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NaNo and Beyond

Hey guys, this is me checking in. For those of you not following my Twitter feed, I’ve been posting there a day-by-day account of how this year’s NaNoWriMo attempt has been going. Since I know not all of you are probably on Twitter (or following me specifically), I am going to try and do these occasional updates to talk about what’s been happening lately. So here we go.

For at least three years now, I’ve been sitting on an idea for a historical fiction novel, and for the last seven years, I’ve been struggling to feel the remotest bit inspired. It just hasn’t felt like “the right time”. There’s been a lot of other changes in my life and I wanted to save this project for when I could devote some real time to it, and not add it to my pile of “almost-was” drafts. So, when I knew I was going to be taking off three months from accepting new queries (November-January), I heard that subtle whisper that maybe NOW would be a good time to pull out that idea. But 50k in 30 days? Could lightning strike twice? It seemed a tall order. And it was.

November 4th, I had one solid good day of writing a traditional draft, one that petrified me. There’s something about that dreaded first draft that just scares me away from the page. I couldn’t do it. I shelved it. My little novel looked like it was going to be added to the “never-was” pile of ideas. But God wasn’t done with me yet. My habits have been changing slightly, and as I’m adjusting to getting up earlier, and procrastinating less, I’ve discovered two important things about myself.

One: if I tackle the biggest projects at the beginning of the week (all literary agent stuff), then I feel more confident to take on new projects during the latter half of the week and not feel as if I’m facing down the weekend deadline with nothing under my belt to show for it. So, I’ve been scheduling my time better, and this has been enormously motivating to me.

The second thing I discovered is that I tend to have more energy/be more creative, first thing in the morning. I am slowly adjusting to trying to get up an hour to an hour and a half earlier each day, to carve out some quiet time (no TV, no internet) for writing. What I’ve found is without all of the distractions (and noise), I’m really able to capture down on paper what it is I want to write about. And then I’m beginning my work day with the knowledge that I’ve already put myself first and accomplished my goal for the day. And you know what the funny thing is? By doing that, it’s also resulted in me continuing to think about my manuscript throughout the day. It’s not been uncommon that I’ll hear snippets of dialogue, or have a new idea of where to take the story next, as I’m running about my daily life.

This is a new experience for me. I’ve heard of this with writers — learning the story as it goes, having characters talk to you, being excited to find out how it unfolds, just like the reader, but if I’m honest, I can’t remember this ever happening to me before. I feel like God’s entrusted me with a precious gift, with the cautionary advice, “Don’t waste it this time.” So, part of this mental shift has been me implementing a little dishonest mind trick. I’m not calling what I’m working on my “first draft”. I’m calling it pre-writing. Because ‘pre-writing’ is far less scary. You can be freer to not take it seriously. To experiment, to just do whatever comes into your head. You’re just getting it down on paper. Exactly like in a first draft (coughs). The point is, it shuts my analytical left brain down long enough to say, “You’ll get your turn at this. Later.” And from there, I can just run around and try things. It’s been interesting, to put it mildly.

My poor friends and family closest to me haven’t heard me stop talking about it. So there you go. I’m writing daily. I guess that makes me a writer. Go figure.

If you’ve read this far and haven’t already retreated to Twitter for a blow-by-blow account, here’s a quick(ish) summary for you. Note, that I am only including actual writing days here, and I don’t write every day of the week.

Week ONE

11/04/19: Chapters 1-2, attempted a miserable first draft. Stopped in my tracks.

End of week word count: unknown

Total writing time: 3 hours, 15 minutes

After this point, I began tracking daily word counts and writing sprints.


11/14/19: Continued throwing around some ideas for chapters 1-2, switched to my “pre-writing” technique, loosely sketched out chapters 1-4. Writing day out!

11/16/19: Chapters 4-5. End word count: 7,264.

11/17/19: Chapters 6-8. Total word count: 10,644.

11/18/19: Chapters 9-10. Total word count: 12,203.

11/19/19: Chapters 11-12. Total word count: 15,544.

11/20/19: Chapters 13-15. Total word count: 18,869.

End-of-Week Word Count: 11,605.

Total Writing Time: 13 hours, 20 minutes.*

So, after my first full week of writing, I am definitely behind in my original plan of starting on November 1st. Where I would’ve liked to have been by the end of yesterday was right around the 30,000 mark. Don’t get me wrong, for starting late, and having some start-and-stops, I am VERY happy with all of this progress. And tired. If I’m being completely open, my body rebelled this morning and demanded sleep, completely throwing off my prime writing time.

So you adjust, and you move on, and you try again. And I guess, that’s just how it goes, isn’t it? For now, I’ve got to get back to writing. Check in next Thursday (hopefully) for Thanksgiving, and maybe, God-willing, I’ll have one more reason to be grateful! Oh, and my goal by 11/27 (per original schedule) is 40,500 words. We’ll see what happens in the next week.

*Time increased on 11/23/19 after reviewing and realizing I forgot to count a couple of days. Sorry about that.

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Lauren Miller is a Midwestern born writer with a passion for Jesus, the written word, and dogs. She has two decades of experience in the library field and reviews books for the Historical Novels Review (UK). She likes to spend her free time enjoying period films, discovering new reads, and being surrounded by other people’s pets. Lauren, her husband, and their wily Maine Coon (who isn’t quite a dog) live in Missouri. You can learn more about Lauren’s writing at LaurenJoanMiller.com.

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