Another day in the life of a NaNo-Nut: Plotting

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The creative perspective


As I embark on this fourth NaNo journey, I’ve found myself dwelling on how, as a writer, my craft and the experience of writing have changed since those early days.  I still find it fun, but over the years I’ve become more introspective about the way I work. You’ll find that too. 

That first journey saw me throw myself into a lifelong dream. The desire to simply write that novel motivating me to just write, and write, and write. Which is just what NaNo is about. But along the journey, I’ve realised that to complete my manuscripts, I need to have a direction. Some signposts along the way. Of course that won’t be the same for everybody.  

As a result, you find yourself considering what type of writer you are.

Plotter or pantser?

For anyone new to writing, you’ll find there appear to be three general kinds of writer. 

1) The Plotter – somebody who meticulously plans their entire project, so that when NaNo starts they have an outline, their structure, know their plot, their characters and what their end goal is.

2) The Pantser – somebody who quite literally writes by the seat of their pants. No real direction, just the ability to follow the plot and characters wherever they may lead. 

3) The Hybrid – somebody who combines both plotting and panting to their novel-writing journey. 

When embarking on  NaNo, it’s worth considering what kind of writer you are.

As I mentioned before, I’ve always been a pantser. Literally writing by the seat of my pants. Letting the characters develop the stories as I go. To the extent that I’d find my characters talking to me (I know, you think I’m mad). Driving in the car, carrying out my own interviews with them to learn who they were, how they’d react to things, who they’d vote for the next American president! All things that gave me an insight into the people I was creating, and the direction my story was taking.

However, this year, I’ve decided to embark on the NaNo journey with a plan. A result of which has seen me methodically planned my book from beginning to end. I’ve researched my backstory, and all of the key points throughout the novel and have reams of notes as a result. I’ve filled out character worksheets, setting worksheets, created picture boards, and even organised a road trip to Mackenzie which is the setting for the vast part of my story.

This is not because I’ve decided that pantsing is wrong, but because I’m open to new ways of doing this. 

What type are you? It’s well worth considering before you embark on your NaNo journey. If you’re new to NaNo. Chris Baty’s No Plot, No Problem is an awesome read, giving some insight into what the National Novel Writing Month is. As well as giving you some insights into how to go about it (from well-learned experience). 

If you’re not a NaNo, but want to look at ways of plotting and planning, then I thoroughly recommend the following books for helping with writing craft in so far as structuring and planning your novel: 

1) Blake Snyder’s Save The Cat! The Last Book on Screenwriting You’ll Ever Need – a comprehensive, easy to read guide to structuring your story. 

2) Michael Hauge’s

Writing Screenplays That Sell, New Twentieth Anniversary Edition: The Complete Guide to Tur

ning Story Concepts into Movie and Television Deals 

3) Jack M Bickman’sScene & Structure (Elements of Fiction Writing)


I’ve found these three books invaluable in helping me plan for NaNo, and perhaps because I want to take my writing to the next level, I’ve enjoyed investing in craft books that have opened my eyes to the whole concept of plotting and planning for my writing journey. 

Another aspect of the planning that I’ve come to think of as vital for writing development is surrounding yourself with likeminded people. 

Use the Writing Community

Writing is a solitary activity, and can be really lonely. Particularly when you hit the wall often called writers block, or self-doubt.  During NaNo, the goal is to hit that 50,000 word target. A goal that is completely achievable. However, it is inevitable that during NaNo, you’ll have peaks and troughs. Some days, you’ll fly. Others you’ll wonder just what on earth you are doing. By surrounding yourself with people with that same objective, you give yourself not only a sounding board, but also a support network. It can become competitive. I love a challenge, and going to our Tuesday ‘Night Owls’ write in, I find myself challenging myself to keep up with some of the more prolific writers (some of whom have achieved 160,000 words during NaNo in the past – yikes!). 

So here’s some suggestions. 

Visit the NaNoWriMo website: 

Find out who your Municipal Liaison is (

Find out where write-ins are planned with other writers in your local community – these can offer invaluable support, and potentially create lifelong friendships.

Join NaNo to make the most of the webinar’s and support it offers during November. 

Visit your Local Library:

Is there any information on local groups?

Do they have activities or workshops for writers?

Local writing organisations: 

In our case, we’re lucky to have a vibrant community of writers locally. The Christchurch Writers Guild ( ), New Zealand Society of Authors ( ), and the Romance Writers of New Zealand ( ). The latter of which have local chapters who organise workshops, monthly meetings, and local write ins. Investigate if there is anything like that near you.

