It’s day 30, I had just finished an epic short story yesterday and needed something new to write for my final day (complete the 30 day writing streak).
So in the NaNoWriMo Yorkshire region, we have our own series of WOTD, with two options presented every day, an easy option, and a challenging option.
So what better final challenge for my 30th day straight of writing? Use them all in a single short story. It seems a sufficiently difficult challenge, but I know others have done it before.
Here are the words that must be included:
And so, I set out with a shaky idea for a story, and have spent a few hours today writing it, it was slow going – people are clearly not speaking plain English, and in some places it’s a little forced. However, it is done. Complete. Challenge done.
And now I’m going to share it – it is unedited, served a purpose, and missed the mark of my original intention, (was going to make it feel like an 80’s comedy, and it went in a whole other direction, and I forgot the funny). But this is proof, that all those words can fit into a single story, (and warning it’s 5.282 words long):
So I’m still not busting out those monster word counts, and that’s okay. I’ve done plenty, this is highest ever NaNoWriMo word count, I’m on course for 160,000 words in one month.
That’s one full adult sci fi novel, three children’s fantasy stories, one long sci fi short story, plus three sci fi short stories, and a horror short story. In fairness, one of the sci fi shorts and the horror short I’ve only just commenced in the last few days, so they’re unfinished and what I’m working on in the run up to the 30th November.
Still, I like to think of that as an impressive haul. Not to mention the challenge of hitting 50k in 5 days, and doing a 20k day.
Of them all, the children’s fantasy stories are my favourite. So much so I’m doing the plotting on the first, because I’m going to rewrite it in a second draft. I’m going to be using my Fabula cards to do the re-plot. So between alternating writing on two short stories, I’m also working on that re-plotting.
First of all, I’ve mapped all the scenes in my first draft:
Now, I’m populating my Fabula setup with post-its, filling out the heroes journey proper.
The original first draft, which I wrote in a single day (the 20k day), had the most barest planning, which largely consisted of some story cubes, and I just wrote the hell out of it.
And that was an amazing challenge, but the second draft I’m trying to get more serious about. All the stuff I learned about my story from the first draft will carry over, I’m going to drop some unnecessary elements, some waffling sections and try to get to a tighter plot. I also need to develop a sub plot or two in there, there is kind of one that was setup for events in the second story, but it wasn’t very strong.
I always intend on getting to second drafts, and editing my novels, but I’ll be honest after the initial burst of creativity in writing something, I’m nearly always ready to move on to something else. I can’t help myself, I’m addicted to the new and shiney. However I’m making a strong commitment to myself, that this year, this December, there will be a second draft to the children’s fantasy novel, and I’m hoping that we’ll get into the sequel, or at least the planning done for it.
I still want to do the same for the first novel I wrote for this year’s NaNoWriMo, the Sci-fi piece, as I genuinely do think that’s got legs and could develop into something I’d share – but the children’s fantasy story just seems to be closest to my heart, so I’m going all out at that.
So my next few posts are going to be about how I approach the plotting, and second draft. Because it’s something I don’t get round to, it’s a new area for me. One thing I do love, is learning new skills, so I’m going to share that love along the way.
Happy writing everyone, I hope those of you taking part in NaNoWriMo are having a good final week. If there’s anything I can do to help you, give me a shout, (short of writing your last few words for you that is, I’m good with ideas, names, and if I give you advice its usually to make you think about your own way).
For a few days I’ve been struggling to write. The story is there, and in short bits it comes out easily on to the page. However, I don’t seem to be able to focus on writing for more than three minutes at a time.
It’s not writers block – I can write, just slowly and in small bits. The biggest problem is the frustration, I have things to write, just not the will power.
But its okay, instead of ramping up the challenge, which I nearly did by aiming for 200k by the end of the month (total word count),
So where as earlier in the month where I kept ramping up the challenge, I’m now ramping it down, I’m doing a couple of thousand or so words a day. It feels a bit better, and I’m filling my time to with building the Saturn V rocket Lego model, (I built the Moon Lander earlier in the month). I’ve also bought the Lego Y-Wing to go with my A-Wing, (my two favourite ship models from Star Wars).
