Dispatches from NaNoWriMo, Vol. 2

National Novel Writing Month FriesenPress

National Novel Writing Month at FriesenPress continues!

This month, we’re documenting the writing journeys of four intrepid FriesenPress NaNoWriMo participants.

(Miss our first check-in? Click here to catch up!)

National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo for short, and NaNo for even shorter) has become an event our writing community looks forward to every year. It’s a fun (and ambitious) creative writing challenge: on November 1st, thousands of participants begin working towards the goal of writing a 50,000-word novel by 11:59 PM on November 30.

As NaNoWriMo hits the halfway point, we sat down with our NaNo group to talk about the highs & lows of writing and – more importantly – cheer on and celebrate their progress!

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Astra, Publishing Specialist

You’re almost halfway through – congrats! How is your writing coming along?

Great! I'm actually a bit ahead of my goals. Because my initial goal was 75,000 words, my daily wordcount goal is 2400 (instead of the standard 1600). There are few things more satisfying than having my DabbleWriter give me that sweet "Congrats! You hit your daily wordcount!" pop-up, and to still be in the midst of a flow. It looks like the book might be longer than I anticipated, so my new Stretch Goal is to finish the manuscript, however long it ends up.

Wow – well done! Have you settled in to a routine at this point?

I've been very good about writing every day, which has felt so invigorating. This keeps my story top of mind, so I can mull through problem pieces as I go about my day. I find Beginnings the most exciting, and the Climax, which means I'm currently in the cumbersome "neither here nor there" part. Chapter 8 was definitely a slog. The words didn't flow as well as I wanted. I'd spend the same amount of time writing and find I had only half the words down as my previous session. That can be tough, but my mantra in those times is: First Drafts don't need to be perfect, they just need to be written. This helps me be less judgemental and just let the story do what it needs to do.

In our first check-in, you mentioned you were writing an Austen-esque romance, which is a departure for you. Has anything changed about the direction of your project since then?

The plot has been very stable, because I spent months hashing it out before NaNo started. I had initial chapters blocked out, which serve as guide posts for what happens where, but the opening veered from my original plan. What I'd thought would take 3 chapters ended up taking 5, while the next 4 chapters have progressed just as I planned. I've also been reaching out to potential beta readers for their Own Voices opinions on how I'm presenting one character in particular. Their answers have been insightful, and have changed how I perceive this protagonist.

What’s been your biggest surprise so far?

What has surprised me are my characters! I usually write about impactful events and how characters manage them to influence the world. This time, I'm writing a very internal story, where these characters' lives have no real bearing on the larger world, and that's a very different headspace and requires very different techniques. Some of the characters have shown aspects or depths that I didn't anticipate. Moments I'd thought would be brief sometimes expand into tender moments or witty repartees that span pages; parts I'd thought would take a full chapter are breezed past. This is the magical part of writing a book for me: the discoveries and revelations that I don't "know" but that just come out of my fingers anyway.

As is tradition, please summarize your progress so far in a GIF.


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Ellie, Publishing Specialist

You’re almost halfway through – congrats! How is your project coming along?

Well, it's going! I'm not hitting my daily word count, but I'm writing everyday so I consider that a win. I'm one of the least consistent people I know, so for me to form a habit is a big deal. I'm feeling pretty proud of that.

Amazing! Good on you. Have you settled in to a writing routine at all?

I've discovered that my creative inkling hits at around 2:30pm, which isn't ideal as I have this thing called a job. Needless to say, that's been a challenge. However, I find that I'm able to get more done by breaking up my writing into time blocks with the smaller deadlines, as opposed to on the weekend when I can devote 4-5 hours in a row.

In our first check-in, you mentioned you've been improving every year you've NaNo'd. Is that trend continuing in your third attempt?

This year is the best yet! The overall arc of the book is taking shape, rather than being a gooey mess. There's much more character development this time around – I'm now getting to a point where the characters are telling me what they want and forming their own voices and personalities.

