Mandy Baker Johnson

Living without Shadows

Tag: NaNoWriMo

NaNoWriMo: What I Learned

What an exciting (but exhausting) adventure was NaNoWriMo last month! I had a fantastic time writing my 50,000 words in less than 30 days, and learned a lot during the process.

Getting to Know My Characters

There were surprises in getting to know my characters. This story (orphans Jay, Poppy, Robyn and Blu stand only a few inches high and live in a tree; when their home is threatened with demolition they become refugees overnight) was one I have carried in my head since I was a child.

In my head, Robyn was always my main character and very lovable.

On paper, Jay – in his quiet, unobtrusive way – took centre stage early on and stayed there. And I was okay with that, if surprised. Robyn turned out to be quite selfish and lazy though she had good qualities too.

In my head, Poppy was very much a bossy big sister, a bit stressed, rather controlling.

On paper, I found Poppy intriguing. Like Shrek, she has layers, and I enjoyed the process of her allowing me to peel them back and find the real person beneath. Actually, I think she was quite a lonely and misunderstood character, often taken for granted by her siblings. She also took me completely by surprise with her archery skills when a fox raided their camp late one night. I didn’t see that one coming!

getting-to-know-characters

Just Go With It

A big part of doing NaNoWriMo for me was having fun getting to know my characters and letting them take over the story. For the first few thousand words, I wrote and they did whatever I told them.

But what a thrill for me when they suddenly started to think for themselves and do what they wanted.

The showdown came when they were fleeing the destruction of their tree home. I wanted them to hike through the woods. They thought escaping down river was best. We argued on and off all night. They won. And I’m sure the story is the better for it. From that moment onward, I let them take charge and simply followed where they led.

Leave and Start Mid-Scene

More experienced writers recommend leaving mid-scene when finishing writing for the day so that you have something exciting to come back to. I found this very useful. Initially, I switched off my laptop at the end of a scene, but found it much harder to get going the next day.

When you leave mid-scene, it’s easier to get started and keep going because your imagination is quickly stimulated.

Writers’ Block

A writer-friend recommended giving your characters emergencies and issues to handle when you’re stuck for where to go next with the story. I did this a lot. My poor little fictional family! But it was fascinating to see what they did with the various problems I threw at them and how well they coped.

Thankfully, this prevented me from getting writers’ block and from feeling like the story was flopping in the middle of the month.

Writing Buddies

With all my fine resolutions, I may not have started NaNoWriMo if not for my writing-buddies who spurred me on. On Day One, I wrote nothing. It was pretty daunting being faced with a mountain of 50,000 words in a month. But my friends emailed to ask how the word count was going and encourage me to get started. On Day Two, I began to write.

Thank you Janey, Wendy, Fiona and Angela 🙂

 

Ready, Set, Write!

Ever heard of NaNoWriMo?

It stands for National Novel Writing Month. That happens to be this month: November.

The idea is to write 50,000 words between 1st and 30th November. Lots of people all over the world take part and it sounds intense but fun.

I’ve wanted to join in for the last few years but have always been too busy. This year, however, I have a fairly free diary with no church commitments (for once)…. so I’ve registered and am at the start line.

It’s a wee bit nerve wracking, even scary, but also exciting.

I planned out my word count on the calendar. Gulp. That looks, erm, intense. I’m hoping to have one day off each week so am planning to write at least 1,925 words per day. That means 9,625 by this Saturday.

But NaNoWriMo is a writing adventure and I can’t wait to get stuck in.

I’m having a go at a young adult/children’s novel about some tiny creatures who live in a tree. They are an orphaned family called Jay, Poppy, Robin and Blu. And that’s all you’re getting for now! They have been living in my head, making their characters known for many years now, and it’s time for them to see the light of day. I have a storyline in mind but I hope my little family will go their own sweet way and surprise me with what they get up to.

If I have any spare energy, I’ll post again in a couple of weeks and let you know how I’m getting on/how frazzled I am!

 

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