So for those that marvelled at that early word count – I couldn’t keep it up.
As to why, I don’t know – could be burn out, could have done too much too quickly, but there are other factors out there, I don’t think I’m over the riot that happened on my street a few weeks ago, I’m also missing the structure of a normal work day, not sleeping to a proper schedule, I’ve slipped a few times into having caffeine after 4pm, (which has been a no-no for me for over a year now). And lastly I’ve had some medical issues to deal with, not just illnes that affected me earlier in the month, but also a couple of more chronic conditions I’ve been diagnosed with, which has imposed some lifestyle changes.
So, chill for a few days, I’ll ramp up for the last few days, finish my current story, and will do some plotting using my new Fabula deck, (review to come later).
Today I want to talk about designing maps – my way. Maps are a very useful reference tool not only in the real world, but in your story.
The important thing is, if you’re going to be moving around in your story, it helps to have you something to reference. There are plenty of tools online that can develop maps of worlds, countries, and right down to cities, also interior decorating tools can help you design a floor plan for a building if you want to go to really low level detail. Good news, if it’s in the real world, existing maps have you covered, but you can always add a feature or two.
So that’s what this post is about, my method – enjoy.
So, as you know I won NaNoWriMo already – in fact I’ve soared all the way up to 130k so far (go me, I’ll try to reign in the smugness). Then I did the 20k challenge starting a new children’s novel, which I did (come on reign it in JL).
So I did a pretty reasonable job on my first attempt at first draft of a children’s novel, especially considering I had no planning or plotting whatsoever. I had an idea where I wanted it to go, and the story adapted from there as I wrote it.
Things went so well I didn’t find an end point and continued writing. So when I come to the second draft, I’m going to have to do something about ending the first novel, and starting the second novel. That’s fine though, there are many worse problems to have.
However, moving on to a second novel did present some problems. My characters were both going to be revisiting places they had already been, and going to new ones. There’s no plotting to fall back, I’m just writing. It would be easy to have things happen in the wrong place.
Solution, rough maps
So in lieu of sitting down and plotting this story carefully, I decided to draw up some quick and dirty maps – ala:
This possibly doesn’t make much sense – but dots are towns, the diaganol line is a portal, the octagon in the middle is a citadel, and the little square thing is meant to represent a dock.
Importantly a map should be something the audience of said map can ready easily. In this came, I’m my own audience, so how badly drawn it is, or how simplistic it is, I know the story.
There’s a little bit more going on with the next realm in the demon world, because both a chunk of my first and second novels take place there, with overlapping plots:
Here things are more chaotic, and my lack of art skills does hurt. However, we have another dock, and a single line leading away, that splits. The line going north are two the supporting characters from my second novel, who briefly travelled with the MC in the first novel.
They are heading somewhere, but a giant stops them, so they flee back, and make it to a valley in the second novel. Meanwhile my main character in the first novel goes to a tower atop a mountain (the volcano looking thing to the south) – now not represented here this is where the MC leaves in the first novel. However he comes back to this spot in the 2nd, then continues on to the valley and meets up the characters fleeing the giant. They then go east across some mountains, have an encounter with something, then escape through a portal.
So even though it’s bad, really bad – I know what’s going on and where (ignoring the fact of put an E to the West in the map).
That’s great, but what about somewhere new you’ll be spending time?
So those scribbled notes make sense because the story of them was mostly written, or coming up. The next part of my story goes back to the human realm of the story universe.
I’ve only seen two places in this universe, a village and a town. So now I’ve a whole world to design, (I’ve gone with continent, give myself room to grow for future books maybe).
I started off rough – at first I drew a diamond shape, I then started zones inside the diamond, and then broke them out. It helps me to start with a basic shape, then break it.
Then I added details, a wintery north, a desert like south, with a temperate zone in between, that temperate region is then split in to a forested West, and hilly east.
