My First Non-NaNowriMo Week


At the beginning of October I felt the buzz from the build-up of writers preparing for this months challenge. Come the middle of October the intensity of preparations was increasing and as I read more and more about the NaNoWriMo I was sorely tempted to join.

However, my writing needs did not suit the criteria for the actual challenge, but knowing so many of you were beavering away on your creative projects I was inspired to set and try to complete my own challenge.

I have already completed 70,000 words of my first draft. My challenge is now to finish this by the end of the month!

My initial task was to familiarise myself with what I have written – this alone filled me with fear.

One day in mid October I set the printer going and looked on in quiet awe as it shook under the stress of the workload. I’ve never printed so many pages in one go! Over 400 and that is double-paged. Finally a large block of paper sat on my desk.

What if I didn’t like it? Or even hated it? What if it wasn’t any good? I’m a lousy liar, even more so to myself. The moment of truth had arrived.

I started early one morning and as per Stephen King’s suggestion in ‘On Writing’ I decided to read what I had written in one day. By my side was a new A4 notebook and three pencils, all sharpened, ready for use. At this stage I was looking for major errors – particularly wrong names or places etc – as well as major plot faults or omissions.

To my relief I enjoyed what I read and I was carried away by the work it involved. After scribbling pages of notes and scrawling corrections across most of the text pages I took a rest. Over the next two weeks I edited on screen according and then planned for the first week of NaNoWriMo.

There was one major problem with the book and this struck me the day I read the whole text. I also realised this is what had caused me to let the whole project slide to a halt earlier in the year.

As I read the last two chapters I found them to be jarringly rushed and rough. As I had headed towards 70,000 words I had started to panic about the length of the novel. Whilst there were technically only about 30,000 words left until the end of the novel (a typical novel length being 80,000 – 100,00 words), I had a vast amount of ideas and plot that I wanted to incorporate into it. I had begun to take short cuts to try to achieve this.

This was a mistake and reading all my ideas for the rest of the book it became obvious that I must split it into at least two books or perhaps even aim for a trilogy. I will decide that in the future. For now I have put those ideas and chapters in a separate folder in Scrivener marked ‘Book Two’. Nothing like optimism! At the moment I need to complete my first draft.

As some of my draft was written out of sequence there were certain places that needed an extra ‘connecting’ chapter and at the start of this week I wrote two such new chapters. Once started, I revelled in writing away on my book, happy to be reunited with my characters. My writing flowed easier than ever and I believe writing my blog over the months has helped improve and hone my skill.

Within a few days I had completed over five and a half thousand words on the two new chapters. Furthermore I rewrote two previous chapters. These were initially written from the first person viewpoint as I was at that stage exploring various viewpoints before settling on a close third person viewpoint for the book.

I am satisfied with the work achieved this week and have decided to split the first draft into three sections. After reprinting the first third I reread this carefully making editing adjustments as necessary. I also feel two further chapters are required to enhance the continuity of the story. These I will write next week. After that I believe the first third of my book will be complete. By then I expect the word count to be approximately 80,000. Altogether I estimate the book will be around 100,00 words long.

Being so close to completing my book I truly appreciate the work, effort and resilience it takes to finalise such a project and I am filled with respect for all writers out there who have completed a book, be it published or not.

As I once again enter my fictional world I want to wish everyone best of luck with NaNoWriMo, whether taking part officially or ‘unofficially’. Remember to enjoy.

“Just set one day’s work in front of the last day’s work. That’s the way it comes out. And that’s the only way it does.” John Steinbeck

Photo: Courtesy of The Magazine of the National Endowment for the Humanities

39 thoughts on “My First Non-NaNowriMo Week

    1. Thank you Mary and who knows, if you want you could be a beta-reader! It’s going well so far, pleased and slightly amazed what I’ve achieved at the moment, just got to keep slogging on.

