Image courtesy of National Novel Writing Month.

Image courtesy of National Novel Writing Month.

It’s November. That means it’s NaNoWriMo time. And this is my third year going for the 50,000 words written during the month to make me a winner. And this time I want to share what I have done differently and why I think I will “win” this year.

For my first NaNoWriMo experience, I thought I could build on some smaller writing samples I had done before, part of my 365 project of writing at least 500 words per day for a year. I had a plot – or at least pieces of a plot – in my head. I had scenes I thought I could string together. I even thought I had a credible conflict for my heroine to work out. But it turns out I hadn’t given enough thought to who my characters were, especially how they differed from the one character I knew inside and out – ME.

I managed to put 35,000 words on virtual paper that year, but I barely had enough for a short story (something I may have to work on after November).

For my second NaNoWriMo experience, I knew I needed to do more prep work. I didn’t wait until November 1 to begin (as I had the previous year). I started plotting in October, hoping to have an outline before NaNoWriMo began. But again, I let the characters and the plot get away from me, abandoning the effort before I had written more than 5000 words. Again, I had relied on my ability to create each character on the fly, deciding at the last minute what each would do in a specific situation.

This year, I did much more prep work. I took part in an on-line presentation by four published authors who shared their stories of how to overcome writers block. I took part in a live presentation with one of the San Diego Municipal Liaisons (ML for short) and learned some of the quirky fun bits about NaNoWriMo, such as what plot bunnies are; that plots, characters, and worlds can be adopted; and that November 8 is #NaNoSelfieDay. I read all the NaNoWriMo email messages.

But more importantly, I listened to each of the speakers at our SDW/EG, using something from each of their messages that I feel has better prepared me for NaNoWriMo or any writing challenge. For example, the speakers and presentations over the course of the past 12 months have provided me with inspiration in the following ways:

  • Larry Edwards: How He Did It – Larry pointed out how important “platform” is. For this reason, I have expanded the posts on the Guild’s website to include two weekly series – Marketing Monday and Writing Tips Wednesday. And I watch how these posts affect the frequency of site visits. My goal is to increase the number of followers and subscribers as well as the number of “Likes” and Comments, all indicators of how substantial the platform is. Eventually, I’ll work on doing the same on my own blog.
  • Richard Lederer: Monsters Unleashed – Richard’s love of language is infectious and keeps me motivated to inspire others to love language as well
  • Kathi Diamant: The Art of Giving and Receiving Critiques – Kathi’s presentation resulted in my seeking out critique partners. The three of us meet twice a month which has resulted in great improvement in my writing.
  • Judy Reeves: “First Paragraphs and What They Must Do” – As a result of Judy’s presentation, I try out multiple first paragraphs for everything I write. Starting over is no longer drudgery. I start over again and again, from different viewpoints, from different plot points, so I can compare them to find the most compelling.
  • Bonnie ZoBell: Writing What Happens – Bonnie’s examples of where her stories come from have opened my eyes. For example, the inspiration for my NaNoWriMo novel came from observing a high school class in AP Environmental Studies as they conducted research in a local park.
  • Donna Eckstein: Telling Your Story – Donna’s presentation made clear the importance events from childhood have on each character.
  • Alan Russell: Ghostwriting – Alan’s presentation was a reminder that it is important to keep writing, even if the content isn’t always from my heart. What is important it to keep writing.
  • Jefferson Parker: Writing a Hometown Story – This time, I’m not trying to write about some far away place, although I have lived in many. I am writing about my neighborhood – about the High School that is next to the park just around the corner from where I live. I have talked with people who walk their dogs in that park, with the maintenance crew who mow the lawn and empty the trash containers. I have done research and learned about the crash in 2006 of a small plane and helicopter right above the park. And if I get stuck, I go walking in that park, to remind myself of the sounds, the smells, and the sights in that park. In fact, I’m not only setting the novel literally in my neighborhood, I’m setting the novel to unfold during the month of November 2015.

My bottom line: Assuming I win the NaNoWriMo challenge to write 50,000 words this month, it will be largely because of what I gained from the presentations at our monthly meetings. I’ve already written 9,655 in just the first three days. I’ll keep you posted on my progress.

Are you taking part in NaNoWriMo this year? If so, feel free to share your story, along the way or when the month is done. Send it to sandiegowriterseditorsguild@gmail.com.