How I’m Writing a 30-Day Novel – NaNo Week 2

Welcome to Phase II of the 30-Day Novel series. In this phase, I’m documenting the writing process through my participation in Camp NaNoWriMo in July. You can read the report on NaNo Week 1 here.

If you missed Phase I, click here to read the introduction.

When I decided to do Camp NaNoWriMo in July, I had no idea life would get so complicated. So far, every day in July has presented a challenge, disturbance, or obstacle to writing of some sort. Some, I had anticipated. Some–like taking Max to the vet two days in a row this week–I did not.

Camp NaNo Participant

Writing Challenges

Challenges continued to come in a variety of forms.

I mentioned Max previously, so will start with him. He had an allergic reaction of some type on Tuesday, July 9 and we spent part of the morning and afternoon at the vet’s. Max exhibited no sustained symptoms and the overall examination was positive. He was subdued most of the rest of the day but appeared to be coming out of it in the evening. We thought the problem was food and made dietary changes that evening.

But after a repeat performance the next morning, we weren’t so sure.

Needless to say, both days were spent in various states of watchful concern, making sure Max didn’t relapse and was doing well. That is not conducive to concentration on writing.

One of the known obstacles was a colored pencil workshop for which I’m the local coordinator. The workshop was Friday and Saturday this week and I knew I’d have to set up on Thursday evening, so I’d removed those hours from writing time. What I didn’t expect was a funeral on Saturday and a funeral dinner that required the same room, so I spent part of Wednesday (Max’s first day at the vet) making alternate plans. Not a big deal, but definitely a time drain.

Writing Successes

Drastic times call for drastic actions.

Or at least different actions.

The usual practice when writing for NaNoWriMo or for any looming deadline is to sit in a chair and write for as long as there are words to write. If I sit there an hour, two hours or the entire afternoon, that’s what I do.

At no time this week was that possible so I shifted tactics from endurance writing to word sprints.

Word sprints are similar to timed writings. Whereas timed writings are often five, ten, or fifteen minutes, word sprints are usually thirty minutes. At least the ones I did were. I word sprinted with another writer and sometimes more. Throughout the day on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, I wrote in short bursts of about 30 minutes. One sprint went to about 40 and one was cut short at 20 by one of the interruptions, but the average was 30 minutes.

On Tuesday, I wrote 5,556 words; on Wednesday, 3,870; and on Thursday, 2,448. After a pitiful 499 on Monday, I was pleased with those results.

Friday and Saturday were planned non-writing days.

How the Story Developed

In Week 1 of Camp NaNo, I wrote scene descriptions and developed the chapter outline.

In Week 2, the story itself began to unfold. I started writing somewhere in the middle of the novel to start the week. As the week passed, I wrote scenes and chapters toward the end and scenes and chapters at the beginning. When an idea for scene appeared, I wrote it. If it sparked ideas for lead-in or follow-up scenes, I wrote them.

Case in point…

On Wednesday, I was fleshing out a scene I’d sketched the week before. Information appeared during dialogue between a couple of characters that promoted a new idea about why one of the characters is where she is and how she is. The story line that came with the idea required a Big Reveal at or near the end, so I skipped the bottom of the document and wrote the end of one chapter and the beginning of the next chapter that encompasses the Big Reveal.

That writing sparked a way cool idea for opening the novel, so I went to the top of the document and wrote that entire chapter in one word  sprint. Before the next word sprint, the next chapter took shape in my imagination, so I wrote that. The previous first and second chapters became Chapters two and three.

Conclusion

All of my fiction and some of my nonfiction writing comes to life in this breach-birth fashion, so I’m well acquainted with following wherever the story leads. In this case, writing intuitively, it’s especially effective.

On those days when I don’t know where to start, I scan previously written material and start wherever something catches my eye. In that sense, it really is like exploring a new path everyday. The common thread is that all the paths open off the road that is the story.

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