That’s great! What’s been your biggest surprise during your NaNo experience?

I've learned that the term 'perfectionism' is just another word for fear. I'll try to pick up where I last left off but, when I read the previous paragraph, perfectionism sets in and I begin to edit. Bye-bye word count! I'm trying to fight the feeling of not good enough and starting a new page every time I come back to the book.

You know what time it is: please summarize your progress so far in a GIF.



Nessa, Publishing Specialist

You’re almost halfway through – congrats! How is your project coming along?

Unfortunately I am not getting as much writing done as I had originally hoped I would, but I am glad that I have been working on it every chance I can. My goal was to try my best and write as much as I could, so I think I am aligning well with that!

That’s awesome! Happy to hear that – have you developed a NaNo writing routine?

About two months ago, I started a daily routine of writing first thing each morning when I wake up. I have tried writing my NaNo in the evening to create a routine of writing twice daily!

In our first check-in, you noted community support as something that's helping make NaNo seem feasible. How have you felt that support from your fellow writers thus far?

Well, lucky for me, I sit next to the NaNo queen, Astra. I get regular check-ups from her when I walk into work each morning, which makes me inclined to write more often. I always want to give her a big "YES!" when she asks if I got any writing done yesterday!

What’s been your biggest surprise so far?

I have been really surprised by how non-intimidating it has been when compared with what I’d originally thought. Having my chapters pre-planned has helped with my writing flow, and I'm not running into writer’s block nearly as much as I thought I would.

As is tradition, please sum up your progress in a GIF!


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Jessica, Publishing Specialist

You’re almost halfway through – congrats! How is your writing coming along?

Both fantastic, and less so. In the first week I broke my word count from last year and am delighted to say that the process this year is much, much easier. Much of the credit for this goes to the outline that I had when starting this year's project, and the time I spent pre-NaNo developing my characters.

All that said, I have fallen off the bandwagon rather badly during (and just before) the November long weekend. There are so many things in life that compete for my time and attention, which I am sure is true for everyone – whether or not you’re participating in NaNo. This last few days have been a struggle to get to the page to write. Part of that is external ‘life’ stuff and the other part is internal resistance against writing. I read a wonderful book about this last year, so if there are any writers out there struggling with internal resistance, I would suggest taking a look at Part Wild: A Writer's Guide to Harnessing the Creative Power of Resistance, by Deb Norton. Of course, reading another book is also just another good way to procrastinate, so I will keep you updated on how things go!

A big congratulations for already breaking your 2017 word count! Have you settled in to a writing routine at this point?

I am a morning writer. I always have been and I find this the most successful strategy as I am fresh and most creative in the early hours of the day. Generally, I like to get up, exercise, pour myself a cup of coffee, and then get typing. With the word counts for NaNo, if I don't hit my daily goal before I have to leave for work, I pull out my laptop just before bed and pound out whatever’s left.

In our first check-in, you had a strong vision for your NaNo project, which you described as a serious, Twelfth Night-influenced voyage and return novel. Have you managed to stay true to that vision so far? Or have things changed?

I am still on track for that, but on reflection, serious may have been a strong word. I’m going for literary, and not as comical as Twelfth Night. Although, it may still end with a wedding. I really like my main character, and the other characters have started to really show their true colours. As the month’s gone on, I’ve moved farther away from the original source material.

What’s been the big surprise of NaNo thus far?

I have never been a big planner when it comes to writing. I was very pleasantly surprised to find that having the structure of an outline has made me feel more free to be creative in the actual writing. Also, getting from Point A to Point B in the plot is still an adventure, and my ability to procrastinate on what I truly want to be doing knows no bounds.

NaNoWriMo progress GIF time:


Stay tuned for our final update in just a couple weeks’ time. Until then, please leave our participants some encouraging words in the comments section below – they’d love to hear from you!

Interviews by Brian Cliffen, Marketing Specialist @ FriesenPress
NaNoWriMo logo courtesy of National Novel Writing Month.