NaNoWriMo, Meet MiniWriMo

Happy November! This is my absolute favorite time of year, and I can’t wait to do something I haven’t done in years: participate in NaNoWriMo!

Nine or so years ago (wow), I dove into my first NaNoWriMo…and missed my goals spectacularly. I had no idea what I was doing, I’d gone in with absolutely no prep work, had made no outline or plan for success…it went about as well as you’d imagine. I think I ended up writing 7,000 words or so, and for a while, I assumed I was bad at fast drafting.

A few years after that, I decided to try my own NaNoWriMo during August 2018, because I wanted to push myself and try to improve at fast drafting. August was a quiet month with work and travel, whereas November was generally busier for me, so I went for it. And was successful! 

Turns out I’m quite good at fast drafting, and it’s now my preferred method for first drafts. I’ve done it for three manuscripts now and have no plan to stop, but I needed to make an actual plan and not shrug my way into trying to draft 50,000 words. That’s also a personal preference — some people love the freedom of jumping in without a parachute, but I’ve found I need a parachute, a life vest, a bottle of water, and a first aid kit before I jump. It works for me, and as always, the best writing style is the style that works for you!

Which brings me to this year’s NaNoWriMo! All three times I’ve drafted a novel in 30 days, it hasn’t been in November. November really is such a busy month for me on the personal and work sides: I get really into the holidays, and I’m a fiend when it comes to decorating, sending Christmas cards, baking, traveling, shopping, and generally giving Snow Queen Mariah Carey a run for her money. But my current writing plans align with November, so I asked myself, “Is there a way I can participate on my own schedule?”

So I’m doing NaNoWriMo my way: instead of doing the usual 50,000 word goal, I’ll be spending 31 hours revising my work-in-progress manuscript, codename Project Midnight, which I fast drafted in July. As I’m not doing the ‘true’ NaNoWriMo of drafting 50,000 words, I’m calling my version MiniWriMo! A mini writing month, so to speak.

Project Midnight needs a lot of love, and my goal is to have a readable version by Christmas. I plan to send it to my agent in early January, but if MiniWriMo goes very well, I’m hoping to send it along in early December. I’m a big believer in taking proper breaks, so I’m not going to push myself to early December if Midnight needs more time. It’s always a little hard for me to tell in the early revisions stage how long it will take to finish the round, but I’ve found it usually takes me about 35-45 hours of very concentrated revising. I use a timer to track my hours, and I pause it whenever I take breaks. 

I chose 31 hours for this round because it’s approximately an hour a day (though I won’t write each day), and because this current draft has 31 chapters. I’m planning a mini at-home writing retreat around mid-November, and I’ll be taking off a few days for Thanksgiving break and to attend a wonderful friend’s wedding in New Orleans.

For me, 31 hours feels both ambitious and entirely doable, because I have a plan in place for success. I’ve done this before, and I have a draft to work off. The time of year will be the real challenge, but when I consider it being about an hour a day, it feels much more manageable.

Like I mentioned before, the best writing style is the style that works for you. It’s great to try new methods, but I’ve always found the most important thing is to learn what methods work for me, and adjust my plans to fit my needs. I’ve learned I’m not a pantser, but I like having freedom in my drafts to explore where things go. I’ve learned I work well with a timed clock. I’ve learned writing in bursts of 15-20 minutes keeps me motivated. I’ve learned that 31 hours of concentrated writing in November is realistic, yet ambitious, even if this might be a tiny amount for other writers. I’m not comparing my goal to other writers’ goals, I’m setting goals for my success. 

Are you participating in NaNoWriMo this month? I’ll be cheering for you on my MiniWriMo journey! Let’s hit those goals together!

Sending mini tarts and good vibes,

Valerie

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