Saturday, September 19, 2015

Winning Nanowrimo: Crunchtober

Crunch what?

Crunchtober is a word that combines "Crunch" and "October" and has the general meaning of "October is crunch time." From what I understand, some Nanowrimo writers use October to practice for November's writing marathon by writing 500 words a day on random prompts.

But I usually eschew prompts in order to brainstorm my novel. I spend about an hour a day, five days a week brainstorming, and I need every bit of it.

My Approach

I start with a blank word document or a new composition book.

Day 1, I write a brief summary of my idea and everything I know will happen in the novel. Then I write down every question I have, every problem I'm concerned with. 

The next day I start solving them.

I look at the questions that might come up during the beginning of the story and I pick the most important one. Then I start brainstorming. I write stream-of-conscience. I throw out multiple solutions and see what sticks. I may even do some research. I might draw.

If other ideas or questions come up, I write those down as well.

If I hit upon a solution, I write a little summary of it at the bottom of the page, so that I can come back and read it again quickly. If I have extra time, I go on to the next question. If I get stuck, I go on to the next question.

If I don't find a solution that day, I may come back the next day and work on it—but usually no more than that.

In the second week, I should be moving to the middle of the story. By the end of the third week, I should be starting on the ending.

In the last few days of October, I read through all my notes and begin to put it together into a rough outline. Usually I do a "Table of Contents," and list what I think happens in each chapter. If I have any questions, I add those in as well, hoping that my subconscious brain will solve them somewhere in the frenzy of writing.

By the end of the month, I have a rough guide to my story.

And that's how I use October to prepare.

Know Thyself

Whether or not you use my method, the concept of practicing for Nanowrimo is an important one. First, it lessens the shock of writing, and prepares you physically and mentally. Second, as you write, you begin to pick up on your own habits and preferences.

Here are some questions to ponder in October, so that when November arrives, you'll be ready to apply them to your writing life.

Where and when do you best write?

Do you have a certain room you like to write in? Do you prefer a cafe? Do you work better with other people present? Alone? Do you prefer music? Silence? Do you like to write in the morning? At night? 15 minute sprints or 5 hour marathons? Coffee or tea?
For example, I like to write at home, spread out over the floor. I prefer to write in the morning, from about 8:00 until noon. I like to do marathon sessions of at least three hours and find it hard to hit a flow in anything less than an hour. I prefer working 5 days a week and having the weekends off.

Can you adapt if conditions aren't ideal?

Hopefully, at least some of the 30 days, you will be able to write during ideal conditions; on those days, you milk it for all its worth. But if you're looking for the perfect hour, place, and mood, you won't have enough time to scrabble together your manuscript.

In that case, can you work in less than ideal conditions? Late at night? Early in the morning? Distracted? You might not be able to adapt to all conditions. If the TV is on, my writing suffers. Know what you can adapt to and what you cannot.

How efficient are you at writing?

A simple trick: time yourself.

Set a timer for 15 minutes, half hour, an hour, and see how many words you write by the end of it. Or, start at 0 words, set a clock, and see how long it takes you to get to 100, 500, or 1000 words. Bear in mind, results will vary based on how inspired you are at the time.

My maximum efficiency is approximately 1000 words in an hour, but it goes down to an hour and a half if I'm tired or stuck. This means that in week, I need to find between 12 1/2 to 15 hours for Nanowrimo.

How can you fit writing into your schedule?

Most of us don't have the luxury of infinite. I work as a substitute teacher, and if I can't get work that day, I write. Yet even with my flexible schedule, I still struggle to find enough time to write. Even without jobs, we all have commitments.

One writer described how she found fifteen minutes here, fifteen minutes there, and that these added up to quite a bit of time. That's definitely a good strategy. But for such a momentous task as Nanowrimo, that might not be enough.

What sacrifices will you need to make?

Obviously, you shouldn't sacrifice your first-born child or anything like that. But you may have to do without that guilty pleasure reality TV show or lose fifteen minutes of extra sleep each morning. You may have to live off quick cooked meals, live with a messy house, and hire a dog-walker for the month. You may have to cancel social activities for the weekend--yes, maybe even the ones relating to writing. You may have to... shudder... let your mother-in-law host Thanksgiving.

What kind of support do you need?

You might not be able to do it alone. In that case, gather your writing partners and your cheerleader companions close.

For more about that, tune in next week for: GATHERING SUPPORT

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