OLD POST ALERT! This is an older post and although you might find some useful tips, any technical or publishing information is likely to be out of date. Please click on Start Here on the menu bar above to find links to my most useful articles, videos and podcast. Thanks and happy writing! – Joanna Penn
I have to admit I am struggling with my novel! I crashed last weekend, just exhausted from moving house plus the day job has gone into overdrive. But hey, I am still trucking with NaNoWriMo and I'm still learning about fiction writing! Word count: 20,033
Here's my video of lessons learned, with text below.
Lessons learned from NaNoWriMo in the last few days:
- I have total respect for people who have already reached the goal of 50,000 words. That's hardcore – congrats! I don't expect to get to 50,000 words by next Monday but I will still have done a good chunk of work on my thriller novel. I have started it this month and the encouragement of Nanowrimo has been a fantastic start. One of my goals for 2010 is to complete that novel, get it edited and submit to the publishing process (shock horror!). I also intend to podcast it at some point as I am such a fan of other podcast novelists.
- I made the mistake of printing what I had done in order to review it and see where I could fit some scenes in. This made me realize how much is missing, and that I need some kind of map to follow. I am not an organic writer it seems! I am also struggling with the ending which I wanted to write so I know where it's going. I am going to go back and outline after I finish this month, and then slot what I have written into it and fill in the blanks. I would like to use Scrivener but it is only available for the Mac! There is a whole post here about writing software options. You can, of course, use Post Its and basic tools, but hey, I love the gadgets!
- I have got some decent word-count through using Write or Die which is a fantastic free online app (or PC edition for $10). There are lots of settings, but I have it on full-screen mode with no interruptions for writing. You set word count or time and then just write. If you stop writing for too long, I have it set so the screen goes pink, then redder to bright red, then the evil violins start until I get writing again. It is surprisingly motivating and you can get a lot done. I am going to be using this for my fiction writing as an ongoing tool, and attempt the early morning write-a-thons.
- I have a lot to learn. I got to my first fight scene and then realized I seriously have no clue about guns and fight moves. It is also interesting that how I want it to sound ends up being a long way from what comes out on the page! I am very comfortable with business writing, blogging, non-fiction writing and even marketing speak, but fiction is another thing entirely! Luckily, writing is a lifetime experience and we are all learning! I LOVE learning, I would say it is one of my top motivators, so this is great for me. It's good to realize I have a long way to go, but everyone starts somewhere right!
I will have one more final post after the close of NaNoWriMo next week, and then I will keep you up to date with the novel as it progresses.
Kev Webb says
I have been keeping a careful eye on your progress Jo, and I have to say well done. I didn’t do nanowrimo due to the fact that I have two novels on the go at the moment, and that 50,000 words in a month is just too much pressure. I can’t just sit down and pound out words for the sake of it. I like to watch my stories unfold and follow my characters around.
The other point you made was about dialogue and how you found that it helped. I have to agree dialogue is great for moving your story along and giving your characters more depth. Plus it can be so much fun to write. I personally love dialogue probably because I like good conversation. So well done, if there is anything I can help you with just let me know.
Joanna Penn says
Thanks so much Kev – I might be looking for proof readers at some point! But I also found it hard to pound out words for the sake of it… but I also made a point about not being able to edit a blank page on a previous video. So one has to have a balance!
Have a great weekend, Thanks!
Kate Collings says
Well done Joanna on your success so far. I didnt even attempt NaNoWriMo this year as I am a new mother and juggling a Journalism course, running a home and general day-to-day living.
Hearing you talk about goals for 2010 has made me really think about what I want to gain out of the 12 months that are fast approaching. It has inspired me to write a blog entry at: http://www.katecollings.blogspot.com which I will do shortly.
Keep up the good work and I would love to help with the proof reading process, should you need it.
Ann Marie says
Take a look at Liquid Story Binder for a Scrivener-esque writing program for PCs. If you go to the NaNo web site, they were offering a sale price to participants at one point this month.
What you say about knowing some parts that you could write now, and seeing places you could insert things–I think that’s a writing style that is greatly assisted by these programs, since you can so easily move scenes around and insert or delete them.
Judith Swartz says
Thanks so much for sharing, Joanna. You’re doing a great job! (Aside: I missed “learnt” – such a good word.)
Remember before you sleep, think of the story that you need and when you wake, it will be there. Keep writing.
Your fan, Judi
K.M. Weiland says
I’m a big fan of NaNo and the transformative power it’s been able to wield in so many writers’ lives. But I’ve never participated and probably never will, mostly due to your second point. Editing as I go is a crucial part of my writing process. I’d go crazy if I couldn’t go back and fix my mistakes!
Karen van Wyk says
Hang in there on NaNo, you’re doing great. My writing goals for 2010 are to finish my second novel and then, if I still have time, to poke around with this years NaNo novel and see if it’s worthy of a second draft.
One book that helped my fiction writing enormously is How to Write a Million by Anson Dibbel, Orson Scott Card and Lewis Turco. Whenever I flick through it, it inspires me all over again.
Michael Pokocky says
Here’s a great free writing tool : Dark Room http://they.misled.us/dark-room#hide
Here’s what it is:
“Dark Room is a full screen, distraction free, writing environment. Unlike standard word processors that focus on features, Dark Room is just about you and your text.”
Anne Marie – I’m checking out Liquid Story Binder – thanks for the recommendation.
Judi – very good point – I was confused while writing the post over Learnt & Learned. I need to speak to Grammar Girl!
K.M – I know you are a prolific writer so I appreciate your sharing. I think I might be an editor as I go as well… but I am still exploring my writing style. I’ve found that NaNo has just allowed to me to write without fear which is a good way to start!
Karen – thanks for the book recommendation. I shall check it out!
Evan Marshall says
Well done, Joanna! I would say the skills you’ve acquired and the lessons you’ve learned are more important than making the 50,000 words. As an author and an agent, I believe especially strongly in your point #2 — don’t print out! As you discovered, it takes you out of “creator” mode and throws you into “editor” mode. What you want, obviously, is to stay in creator mode until you’re completely finished.
I’m under the gun right now for my tenth mystery, due to my publisher January 15. I am plowing bravely forward, only rereading the last few pages when I start a new session. I will say having a solid outline ahead of time makes it all a lot easier!
karthik narayan says
great stuff Joanna. Very useful indeed. Why dont u compile all the lessons learnt as a single document and use that as a base for next year’s nanowrimo? am sure a lot of guys would be interested, including me 🙂
Joanna Penn says
Thanks Evan – it’s good to hear from a pro
Karthik – great idea – I’ll sort it out! Thanks.
Well done on your progress for NaNo! I attempted NaNo for the first time this year as well and only made it to 25k, but it’s given me a great kickstart on my novel. I noticed you mentioned not being able to use scrivener because you don’t have a mac, I found ywriter to be a great program for PC users and it is free to download. I used Write or Die a few times during NaNo, and I agree it was a great way to boost the word count. Good luck on finishing your novel post-NaNo!