  1. Love the Steinbeck quote Annika, just about nails it doesn’t it? ‘The King’ has some great advice doesn’t he? It’s wonderful when we find just what we’re looking for in our writing isn’t it? For me, it was the title, which didn’t come until I finished the first draft of my memoir (three years in the writing, but with long gaps inbetween). It sounds as if you are making wonderful progress, well done!

    1. Thank Sherri, I’m definitely getting there, I think!😀 I came across the Steinbeck quote whlist reading an article about his troubles and self-doubt on writing. You’d never guess from his books. I have the title luckily but for me I have to envisage a new ending now as I’ve decided to split the book…come to that bridge when I get to it…not long now I reckon.

  2. King’s “On Writing” is my favorite book on the subject. I love his advice to writers–really usable and hands on. I love how you tell us about being re-inspired from reading your work. The fresh perspective revitalizes the project. Bravo. With this kind of care at the onset, it will be wonderful.

    1. Bless you Rene for your kind words. I suppose writing is another form of nurturing and I do care so much about this book. My fear I suppose has been of not being able to do it justice! There are quite a few writing books out there which I have found to be pure waffle so King’s direct and clear suggestions were a welcome relief. Thank you for the follow and it’s a joy to find your blog and follow you back.

  3. Awesome, Annika. You’re post is brimming with energy! I learned early on that a story’s length is a story’s length. We have a bit of wiggle room, but lopping off big chunks or drawing it out to reach a magic number doesn’t work. Best to write it and if necessary turn it into two books, three books, or a novella.

    I like the idea of challenging ourselves. Nano has given me “permission” to ignore the rest of my life and write, but I’m finding speed-writing goes against the grain a bit. Good for you for pushing ahead with your project! I’ll looking forward to the results 🙂

    1. Thank you Diana and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that my energy lasts the month! Before I’ve only written short stories and although it can be tricky to write to length for competitions it has not been too difficult. I thought writing a book would be the same but I am discovering it’s got its own mind and momentum and I’m learnig to listen to that.

      Glad you’re giving yourself a chance to concentrate on your own writing – that’s so important and just as important is to work the way that suits you and your story. Take care and good luck with the writing. 😀

    1. Thanks Jo. I took the Steinbeck quote as I recently read an article about him and his lack of confidence regarding his writing. Like all writers he seemed to have been plagued by self-doubt and whilst writing ‘Grapes of Wrath’ he kept a diary detailing how his novel was going on a daily basis, some of the enteries were very illuminating and interesting.

  4. I was engrossed, listening to you edit your work. I too used to print my books, but 800 pages (double sided 400)–woah! (Maybe I read that wrong). I see things differently when I read from print than on the screen.

    And, like you, there are parts I really like, wonder at my writing skill, and think ‘Who couldn’t love this?’ Unfortunately, it’s not the entire novel!

    Thanks for sharing this, Annika.

    1. Jacqui, I’m smiling now. Wouldn’t it be perfect if the whole first draft resulted in that euphoric wonder?!😀 I had no idea how to approach the editing before reading the book, the task seemed just too ginormous. It seems to be working but doing this whilst writing new chapters is definitely challenging and then there is a new end…think I’ve nearly got that fixed in my mind. I’m sorry I seem to have caused confusion about the pages and their numbering. By double sided, I meant I’ve printed two pages of the book landscape on one side of A4. Since I have vision problems (Fuchs Corneal Endothelial Dystrophy) I have printed slightly bigger font than normal users. Word count and number of pages in front of me is accurate. I wish I did have a double side printer!

  5. It seems to me you’re taking eminently practical steps in revising and expanding your draft. I’m sure tis approach will pay off.

    I know nothing about Scrivener. Do you find it helpful in organising your material and/or does it prompt you with suggestions regarding plot?

    1. Thank you Rod and I do feel organised as before was feeling rather overwhelmed with what I needed to do and going ahead in small steps seems to help. I have found scrivener very useful. It has a cork board style set-up for all my ideas which I can adjust however I want. Also you can keep any reaseach on there in separate folders as well as having the main story in one folder but in separate chapter files, I have actually moved these around a bit. Very easy to learn. As for formatting I have no idea yet how to do that but will learn. It does not offer any sort of prompts or suggestions. For my writing project it has been money well spent and I did use the free trial before buying.

