Margy Rydzynski and I have been colleagues and friends for years. When I met her for coffee last June, she had an unexpected question for me. Would I be her NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) coach? The worldwide NaNoWriMo challenge is held every November, but Margy was going to do hers in July.
I knew Margy had been writing a novel. And I was aware that she had put it aside to take care of some other major demands in her life. So I was thrilled to know she was going to resume work on her manuscript, and happy to have a chance to help out.
After Margy completed the challenge, I asked her to tell my blog visitors about her experience. The first thing I wanted to know was why 20,000 – 30,000 words? Here are her answers to that and to my other questions.
Why that many words? I had already completed 50,000 words of my novel and didn’t think it would take another 50,000 to finish it. The 50,000 word count is provided by NaNoWriMo as part of their November writing challenge. I wasn’t sure how many more words my novel needed to be completed, so I just wrote until I was done! Lynette tells me I wrote well over an additional 32,000 words of the novel in July.
How did I prepare for an effort of this magnitude and what did I give up? I work as a freelance consultant and teacher. My working life is therefore unpredictable, but summer is generally a bit slower. Normally, I use the time to catch up on my own work and plan new projects. In order to produce the amount of writing on my novel as I did, I decided to put all but the most time-critical work on the back burner and treat the writing as my highest priority. I had to be available for current clients, but I didn’t take on anything new.
What was the most difficult part? Getting started! It took me a while to get back into the swing of things. I hadn’t worked on this novel in quite some time and had to read over a lot of my notes to pick up the thread. Fortunately, I’ve kept a blog with possible plot progressions, characters, etc. I spent a good deal of time thinking about the story and writing down ideas, many of which came to me while I was in the shower!
Did I achieve my goal? Yes, although the first draft is very rough. At least it’s done, though. Editing will be a lot easier (I hope)!
My advice to those considering doing NaNoWriMo: You need to jump into it completely, not just dip your toes in. Life can and will get in the way, so you have to look at the big picture and organize your time accordingly. You have to write when you don’t feel like writing and just go on with the story. Above all, DO NOT EDIT YOUR WORK as you’re writing. The goal is to produce a lot of words, and editing as you go will bog you down.
What support did I have to for my July NaNoWriMo challenge? I knew I’d need someone to keep my feet to the fire, since my life is so unpredictable. I immediately thought of my friend Lynette, who’s a writing instructor and coach. I hired her to be my official “nudge” and, I have to say, I got my money’s worth! She sent me daily quotes for inspiration, met me in person from time to time to see how I was doing—and more. I had to send her my word count and writing for each day. There was no way I could slack off with her as my task manager.
Have you participated in NaNoWriMo? Got any tips you care to share?
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Jennette Marie Powell says
Congrats, Margy! Planning before the challenge begins is probably what I find most helpful (and I see Margy did that too). Also, prioritizing the writing. I found myself up way too late too many days last year because I forgot to do that. Days when I did the writing as soon as I got home from work were much better!
Lynette Benton says
Jennette: Late afternoon is better writing time for me, too. I find it hard to do any writing late at night. First of all, I want to go to sleep. 🙂 Second, my mind isn’t verbally sharp. Third, after dinner my husband and I tend to have quiet time, without a lot of challenges.
Arlene Weiland says
A perfect choice of a coach- mentor, and task master. I can see her encouraging you with humor, goosing and prodding, depending what is needed at the time to keep you going. Arlene
Lynette Benton says
Thanks, Arlene. It was fun and stimulating for me to coach Margy in her July NaNoWriMo push. BTW: I love your choice of the word “goosing.”
Linda Gartz says
A daunting task realized! Kudos to you — and for choosing Lynette to be your nudge! I am in the throes of a third draft of the second section of what’s been whittle down to about a 90,000 word memoir — and need to revise this 2nd section within the next two weeks. I have to insert many historical events to bring more meaning and relevance into a family story about the volatile 1960s as well as delete irrelevant sections. I’ll let you know how it goes and if I reach my goal. Then Section 3 with suggestions from my writing coach/mentor/editor will enter my in-box — and that will need revision; Then close to done. Just polishing remaining. I’ll take inspiration from Margy and Lynette!