nano_09_winner_120x90On November 30th I finished my second NaNoWriMo contest. NaNoWriMo is an international word frenzy based in San Francisco where aspiring and some professional novelists join together at their laptops to write 50,000 words (a small novel) in 30 days or less. This was NaNoWriMo’s 12th year. One of the cool things about NaNoWriMo is their website which features amazing featured pep talks, videos, profiles and more. I donated to their non-profit, the Office of Letters and Light to encourage young writers to write and to keep their website humming. For my donation, I received a halo over my profile photo – yay, how neat.

50,000 sounds like a lot of words, but it is doable if you discipline yourself to write to the recommended 1667 words a day (1667 is 50,000 divided by 30 days), which I didn’t. For me, I stayed behind pace the entire month and I averaged about 5,000 words a day in the last week to catch up.

My 2009 novel with the working title of GhostSense sure felt a lot tougher than it did last year. That was partially because I hadn’t thought a lot about my 2009 novel before I started writing it Nov. 1st,  as opposed to last year’s, I had been reviewing that story in my head for six years. Big difference.

Here’s the synopsis of GhostSense which I’m still fine-tuning:

In the spring of 1994 Mina, age 23, is a psychic medium although she doesn’t know it. A talented guitar player influenced both by Kurt Cobain and Rob Thomas, she is ready to begin a much sought-after internship at Columbia Records in New York City. Mina used to have a weight issue and her self esteem is still suffering. She is also still trying to gain her mother’s approval and can’t figure out why she and her mother never quite bonded like she did with her father. After a panicked phone call from her Aunt Ruth, she visits her stroke-impaired father in Charleston and soon learns that her mother has filed divorce from him at his weakest hour and he has signed his sister over as the power of attorney. Mina has always smelled things that others don’t smell, but she doesn’t think anything is wrong, although she has some brushes with the paranormal that can’t be explained away. Meanwhile, Mina’s dead twin sister, Rachel, has been watching her grow up from the Other Side and has been trying to protect her as best she could without Mina becoming aware. But Rachel’s protection of Mina is tested when Mina’s ex-boyfriend, Stephen, who calls himself the Devil, starts killing off her friends. Running out of time to save her father from himself, Mina fights back and Stephen soon learns how much he underestimated the powerful Mina and Mina learns how much she needs to trust herself.

I knew how to write Mina and Stephen and I had some of the situations, but there was maybe one stretch where I wrote and knew exactly where I was going. This noveling process felt a lot like driving with limited vision on a curvy road where you only see the sights in front of you and nothing else. Still, I persevered, and ended strong.

Here are a few tips I learned on this NaNoWriMo journey that I’d like to share with you if you are considering joining NaNoWriMo 2010:

  • Write a little every day even if you don’t make the 1,667-per day word count. This way you won’t everything till the end of month like I did. I skipped the first week and had to sweat hard to make it up. However, we stayed home this Thanksgiving and despite having the kids in the house with me and my husband taking a trip on Thanksgiving weekend I managed to write 30,000 words in five days. But I don’t think I’d want to rack up those high daily word counts again.
  • Highlight words you need to delete so they also count towards your word count. Also highlight your plot holes, your summary and your characters’ motivation. The same goes for entire chapters that might not be chronological or even relevant to your story. The point is that you stay within your word count but keep the novel going.
  • If you don’t know something or it needs additional research, don’t dither or stop, just say “I need to do research here” and highlight so you can easily find your place.
  • Save often and backup your novel file by saving it in multiple places and by emailing it to yourself at regular intervals.
  • Keep your novel in one continuous file with chapter headings so when it’s time to upload your manuscript to the NaNoWriMo site to verify your 50,000 word count, you’re not copying chapters from multiple document files.
  • And most of all, have fun! Gather with other novelists this month through the NaNoWriMo regional listserv. Tell your Facebook and Twitter friends you’re noveling and you’ll have instant support and a wave of congratulations when you make it across the finish line.