need to do, do it quickly and then get to writing! The best thing you can do for yourself is write and remind yourself that you can do this! Besides, the faster you write, the faster you will reach the end, leaving your doubts with nothing else to say!

Join me on my NaNoWriMo journey on my NaNoWriMo page or follow me on Twitter @KateMColby for more frequent updates!

Fiction Blog, Writing Updates

NaNoWriMo Update: Day 28/Week 4 Recap

Can you all believe that there are only two days left of NaNoWriMo 2014? Honestly, I hardly can. November has flown by, and while this has been a wonderful ride, and I can safely say, I am ready to step off the merry-go-round and establish myself in a day-to-day writing routine.

While I may have reached the 50,000 word mark early, I am still deep in the trenches plugging away with the rest of you. I am nearing the end of my manuscript, but this last week has crept by more slowly than any other part of NaNoWriMo. I know it’s been difficult for me, and I am sure it has been tough on you all as well. If you need some tips, check out the insights. If you need to refocus your motivation, check out my previous post. If you simply need to commiserate or get a pep talk, hit me up in the comments. I’m always game for some solidarity.

Okay, two more days. Let’s finish strong, Wrimos!

Today’s Word Count2,553

Week 4 Word Count: 13,462

Total Word Count: 68,253

Estimated Writing Time: 1.5 hours

Feeling: Impatient. I am so ready to join the ranks of those with a finished manuscript!

Motivation: Making up for my last two writing days, which have not been terribly prolific.

Inspiration: Playing Diablo III with my husband, which is, unfortunately, motivating me more to start researching my demon trilogy than write on this novel!

Biggest Triumph: I finished one chapter and wrote another short one today. I have switched to measuring my remaining plot by story beats instead of word count, and I believe I have three medium-length or four short chapters left. I’m practically shaking at the thought of being so close to finished!

Biggest Setback: My husband and I decided to brave the Black Friday crowds today (in case you are wondering, we were uber successful in getting all our wish-list items for great discounts!), but it has left me quite tired. Hopefully a long sleep tonight will have me well-rested to write a lot this weekend.

Helpful Insights: I imagine we are at the point of NaNoWriMo now where some of you may be getting desperate to boost your word counts and do whatever it takes to hit that 50,000 word mark. Well, I hate to be one to play dirty, but these are tough times, right? Here are three ideas to sneakily and incrementally up your word count.

1. Do not use contractions. Spelling out your contractions gives you a bonus word every time!

2. Be poetic. In creative writing workshops, they teach how to write rolling sentences, how to make your sentences expand and breathe, how to turn a mundane action or description into litany. See what I did there? Try it out.

3. Add in dialogue. Writing description may seem like a great way to boost your word count, because each big paragraph can give you 100-300 words. However, sometimes it is difficult to formulate good exposition, and you end up more stumped than prolific. Slamming out a conversation between well-developed characters should be a fast exercise, and you will be surprised how many words you get in exchange for your time.

If you try any of these ideas, let me know how they work for you! If you have others, share them with your fellow writers in the comments section!

Join me on my NaNoWriMo journey on my NaNoWriMo page or follow me on Twitter @KateMColby for more frequent updates!

Fiction Blog, Writing Updates

NaNoWriMo Update: Day 27 Recap

As promised, here is my second update post for the day: this time about my Thanksgiving writing day! Enjoy and share your turkey day (or regular Thursday for the non-Americans) experiences below!

Today’s Word Count1,848

Total Word Count: 65,700

Estimated Writing Time: 45 minutes

Feeling: Exhilarated

Motivation: Putting in a better word count than yesterday and proving that I can find time to write on Thanksgiving.

Inspiration: Today, my grandma asked me about graduate school, which I have decided not to apply to in favor of A) making a full-time income while Daniel takes his turn in graduate school and B) writing and publishing my work on my own terms (in which case I won’t need an MFA if I am successful). However, she did not even want to listen to my alternative plans. She was just irritated that I wasn’t going (even though she understands nothing about the way graduate school works). This made me really upset and brought up a lot of my insecurities about transitioning from academia to “the real world,” BUT it inspired me to get my butt in the chair and keep working on this manuscript.

Biggest Triumph: Simply having the energy left to write after the busy holiday seems like a success to me!

Biggest Setback: Holiday festivities — which isn’t a bad thing by any means, just something that kept me from writing for most of the day.

Helpful Insights: Some people do not and will not ever understand that creativity CAN and IS a profitable job when pursued correctly. If you want a creative and/or entrepreneurial career, do not let others’ doubts bring you down. Stick to your guns and keep working at your dreams. In time, you will show them what you’re made of and they will understand. And if they don’t, that’s their problem, not yours!

Join me on my NaNoWriMo journey on my NaNoWriMo page or follow me on Twitter @KateMColby for more frequent updates!