Then rivers, lakes, and finally markers for wear my existing or referenced places are. It didn’t look great, so I added colour:
Now so far in my story, only the places in the East have feature, and big city kingdom was referenced. I need more detail for a world to write in, destinations for my characters to travel through.
So, this map being the most important to me, I took the photo, and used paint.net to redevlop, adding more details, and more locations:
Its still very rough, but I know have details to incorporate into the story. When my characters return to the human world, they’re going to arrive at the castle to the West in the temperate zone, and eventually they’ll want to make it to the castle just to the East in the wintery North.
We have roads, we’ve got silly depictions of trees (temperate zone has round trees, near to the wintery north you have triangle trees.
It’s simplistic, but effective. I also now have two ways the story could go to get to its destination. North to a small village, then through the two types of woodland, and going East a long way through the wintery North, or we could go East to the centre of the continent, and travel North, visit the largest city in this world, and then after continue North and have a shorter trip through the wintery North.
If I wanted, I can force detours, have them go East from the big city to where there’s a village with some kind of tower. The world is open to story telling.
This was just my way to go about making some choices, and giving my story world a bit more depth as I come into a pretty unknown section. It was in lieu of plotting, I can still pants it, I just won’t end up running over my own tail, (or tale).
Just remember this was my way – online generators can make it easier, if you’re writing in our world, existing maps can be incredibly useful (from current to historic). If you want a futuristic city, I recommend taking inspiration from the Middle East, Dubai, Qatar and several others really do look like some sci-fi inspired dream of the future. If you’re writing in the past, there are great maps for medieval cities like York, London, and around the world, and of the world at various points in history
I Did All This in Real Time
So, this is a companion post to my Vlog, where I did all these maps (except the digital one where I went off, and came back later with it), to show my process.
It’s 18 minutes nearly – but someone may find it useful – and/or entertaining:
So the question was, can I write 20,000 words in one day?
The answer is, yes I can.
Addendum: I really shouldn’t.
Suffice to say aside from still being a little ill, and bizarrely really tired, I pushed on and did, starting at 8am in the morning, and finishing 11pm at night.
I was flagging pretty much from the middle day, just so tired. Think it’s the after affects of being ill. Obviously I didn’t do the sensible thing and stop, do the challenge another day. No, I pushed on. My WPM was getting less and less, but I did rally towards the end, had a couple of 1000+ 15 minute sprints, and the final sprint of the day managed 1002, which put me over the top.
I think if I ever aim for higher than that, it’ll be when I’m completely well, and I think I should do it sponsored or something, and it’d be a push for 30k. But not this year, this year I’m going to chill for the last 17 days, keep to around 5,000 words per day.
Now you might think I switched to writing nonsense to just to get words in… and I didn’t. I did slide away from a children’s book at one point had some hardcore violence that needs cutting and rewriting, but for the most part my moral tale of an ogre on a quest to save people written for children 9 to 11 came through.
So yes, it was a tough day writing, but I’m immensely proud to have achieved, despite some setbacks. And bonus no riot afterwards, unlike last Tuesday.
That title is misleading, I’ve not stopped writing, but since Tuesday may word count took a tumble. Combination of hitting the winning word count, and the after effects of Tuesday nights unpleasantness where I live, plus some illnes over the weekend.
However, things have progessed since then, had an amazing Sunday night writing, where from 4pm I was feeling fantastic and put in a 10k, to have a 12k day in total. Very much enjoyed that.
Yesterday went back to a low word count, but that’s because I decided I deserved a break for me – so I built this:
Now, I’m back writing again, on a new novel. I’ve decided to do NaNoWriMo twice this year, this one in 10 days, rather than 5. It’s something different for me, it’s a children’s novel, aimed at 9-11, so I’m trying to pick up the skills and knowledge to make that work.
This plot is one I’ve gotten from my Fantasia story cubes. I’ve only ever done short stories from Story Cubes before, but I decided to plot this one out, and run with it. I always like fresh challenges, and I’m more engaged when the challenge levels up.