This may all seem a little much for the writer who’s new to this, but these lessons have been learned over four years. And if I’m completely honest, I’ll undoubtedly learn more lessons this year. 

Furthermore, there are two more things to remember during NaNo:

The first: Switch off that inner-critic. That little niggle of self-doubt is the worst thing for creativity. He/ she will whisper in your ear as you write, telling you you’re taking the wrong direction, that your writing is crap, that this is a waste of time. He’s a pain in the ass, and needs to be told that. My first year I let him really get at me. Kept re-reading what I’d written, questioning whether I was made for the whole writing thing. So the second year, I made a poster. “Inner-critic you’re banned from my study for a month.”

Childish perhaps, but psychologically, I refused to listen to anything the rotten demon. He had no part in my NaNo journey, or any writing journey from that day on. 

The second: is to enjoy. Have fun. Creativity and writing are a truly exciting opportunity to explore something that few of us ever do. People will poo-poo you, “Gah, why would you write? There’s no money in it? Why waste the time?”

If it’s something you truly want to do – then do it. Enjoy it. Lose yourself in your own fantasy world. Whether it be crime, mystery, fantasy, a children’s story or a romance, NaNo is the one time of the year you can say “Okay, I’m gonna do this.”

Whether you have a PC, or a rudimentary paper and pen. Let your imagination run wild for the month. You never know where it might take you. 

I hope this helps, and that you enjoy your NaNo journey. 

Emma jottermonster

emlowe2Emma Lowe moved to North Canterbury from Dunedin three years ago. She promptly joined the CWG and was overwhelmed to discover not only a network of writers, but a group of people who have become close personal friends. She has been focusing on her writing ever since (at least when she’s not juggling kids and the family business). She predominantly writes romance, and is also a member of Romance Writers of New Zealand, amongst other writing organisations.

Another day in the life of a NaNo-Nut: Preparation

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nanowrimo_2016_webbadge_participant-200 As November looms, so thousands of writers worldwide start to prepare for the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). A month when they will throw themselves into the annual challenge of writing a fifty-thousand-word novel. That may sound impossible, but for many, they’ll achieve it. For others, they’ll take that enviable step of actually realizing their literary dream.

This year will see me undertake my fourth NaNo journey. With each year my writing has grown, and with each year, I’ve realized there are things I need to do to improve the next years’ experience. And so, as I prepare this year, I’ve separated preparation and planning, both personally, and professionally where my writing is concerned.

Angela asked me to write about my NaNo experience, so here goes.

Preparation (a personal perspective)

1. Make sure you have a creative space to work in.
It’s not always easy. Whether you live alone, or with a family, there’s always distractions. Whether it be the urge to tidy up and vacuum, or having to listen to your teenage sons’ music. As a result, if you are going to write, you need a place you can feel comfortable in.

Do you need an uncluttered workspace? Do you work best with your family around you? Do you work with chaos around you? It’s all up to the individual. I know writers’ who work in the kitchen in the midst of their family. And writers who need to escape from the chaos that’s home. Everyone is different.

If not at home, then possibly a local coffee shop, the library. You need to feel comfortable where you write to avoid distractions, and the urge to procrastinate.

Preparing meals for NaNo.

2. Pre-prepare meals
As a mom of six, understandably meal-times can be a little like feeding time at the zoo. However, I’ve found that during NaNo, if I prepare meals and freeze them, it makes for a far more efficient dinner time. As a result, during October, every time I cook a meal, I make double the amount and freeze the extra for the following month (why I don’t do this all year round I don’t know!). I’ll make cauliflower cheese, lasagna, spaghetti Bolognese, shepherd’s pie, curries. I’ll prepare veg and then put it in freezer bags (I could probably buy frozen veg, but I’ve always preferred my own). I’ll have baking days, where I make muffins, potato wedges, anything that I know the family enjoy. So that when they’re hungry, they can merely take it out of the freezer and heat it up. Meaning they leave mom alone!

3. Make sure your family and friends are aware of what NaNo means to you, and them.

I’ve traditionally used a personal contract to reinforce my commitment to NaNo. I commit to my fifty-thousand-word goal, and have in the past reached as many as 125,000 words. This has only been possible by communicating with my family. They know what writing means to me. But during November, they’re aware that they don’t come into my study. They leave me to write. My husband bought me a hat, which he jokingly referred to as my writing hat. It’s become symbolic, in that if I’m wearing it, the family leave me alone to write.

