How I’m Writing a 30-Day Novel – NaNo Week 5

Camp NaNo Participant

If you’ve been following this series, you know I’m documenting my effort to write a first draft in 30 days. Here are the links to the previous posts in this part of the series.

These are all Phase 2 of the series. The actual writing of the novel. In July, the series began with four posts on some of the ways I prepared to write my first intuitive novel in several years. Here are those links.

This week covers the final week of July and of the Camp NaNoWriMo writing challenges.

A Change of Tactic

Last week, I began working on the fourth quarter. Part of that process was laying out the quarter by chapter.

I continued that work this week, but changed my methods slightly.

I tend to write in short chapters. Usually 1,000 words or less. That works well for thrillers of any type and for many other genres, as well.

But having so many short chapters didn’t feel right this time and because I’m writing intuitively, I needed to pay attention to those little promptings. I also needed to find a better way to lay out the story.

As I looked at the list of chapters (over 40 in the final quarter), I realized I was describing scenes, not necessarily chapters. So I made a very simple change. I replaced the word “chapter” with the word “scene”. The layout went from this:

  • CHAPTER 4.01
  • CHAPTER 4.02
  • CHAPTER 4.03

To this:

  • SCENE 4.01
  • SCENE 4.02
  • SCENE 4.03

That may look like a small change (and it was), but it made a big difference in the way I was able to work with the story.


Because when it comes down to the nitty-gritty of writing, stories aren’t made up of chapters. They’re made up of scenes. A story is written scene by scene. For some writers–including me–chapters and scenes are interchangeable. One scene per chapter; one chapter per scene.

As I’m fond of saying, there is no one method that works for every writer all the time and this time, that chapter/scene idea just wasn’t working. Once I made that change, the scenes fell together in a much more orderly fashion and progress was much smoother.

Another Change

Up to this point in the NaNoWriMo challenge, I followed the story. If there were ideas for scenes at the beginning of the story, I wrote them. If the next day’s work was on the end of the story, that’s where I went. Sometimes, I was able to string together a number of scenes along a particular story line.

For the final four days of the July NaNo challenge, I went back to the beginning and began working my through the first quarter of the novel, chapter by chapter. This time around, I wrote each chapter as close to completion as possible. I also added scenes and chapters to introduce characters who had appeared during the month.

In addition, I began weaving individual story lines into the novel from the beginning. As disjointed as this method of writing seems, it was much easier to add these new scenes and chapters now, after I had a good working understanding of each story line, than it would have been earlier.

Challenge Mission Accomplished… Sort Of

From Monday through Thursday, I averaged over 5,151 words a day. Two days were over 6,000 and one of those was a surprising 7,037 words. It was the best week of the month and made for a very strong finish.

When the challenge officially ended at midnight July 31, The Candidate  was 77,720 words long. That’s the validated total. My total was actually a little bit higher. To get a manuscript that long, I’d written, planned, and journaled a remarkable 103,369 words. That’s an amazing amount on a good month. Considering all the other things that happened this month, I was amazed. Totally amazed.

The Candidate  isn’t complete. By my best estimate, it’s between 70% and 75% complete. Too close to set it aside.

So I ended July and began August with a new goal. Finish the first draft by the end of August. That will take about 2,500 words five days a week for each of those weeks.


Camp NaNoWriMo is over for July. I made excellent progress toward completing a brand new novel. I also had a ton of fun writing by the seat-of-my-pants. As I said at the beginning, it’s been almost five years since the last time I wrote this way. Now that I have, I can tell you without fear of contradiction that writing this way is both the most writing fun I’ve had in a long time and the most frightening writing thing I’ve done in a long time.

But then those of you who write this way all the time already knew that!

For those who might be thinking about NaNoWriMo or writing intuitively or maybe both, don’t let the fear get in your way. Sometimes the only way to find out whether or not something works for you is to jump in with both feet. NaNo is the perfect place for that.

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