Speaking of which, today I’m going for a 20k day, that will be the most words I’ve written in a single day. It’s possible doable, but I might not make it. Slow start, but I’m starting a novel anew, with very limited plotting.
I’m doing mini-vlogs throughout the day, which I’ll stitch together into one vlog this evening, charting my progress, and my difficulties.
After this 20k though, it’ll be a more relaxed run for the rest of the novel. Though with no plotting, I don’t truly know how long it will be. I know for the 9-11 age range it’s recommended to be somewhere between 30,000 and 60,000 words long.
So quick update, six hours in and I’m at 8k. Not my best pace ever, but I shouldn’t be so harsh on myself, my best pace so for this NaNo has been 12k in a day, I can definitely still do this.
Erm… so yes. I won. 5 days, I achieved the challenge I set myself. I’ve beaten my best over time by 5 days.
I’m a little giddy, and excitced, and over the moon. I don’t mean to be a dick, because I do realise how stupid a 5 day NaNoWriMo is, but I also needed this challenge.
And for the hard work I’ve earned this:
I was going to look up some author’s cocktails, and celebrate that way – but There was nothing I fancied, so I did my own thing instead. Been saving this gin for a while, and it is lovely. If you are drinking, drink responsibly, and from my experience, writing drunk “to get through writer’s block”, or for “inspiration” rarely actually works.
So anyway, I’ve not been this happy and excited in a long long time, so I’m not going to say anything meaningful, other than thanks to the NaNoYorkshire goes, who’s regular sprints, kind and support words have brought me to where I am.
I’ve just said I’ll never do this again… but four days is only 12,500 words, I could manage that, though NaNo does start on a Sunday next year , so that’d be three days off work. Will see – I’ll admit five days was a tough hall, and actually tiring.
So yes, I won. Yes I’m super happy. No I’m not done, the story itself needs finishing, there’s a couple of chapters missing that need filling in, and a lot of detailing work to get to a finished 1st draft. So plenty more words to add to that total yet.
And if you want to see someone that looks ridiculously happy, and exciting and barely able to string a thought together, (even forgetting to put an Hawaiian shirt on, even though that’s a thing he does for every video) – here’s my terrible but hugely happy Vlog for today:
Happy writing everyone, no matter what time you do it in, or even if you don’t quite make it to the end of the month with 50k, be proud. You’re doing so much better than those that didn’t bother starting.
So been a bit quiet on here for the past few days, that’s understandable I hope it is NaNoWriMo after all, most of my words have gone into the novel I’m writing.
And I really am writing. It’s thanks to two things the plotting I did, (which wasn’t that deep, but has kept me focused), and my regional community for NaNoWriMo with discussions and sprints.
Sprints are timed writing segments where at the end of the time, you compare how many words you all managed to write. Mostly it’s been fifteen minute sprints this year, and I’ve done 52 of them in the first four days of NaNo.
52? That’s a lot. It really is, in some I’ve hit as high as 1,000 words per sprint, though my average is about 634 words. Still, it’s carried me far this year.
So I’ve not yet said how I’m doing word count wise. That’s because I wanted to say how I got here.
I’ve not one yet, don’t jump the gun please, let’s not count chickens – but please excuse me if I crow a little.
It’s the start of day 5, and I have less than 7,000 words left to write to have hit the 50,000 word target. So yes, I will be finishing that goal today. I’ve done four days of 10k+ words (give or take an argument with the new NaNo site about which day some of those words live).
As mentioned, I’m crowing, I’m proud – hell I’m ecstatic, but I’ve not finished yet, and I really can’t take a lot of the credit, there’s been a community supporting, being there with relentless sprints, listening to me moan about being more tired than after a hard day’s work, and putting up with my inane attempts at a funny comment everytime we launch a sprint.
I’m posting this now, as the post after I do win, I’m actually going to be talking story, not stats, crowing, and generally have a laugh. Which is probably boring, but I’m really looking forward to some substance – but sometimes you’ve just got to go for the frosting first.