Talk to your family and friends. Explain to them what NaNo is. What you intend to do. Why it means so much to you. Help them to understand why the month is important. If you’re going to commit, then you need the support of those around you. To be honest, my family become my own personal cheerleading squad. Watching as my daily tally grows. Urging me on all the way. That kind of support is invaluable to any writer.

4. Know what you want to achieve from NaNoWriMo

It’s all well and good committing to NaNoWriMo, but what do you want to achieve? Is it a novel you’ve always known you wanted to write, but never had the time? Is it your memoirs? Perhaps it’s a thesis? A collection of short stories? As you prepare for NaNo, set your goals. Know what it is you want before the month begins.

5. Buy yourself stationery.

stationeryMost people these days’ use computers, but one of the things I’ve found vital are notebooks and pens. I have small notebooks that fit in my handbag – each one labelled differently. Character notes, ideas, quotes, sources. I also have a large notebook that I use as journals and plotting diaries. I keep record of my progress, documenting how ideas evolve. How a character has changed; why I decided it needed to happen; if I decided to change a setting. All things that contribute to the evolution of my story. Not to mention picking up interesting snippets when I’m out and about.

6. Create a schedule

Identify what time of day is most effective for your writing. Are you a day writer? An early morning writer? Or do you like writing late into the night? In identifying it, you’ll be able to create a schedule for NaNo that most effectively uses your time for creativity. Do you want to just write for a couple of hours each day? Just an hour? Do you want to join a local write-in with the your local NaNo group. Research what’s available early, so that you’re not distracted during NaNo.

7. Set your goals.

Set yourself SMART goals (small, achievable, realistic targets). It might be a word count goal. I generally aim for 2,000 words a day. But I’m lucky enough to have the time to commit to having my bum in the seat far longer than many others may be able to commit.

To achieve 50,000 words in a month, then the average would be around 1650 words a day. You’ll find some days that is easy. Others will be a struggle. But they will generally average out if you’re on course for the fifty-thousand-word goal.

If you have a goal, you have something to reach for. A direction. So commit to that goal.

That’s pretty much everything as far as the preparation is concerned. I hope this helps with others planning their NaNo journey. It’s an exciting time of year, and with only a little over two weeks to go, preparation is well and truly underway for 2016’s NaNoWriMo.

Part 2: Planning to come!

emlowe2Emma Lowe moved to North Canterbury from Dunedin three years ago. She promptly joined the CWG and was overwhelmed to discover not only a network of writers, but a group of people who have become close personal friends. She has been focusing on her writing ever since (at least when she’s not juggling kids and the family business). She predominantly writes romance, and is also a member of Romance Writers of New Zealand, amongst other writing organisations.

NaNo Interview: Jill Winfield

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Lately come to Christchurch from Melbourne, Jill Winfield is looking forward to saying, ‘in my second novel…’

Can you tell us a little about your NaNoWriMo 2016 project?

I find it really hard to talk about what I’m writing because I can’t bring myself to spoil the surprise, I know you need to be able to do this for pitching purposes, but I still struggle. For NaNoWriMo, I’ve picked up a story idea I’ve had kicking around for several years but never figured out the way into.

Just to explain the photographs: My novel passes through a lot of share houses, featuring those kinds of surfaces and textures.

How many times have you participated in NaNoWriMo?

Although I’ve signed up before, this is the first time I’ve actually got going.

1.Chapter 1, House 1, First Floor Ceiling

How have you adjusted your regular routine for the month of November?

I haven’t made changes as such, it’s more that I’ve ratcheted up my commitment by setting very specific (but achievable) goals. I set a goal of writing 2000 words per day with 1 day off per week, just in case. I figured out that on weekdays, if I got up fifteen minutes earlier, I could get an earlier bus and have an hour of focused writing at a cafe before work, instead of half an hour of maybe writing in my journal about – whatever. Before work, I usually manage between 600-800 words. Sometimes I get in another 200 or so at lunchtime, trying to get food in my mouth rather than on my keyboard. After work, usually after dinner, I write until I’ve met my target and finished what I wanted to write about. On the weekends, I cram writing in whenever I can. It is incredible how much you can achieve when you sit down and plug away at it every day.

What made you decide to take the NaNoWriMo challenge?

I’ve been working on the second draft of my first novel for what feels like a very long time – 18 months thereabouts – without feeling like I’m getting anywhere. I started to wonder how I would ever get to work on all those other novels I have floating around in the back of computer/brain/journals if I couldn’t get through this *swearword* second draft. NaNoWriMo was a good opportunity to put down the hard slog of editing/re-writing and pick up an idea I’ve wanted to play with for a long time – like a working holiday. A fun one.

