The Road to NaNoWriMo: Week 2 and 3 Recap

I’m sorry I forgot to post last week; I had so many things going on over the weekend that I wasn’t able to post anything substantial. But what’s most important to note here is that, in the span of three weeks, I managed to do something that I would not have been able to do in any year:

Mind you, there were a lot of other factors that came into play here. But I finished, at a little under 54,000 words, and I’m happy with the way my novel ended. Which can only mean one thing: I can claim THIS. 
So how did I manage to do it? Well, let’s look at the facts:
– I had no academic deadlines. Sure, I had to do some research at the library for my dissertation topic, but otherwise I didn’t have anything important to take over my mind and headspace for the entire month.The only troublesome days that I had were the ones that affected me politically, and even then I forced myself to get my butt-in-chair time so I could get my writing done. 
I had an outline. This, I think, is one of the most important factors that have contributed to my numbers, since I planned this novel ahead of time (as in, all the way since August/September) and I had a good idea of where everything was supposed to go. No more aimless writing for me…but is that the rule? 
I didn’t follow my outline. Granted, there are huge chunks of text that I’m going to excise once I start revising this next year, but there are some parts of the story that I would never have been able to write if I followed my outline as closely as possible. Most of the sexy parts, for instance, were improvised, and there were some chapters that were compressed together in order to make the narrative stronger. Some of the character beats that were missing from the outlining process also emerged from the pantsing that I did on certain scenes, too. If anything, however, the combination of planning and pantsing made for an interesting writing process, and I was happy with the outcome. 
I actually liked what I was writing. Again, this might be because I’d already outlined this several months beforehand, but there were places where I thought that I might actually hate my work. On the days when I had more writing time, I went back to the story and tweaked what I’d actually written so that I could zap out the parts where I felt that my writing had dragged. This is not to say that I messed with large chunks of text to make it happen, but a little line editing here and there for certain scenes had helped. 
– Keeping writing hours sacred. There’s no way around it. In the daytime, I have to do a lot of running around, so it’s impossible for me to put myself in the right frame of mind to write. But once I’m finished with dinner, and I’ve done my basic rituals for the night, I can relax and sit myself down in front of my laptop, so I can get the juices flowing. There were no ifs, ands, or buts; I made sure I was sitting down by 8 and finished by 11, so I could log in my hours and continue with the rest of my night. 
The word count tracker helped, but only to a certain extent. Remember the Excel spreadsheet where I tracked my word count? I used that faithfully every single day to keep me accountable on how many words I was supposed to write on a certain day. Before NaNo, I set a target of 2,000 words per day, which I was able to meet whenever I wrote in the evening (2000 words/3 hours = 667 words per hour). Having a tracker certainly kept me accountable to my goal, but I found that having the tracker alone would not have helped me as much as having a clear direction on what I was going to write that night. That said, it was still cool to see everything on a spreadsheet, so that kept me on my toes. 
One word: Scrivener. Oh, Scrivener, how would I be able to write novels without you? But again, Scrivener was just one factor out of many that contributed to my word counts. The last book I wrote was on Scrivener, but it didn’t have an outline so it took me a year or so to finish it. This time, with a plan in hand to keep track of both word count and story direction, I was able to maximize Scrivener’s potential and come up with a draft in less than a month. 
Caffeine can only go so far. Normally, I can write well after a cup of tea–especially if it’s milk tea–but there were days when I couldn’t sleep, and my nerves would be frayed the next day as a result. I find that hot chocolate or warm herbal tea does the same trick; the warmth and flavor is there, which lulls the brain into thinking that something creative is going to come out. 
Support. This was the first year that I’ve also maximized the writing buddy system, where I stayed in touch with the people I’ve met through the NaNo forums; having someone who’s going through the same journey as you are helped in making the process more bearable. I also got a lot of support from social media, especially after I started posting my word counts on Twitter; I got messages not only from my #romanceclass friends, but also from people in the general NaNo community. 
I know that there may have been a few things that I have missed, but these are the ones I could see so far. I’m not saying that my way is the only way–I’m sure that there are some things that I’ve mentioned which may not work for you–but I’m sharing them anyway because they have worked for me and you might be able to pick up some cues along the way, too. In fact, I’m going to put all of these through the test when I start writing my next book in the first quarter of 2017. 
Until then, happy writing, and have a wonderful month! 

Love, Stella

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Stella Torres

is the author of the adult contemporary romances Save the Cake, Crushingly Close, and Nine Years Away, as well as the short story “Be Creative” in the anthology Kids These Days: Stories from Luna East Vol. 1.

In her previous life, she has worked in public relations, taught English as a second language, and even attended graduate school (twice!). She has lived in Indonesia, Honolulu, and Quezon City before moving back to her hometown of Los Banos, a few hours’ drive (with traffic) from the heart of Manila.

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