Friday, November 6, 2009

Progress Report #1 - NaNoWriMo 2009

NaNoWriMo has begun, and I’ve got more than a little buzz going on. With so many other projects that were left in smoldering piles of trashcan waste, I worried that I might not make it when I started gearing up over a month ago. As it turned out, though, my worry hasn’t been fully realized. Gearing up for this run is exactly what I needed. While some can start with a premise, taking nothing more than a situation and churning out page after page, I found that I needed some sort of structure, even if it’s a legal pad with thoughts and quotes jotted down.

For this project, I first spent time in early morning walks, doing nothing but putting one foot in front of the other, taking one thought at a time. The more I thought, the more questions I asked, and the more those questions led to purchased books and preliminary research. Then, taking a cue from WB Greta Igl, I started mapping out a summary, my version taking it one chapter at a time. Thank goodness for word processors, because after mapping out one chapter I discovered that I needed two more somewhere earlier in the timeline. The summary isn’t complete yet, but I know the general direction I’m headed, and the summary will act like a guideline to keep me on the right track.

Finally, with some preparation completed—admittedly, I wish I had done more—I launched into this year’s NaNoWriMo with a better game plan. Thanks to my loving wife for being so understanding, I took a week’s worth of annual leave so that I could get jump start, turning my job day into a different kind of work day. And it has paid off. After five days now, I have already written over ten thousand words, putting one-fifth of my goal behind me.

Along the way, I have made some nice discoveries. First, I started capturing the rhythm and flow of the narrative voice. It’s similar to my short story voice, only more colorful and, at times, poetic. Also, while writing a few scenes I came to understand characters on a deeper level. One of those revelations came tonight while working on Chapter 5, which I decided to open up from the point of view of Maggie, my protagonist’s daughter. Taking a cue from Michael J. Vaughn, who posted an interesting entry to his blog, Writerville, I grabbed a dictionary and jotted down ten random words (Michael only suggests five). Looking at those words, an image crystallized, and I searched out an old Peter Gabriel song which led me to think more about Maggie. What I knew going into the novel was that she was angry. What I had previously thought about her anger, though, barely touched the real issues. Now, taking all of it together—the word game, the song, the new thoughts—my mind went back to a comment Maggie made in Chapter 2. “So, that’s what she meant,” I said; and capitalizing on that revelation, I quickly penned down the first sentence of the chapter. From there, the rest has flowed, and now I know where I need to go with this character, the relationship with her father, and the related character arcs.

So with one-fifth of my goal behind me, with the deeper revelations of character I’ve found, and with the renewed hope that I can actually do this, I am stoked. The embers are blistering hot, and I am ready to push ahead.

Stay tuned…


  1. Sounds like a good start!

    This year I've kept my planning pretty simple. I only started my plan around the end of the two week mark last year but it left me with enough for about 120k words, never mind 50k. Once you get going that 50k disappears fast, and I actually want to finish the story, as well as the challenge, this year.

    I have TWO WEEKS booked off for the end of the month - it coincides with my birthday so I anticipate much drunken scribbling...

  2. I hear you. NaNo is sooooo addicting. Congrats on making the 10K mark.

  3. Sounds like you'll have no trouble reaching your goal, Stephen.

    I like the idea of mapping out the story in advance, one chapter at a time. I didn't do that with my novel, and the whole middle is sagging.


  4. Yay, you're doing GREAT! You're 20% done! And isn't fun? I find that the itnense immersion allows that narrative voice to come through, something often lost when we nitpick at the story. I've actually refound my voice, which is true gratification. Peace, Linda

  5. Anton: Good luck. I'll try to find you out on NaNo to see how things are going.

    Greta: Ditto to you. You're keeping a very good pace.

    Carol: I hear you on the Middles. I haven't reached mine yet, as I'm still spending time in the Beginnings. I only hope I can keep it interesting. We'll see.

    Linda: Finding your voice is a gratifying experience. I personally love how I don't have to be so laser-targeted right now. I can just let it flow.

  6. Excellent. Sounds like you are well on your way. Go, man, go!

    I think up front prep always pays dividends.

  7. Stoked? Yeah, I'd be stoked too. That is a great start on the NaNo month. Nothing like momentum to carry you through.



  8. Hey Stephen,

    I couldn't send you Nanomail for some reason so I thought I'd send you the link here.

    I found blogger compatible widgets for Nano.


  9. Jon & John: Thanks for the encouragements. Just crossed over from the Beginnings to the Middles and trying to sustain the flow. I'm hoping all the planning and momentum carry me through the area where things can easily fall apart.

    Tracy Hey thanks! I looked at those widgets a couple of days back, and they didn't work. They appear to be working now. Thank you for giving me the heads-up. I look forward to seeing you at the finish. Maybe we can see how each other did? Your story line intrigues me.