I also thought that the daily habit of writing those 50,000 words would improve my writing. There was an American photographer, Vivian Maier (1926 – 2009) who worked for forty years as a nanny and took photographs after hours and sometimes during her working hours. 17,500 negatives, 2,000 prints and 30 home movies were found after she died and they (well, probably not all of them) are extraordinary. I believe that good art is made through doing and doing and doing. Doing NaNoWriMo is establishing a good habit of writing and writing and writing. 

P.S. I do like my first novel. When I finish it, it’s going to be great.

P.P.S. Google Vivian Maier, I don’t imagine you’ll sorry, there’s a story in every photograph.

What do you like the most about NaNoWriMo?

I’ve found the more I write, the more I want to write and the faster my ideas come. Doing NaNoWriMo has reminded me (because I had forgotten) of the FUN of writing. I love making stuff up and I love playing with words and if can make up a great story using a compelling arrangement of words then that’s a worthy way to spend my time.

2. Chapter 5, House 5, Kitchen Table

How has the establishment of NaNoWriMo influenced your writing habits?

Doing NaNoWriMo has brought home how much you can achieve through discipline. It has also made me question my preconceptions of what writing work I can do where. When I first started writing I had a lot of false starts, I kept changing and editing and stopping and starting. It was easy (for me) to get nowhere writing on a computer. I didn’t really get going until I began writing by hand, in a journal, because you can only go forward. The overriding directive of NaNoWriMo: keep writing! Don’t edit, just keep going! has helped me learn to keep going on a computer. That will save a lot of time 🙂

After NaNoWriMo, I think I will continue my hour-long session of writing before work. I often get far more done in that hour than I might in four hours on a weekend.

Do you have any tips for NaNo newbies?

I find when I get stuck that if I just start writing, something will come to me. It might be something like:

Oh no! I don’t know what to write. Whatever will I write? I’m hungry. I wonder if my character is hungry. I wonder what they like to eat.

I bet they like chips. I bet they eat chips all the time, especially when they shouldn’t…

Using Scrivener really helps with getting stuck too – you just start a new scene and keep going and all those bits and bobs are still there waiting for you in one neat location when you find out you really do need them.

Also, don’t forget to stretch your wrists around and get up every now and then.

Do you reward yourself for achieving your daily/weekly goals? If so, how?

My plan is to reward myself with a new book for each week I meet my target. Last week I went to Scorpio Books aiming for a nice fat fantasy or SF novel and came home with a collection of Walt Whitman poems. His writing soothed my brain. 

NaNoWriMo 2016 Interview: Angela Oliver

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Angela Oliver is an author and illustrator, with a wide cast of colourful and unusual characters, very few of them human.

Can you tell us a little about your NaNoWrimo 2016 project?

Initially I intended to rework – for the third or possibly fourth time -the second book in my Lemur Saga, Tail of Two Scions. However, I quickly realised that I was not in the right frame of mind for re-writing a previous draft, and that something fun and frivolous was more likely to help me achieve my goals. Therefore, I switched to a novel entitled Love in Tirra-Inle. This is the first in my Furritasia trilogy (I’ve almost finished the third and abandoned the second halfway through, but that’s by-the-by) and is my first attempt at what is intended, vaguely, to be a romance novel. Albeit a fairly unorthodox kind. With giant cockroaches.

My unlikely couple, Daniel and Kataryna, illustrated by Arquel back in 2004.

How many times have you participated in NaNoWriMo?

NaNowrimo began in 1999 and I have participated in it on and off since it’s inception. I cannot recall exactly how many times I’ve accepted the challenge – but I believe my success/completion rate to be around 50%. In early years, I actually I finished the novel before attaining the word count goal.

How have you adjusted your regular routine for the month of November?

I have shifted my focus back onto writing, which is a good start. Previous years I have used techniques such as getting up earlier (5am) and attempting “1,000 words before breakfast” but as I get older, I seem to require more sleep. Fortunately this year my husband has a few other commitments which mean that I do not feel so much like I am neglecting him.

What do you like the most about NaNoWriMo?

Probably the social aspect and the fact that it re-establishes in me the habit of writing. Although I do not attend a great deal of write-ins, and actually write better at home, the mere knowledge that out there hundreds, thousands, of other people are undergoing the same process of frustration, dedication and determination as me is really quite encouraging. As writers, it is easy to feel alone, but by bringing together communities, either online or in reality, it really helps to create bonds and make it much harder to just give up on the story.


How has the establishment of NaNoWriMo influenced your writing habits?