It’s also worth noting it doesn’t matter how many words you right in a day, it doesn’t matter how fast or how slow you write NaNoWriMo, the heart of this challenge, this competition, is that you write. I’m not going to stop, and no matter where you are in your journey, I hope you don’t stop either.
It’s not too late, you can still join in NaNoWriMo, by signing up to nanowrimo.org
Not sure what it is? Not sure why you should do it? Are there good reasons to do your own thing? Read on:
What is NaNoWriMo
NaNoWriMo is a competition that’s been around for two decades now, it’s a drive to get people writing. It’s a competition not against the thousands that take part, but a challenge for you to try and complete, and celebrate with others that win.
The challenge is simple, a story of 50,000 words written in November. This equates to 1,667 words a day – that’s not so scary. Everyone has a good story in them, something they want to explore and this is an impetus to do just that.
I’m taking part in my 11th NaNoWriMo this year (2019), and I’ve got five wins and five losses under my belt. You are writing around your life, your job, your kids, and every other obstacle that comes up. Some people have a dozen or more victories under the belt, but it’s about trying. Yes there’s a lot of celebration for doing, but there’s a lot of community and heart in trying to get there.
So, NaNoWriMo is a communal challenge to try and see what the story inside is when it comes out on the page. It’s no more complicated than that.
Why should you do it?
If you’ve ever struggled to write, but know you had something to say, here’s your chance, your excuse, permission to leave the doubts behind. Just go and hope for the best, literary abandon awaits you – and who knows what you’ll have out the other side
It can help teach discipline, if you’re like me you have an on and off again relationship with writing, you can build a daily writing habit. There’s no reason to stop doing 1,667 words at the end of the month, you can keep going on the same story, on a new story. Maybe once you’ve found it fits, an hour or two is something you can spare
Already writing, but keep getting struck down by writer’s block? NaNoWriMo is the ultimate block buster. There are no marks for quality, there is no praise for prose – just write. Even when the ideas don’t come, just write. 1,667 words a day, 50,000 words in the month. At the end of the month you may have just unlocked the inspiration to finish that novel you were working on
Friends. The forums for NaNoWriMo are a fantastic place to make friends with other aspiring writers from all over, there are regional forums so you can get to know people in your region/city, there are write-ins (meet ups), where you can join fellow writers in a session, and word sprints can give you a fantastic competitive edge. People really do help each other there, whether it’s a plot idea, a name, or discussing the moral implications of X, Y, or Z
Do something entirely different. Always writing science fiction? Why not use NaNoWriMo as an excuse to try something new, you might turn out to have a good hand for period romances you had no idea about. Literary abandon means you can write whatever you want, in whatever style you want, be it something new, something old, something borrowed or something new
Break out of bad habits, I used to have an interminable time writing because I was in the habit of editing earlier passages, sometimes drastically, but NaNoWriMo gets you focused on writing the next words, not editing the old ones. Colour a section in purple and move on – you can always come back in the next draft and fix those problems
Do your own thing
Over the years I’ve known many people use NaNoWriMo as a frame work and community to work with while they do something other than a novel. A series of short stories or fan fics? No one’s judging. Want to do something non-fiction, I’ve known people do that too.
Don’t feel you need to restrict yourself. Just write.
What are you waiting for? Want to write, here’s the barrier being raised, inspiration descending.
And if it’s not for you, that’s fine too – there are other writing challenges around. There are also others out there that don’t want to do NaNoWriMo, so there’s also a counter-community to draw inspiration from.
Some people don’t like to the idea that thousands of new drafts are out there, pestering publishers that can’t keep up with supply. With self published books spiking, confusing sales. Some are worried it teaches the wrong things. However you learn from NaNoWriMo what you want to learn. My only hope is that people learn to take the opportunity to write.
There is never too much art in this world. There are never too many ideas. There’s never too much happiness, joy, and celebration.
So I embrace literary abandon every year, whether I get stuck at 10k, or blast right through and hit the 100k. If you love writing, you may just love NaNoWriMo.