Want Adventure? Try NaNo!

And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise.  The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.  ~Sylvia Plath

By: Stacey Purcell

It’s that time of the year again. Sure the weather is changing, we’re getting ready for Thanksgiving, and Christmas is right around the corner- but that’s not what I’m talking about. It’s NaNoWriMo time!

 If you’ve never heard of it, then you need to slide on over to http://www.nanowrimo.org and check out what all the hype is about. Chris Baty began this writing adventure (because that’s what it truly is) in San Francisco July 1, 1999. There were only twenty one people registered to participate. It’s grown slightly over the years and in 2010, there were over two hundred thousand signed in to write their little hearts out from around the world. So far NaNoers have contributed 2.8 billion words throughout the years.

In 2000, with one hundred and forty people ready to write, he moved it to the month of November in order to take full advantage of the miserable weather that time of year on the Bay. He had some home grown help from friends, but it was mostly done manually and took a lot of man hours. Finally some automated help came to the rescue, however it wasn’t the end of their problems. Almost as soon as they had stuff online, writers would try to upload their word count for the day only to find the system had been hacked. Pornographic images blared across the screen along with the, ever so clever, words “YOU SUCK!” Sigh. It was a long row to hoe. They persevered and it is now streamlined and easy to register.

The goal is to write fifty thousand words in a month. Simple, right?

Well it is..if you do some preparation beforehand. I’m a true pantster and chuckle at myself when I’m shocked by what just happened on the page. Who knew the characters would do that? I certainly didn’t. I’m also a procrastinator and get easily side tracked. This year I have two tools I’m going to try while jumping in with both feet. On September 8th, 2011, I wrote an article here on the Pomodoro Method of productivity. (If you haven’t read it, I think it will help most writers- All You Need Is A Tomato To Solve Your Problems) This will help me keep on track and make the most of my time.

The other tool I have is a card given to me by Michael Hauge this summer in New York. He is a master teacher and full of wonderful ideas to adapt screen writing techniques for novelists. Screen writers have to have turning points happen at specific times in a movie to keep the audience from getting up and leaving. He’s translated this structure into a lay out for a book.

Stage I(The Set Up) 0-10% ,

Stage II(New Situation) 10-25%,

Stage III(Progress) 25-50%,

Stage IV(Complications And Higher Stakes) 50-75%,

Stage V(Final Push) 75-90/99%,

Stage VI(Aftermath) 90/99-100%.

Turning points are like sling shots to propel your reader to the next stage and they must occur in between each one. By the time you reach Turning Point 3 located between Stage III and Stage IV, your character is at the point of no return- she/he must continue on the quest. This keeps your material fresh and exciting.

As I’ve already stated, I’m not a plotter, but this year I’m doing a general outline of major events so I stay on task and don’t wander off into la-la land with my story. Pacing is so important and I’m hoping this will keep my writing tight and very tense.

If you haven’t tried NaNo, I highly recommend it! Countdown has begun and I’m sure the Pomodoro and Michael Hauge will keep me going!                                                                                                                                     

15 Responses to Want Adventure? Try NaNo!

  1. I can’t wait! Lots of great stuff running around in my head. I just need to catch one idea and focus, focus, FOCUS! LOL Great tips here. I’m not a plotter either, but a general outline sounds like something I can handle. 🙂 Come on Nano!!! 🙂


  2. I know you can do it since you made your word count last year!! One more time- GO GO GO!!! Let’s brainstorm on Friday, if you want.


  3. Susannah Hardy says:

    I won last year and still need to fix that book! Parts of it were quite wonderfully awful, totally pantsed, but with some revision and the addition of another 20,000 words or so, I think it will be a decent little romance. This year I’m writing a sequel to my 2009 romantic mystery novel — didn’t win that year, but I did eventually finish that one, and I’m shopping it around now. I’m still pantsing in 2011, but since it’s a sequel (with a third book needed to finish the story), I did need to sketch out the major plot points ahead of time. And of course I already know most of my characters, so I’m better prepared than I’ve ever been. Has anyone tried out the temporarily free Scrivener software? I’m curious how that would work for the more free spirited among us. Good luck, everyone! NaNo is so much fun, especially if you can find other people with whom to write.


    • I’m doing a modified NaNo, in that I started this book last year during NaNo and will pick it back up this year. I know so much more about it this year and have plugged most of it into Michael Hauge’s structure- it’s satisfying to see that I intuitively built a story that falls right in with his model. I have a few more turning points to come up with before I’m ready, but I have high hopes!!! Good Luck, Susannah! Let’s check back in December and see how we all did!


  4. William says:

    This year, I’m going with a Ten Point Outline. Very vague, room to change, re-think, etc., but I’ve got my Ten Points That MUST Happen For The Story already nailed down. Trying not to over-think, trying not to second guess myself, just planning on whamming the words out.

    We’ll see what happens!


    • I love the simplicity of your method- it’s straightforward and soothes the pantster inside me. Michael Hauge made it a bit more detailed so I think I’ll use a blend between the two of you. Thanks for sharing what you’re going to be doing.


  5. Tess says:

    I’m doing a NaNo Revision this year! Hope to bring my 65,000 word manuscript all the way from draft (I’m not sure which draft this will be, I wrote this story years ago) to publication (or at least have it ready to publish)!

    Good luck, Everyone!


    • This is why I love NaNo- we’re supposed to start a brand new novel with the beginning of November, but the spirit of the writing adventure has taken over and folks, like myself too, mold the month to whatever we need to do to further our writing. Good luck to you, Tess. Hope the revision gets sorted out to your liking!!


  6. jeff7salter says:

    Stacey, I’m not participating in NaNo — and if you remember my blog a few weeks ago, you already know why — but let me say a bit about these words of yours today:

    “I’m a true pantster and chuckle at myself when I’m shocked by what just happened on the page. Who knew the characters would do that? I certainly didn’t. I’m also a procrastinator and get easily side tracked.”

    You just described me to a “T”. In particular about being surprised at what the characters do when I’m up getting a fresh cup of coffee.
    Enjoyed the post.


    • I knew you were a kindred spirit right from the start! I’m not surprised that you are caught off guard by those mischievous characters the same as me. Ha!!
      Am really working on the procrastination and side tracked thing………….hmmmmm got a long way to go.


  7. Jessica P says:

    Those stages are great 🙂 having been predominantly a short story writer all my life, the pacing of a novel is something I really struggle with. I’m hoping that this NaNo I can win, AND get it right! Fingers crossed 🙂 good luck to you!

    Jessica P xo
    My Latest Blog Post: The Search for a Plot (a NaNoWriMo conundrum)


    • Glad you enjoyed the stages created by Michael Hauge- I thought they were pretty terrific when I was in his workshop this summer! I also wish you the best of luck and hope the pacing falls into line. Don’t worry about it during NaNo- you can always clean it up after the month is over!!


  8. jbrayweber says:

    Oh, I’ll be doing NaNo. As you know from my blog post yesterday, I’m into torture. LOL!
    This year I’ll be doing something I little different. Instead of starting a new manuscript, I’ll be finishing one. I’ll set a daily word count goal and stick to it.

    Good luck to all who participate!


  9. There are so many luscious ways of torture….some more pleasurable than others….see candlestick…..

    Hopefully, we can keep each other accountable during the month to keep to our word count!! Tick Tock goes the clock- it will be here before we know it!!!


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    […]Want Adventure? Try NaNo! « MUSETRACKS[…]…


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