    1. Thank you for your encouragement, Andrew. I do hope people will like it. Now I’ve started to edit, I’m beginning to realise this is a huge undertaking. My eyes are sore with the intense concentration required.

  6. Anonymous

    Thanks for sharing your progress with us. I think you need a break before going back to read your draft as you get too close to it at times.You can then come back to it with fresh eyes. It sounds as if you are making great progress and I can’t wait to read the book (and the other two after that).

    Good luck


    1. Mike, thank you for your comment. I think I’ll concentrate on book one for just now! The break has definitely brought me back to this refreshed and slightly sharper as well regarding the writing and editing.

  7. Mirja

    Wonderful to hear you admit that you enjoyed your re-read and how I can understand your fear that it might not be up to the standard you want.
    I admire your perseverance and how well-planned you are. Obviously a very artistic soul with organisational skills.

    The courage to realise you were trying to ‘squeeze ‘ the end to fit the word count. Bravo!
    So you have to find another ending and goodness, three books. You go girl.

    I do love the little bird helping you out – ever so patiently.

    1. Ah, Mirja your kind gentle words are a balm to my stressed soul. Fear stops us so often, so I am glad I am persevering with this but I also know if I felt it had fallen below what I wanted to achieve I would have abandoned the whole project. I took a deep deep breath before I started reading. It’s odd that I hadn’t really realised that I was trying to squeeze another book into a few chapters earlier – think I was so set on my original idea but then the characters took me elsewhere. Oh yes, thought you might notice the little birds – so sweet and looking with such kindness and warmth at the writer.

  8. Reblogged this on Ms M's Bookshelf and commented:
    Anika Perry is another blogger I follow on a regular basis. In today’s post she gives a great overview of recent creative efforts, her progress, self-evaluations, and the satisfaction it is bringing. Every author, published or not, should take a few minutes to read about the upside of writing. Enjoy my Sunday reblog!

    1. Thank you so much for the reblog! 😀 A big thank you also for your kind words! I did so want to offer some advice and encouragement for writers out there as well as describing the continuation of my novel writing journey.

  9. I admire your patience and ability to jump right in there and make sense of it. I get so lost in detail and never see the big picture, something I’m trying to work on. And now a trilogy… I look forward to reading it. -JC

    1. Ha! There’s that word again. Patience. Very appropriate though for all writers. I was seriously worried that I might not like what I had written and it woul all have been a waste of time. Whilst I look at the big picture I’m finding it helpful to break the book into parts now and complete these sections – more organised and also a bigger sense of satisfaction. Thanks for your lovely comment JC.😀

  10. What an informative and useful post both for you and other writers. Thanks, Annika. I’ve never tried NaNoWriMo because I can’t really see the combination of writing historical fiction and my writing method adapting to the writing of 50,000 words in one month, no matter what. You have, however, adapted that mantra to your own situation in a most useful pattern.
    Way to go, Annika! And I look forward to seeing your whole trilogy. BTW my first book became a trilogy in a similar manner.

    1. Elaine, thank you so much for lovely and encouraging comment. 😀 I did start this blog to describe my novel writing journey but it since became so much more, however I do like to return to my experience. I do hope it can help other writers. I was very interested to learn that your trilogy started off as one book and this certainly gives me hope that I’m not totally crazy and might be able to pull this off! Huge undertaking though.

  11. Peter R

    I told you your characters would wait for you, until you were both ready to continue. It seems like they’re ready now. Well done, and good luck with the rest of it. Looking forward to reading the finished novel.

    1. Thank you Peter and you are right, it was as if they were waiting for me – very patient of them! I did feel a slight reprimand from some though but think I’m being forgiven! They are with me day and night again and once more I find myself scribbling down scene ideas / conversations as they come to me during the day (and night at times!)

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