The awareness of NaNoWriMo makes it easier to put off writing something new straight away, knowing that I intend to spend the entire month of November writing means that I don’t feel September is wasted because I mostly played Pokemon and didn’t achieve much of anything else. It also gives me more focus, and causes me to force myself to sit down each day and write – at least for the month of November!

Do you have any tips for NaNo newbies?

The secret to successfully completing NaNo is by not caring too much about making the story perfect,  focus instead on getting the words on the page. Never delete anything – if I must remove it from the plot, I will either highlight mine in a different colour (so I can find it against later) or cut and paste it to the end of the manuscript so that it still counts towards my final word count goal. And if your story feels a bit flat, then it’s time to add something dramatic and different! Be random if you need to.

What is the most unexpected thing you have had happen in a NaNoWriMo novel?

It’s hard to remember what the most unexpected thing is, but I’ve had a few! One of my favourite was when I discovered which of the characters in Tail of Two Scions had the hidden agenda, but that wasn’t entirely unexpected. I had set up several “red herrings” and determined that the original plan was just too obvious so thought “who is the least obvious suspect that would make sense” and voila! It then involved some going back to add in foreshadowing and also determining her motivation, but still!

What is the strangest thing you have ever Googled for “Research purposes”?

When I started my story this year, I spent a lot of time looking up random cockroach stuff – and got caught up on trying to determine whether a cockroach was a beetle or a bug (turns out roaches are neither) just so I could pull off a humorous dialogue interchange. I’ve also looked up what would happen if a chicken ate a cigarette (spent half an hour looking and then just decided that it was easier just to not include it in the plot at all as it wasn’t really of any relevance).

“Aroha’s Grand Adventure” was my 2010 NaNo novel – and is now available on Amazon.

Do you reward yourself for achieving your daily/weekly goals? If so, how?

I started doing that this year, although I’ve lapsed somewhat now we’re halfway through the month (I think one day my reward was “sleep” – ironically the same night we had the house-gone-to-sea earthquake and I got NO sleep at all due to the tsunami warning). But I’ve tried to come up with something for every day – often it’s food related, a trip to the local Coffee Culture for chai and belgian biscuit, occasionally it’s watching a favourite show (QI, MLP or OUAT). The night after the EQ it was ice cream, but I ate it before achieving the word count – figured I deserved it anyway, given I was running on 3 hours sleep.

Anything else you would like to add?

I blog my NaNo Process day-by-day. If you have the time, this is actually a pretty neat process, because it allows you to determine patterns in your writing. My standard pattern, I realised, was to flake out around the end of the first week – between day 6-9 when typically I would either wind up with a: “my story sucks, I don’t know why I’m bothering” or “I’m really losing momentum”. I don’t think this is atypical, I think it’s a result of the first few days of exciting out-of-the-date writing, followed by the realisation that, if you, like me, are seat-of-the-pants writing (as opposed to rendering a pre-plotted story) then that’s about the point when you actually get into the plot and may, indeed, start to falter. Advice? Be aware of it, and push on through to the other side!

You can follow my day-by-day process here:

Book & Resource Recommendations for NaNoWriMo’s.

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For NaNo Newbies

No Plot, No Problem
Chris Baty
No Plot, No Problem
Chris Baty
Write your Novel in a Month: How to Complete a First Draft in 30 Days and What to Do Next
Jeff Gerke
The Everything Guide to Writing Your First Novel
Hallie Ephron

For Writers

Scene and Structure
Jack M Bickham
On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft
Stephen King
Save the Cat!
Blake Snyder
Structuring Your Novel: Essential Keys for Writing an Outstanding Story
K. M. Weiland
The Emotion Thesarus
Angela Ackerman & Becca Peglisi
(their Thesaurus series have a several other books that are invaluable to writers – available both in hard copy and e-Book)
Recommended by: Judy Mohr, Em Lowe


Facebook has several pages dedicated to including the main NaNoWriMo group as well as municipal groups.

NanoWriMo 2015: Interview with Jessica Colvin

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Jessica Colvin is a writer, artist, and mother of two from Christchurch, New Zealand. She writes under the pen name Ami Hart and lives in two worlds: one being post-quake Christchurch and the other is a fantastical place where dragons and space ships soar, sometimes side by side.
Ami is a member of SpecficNZ and the Christchurch Writers Guild. She has had several short stories published in various anthologies and is currently writing a fantasy novel. She blogs about her writing adventures here:


 Can you please tell us a bit about your NaNoWriMo history? How many have you participated in, and how many times have you succeeded?
I started the NaNoWriMo journey in 2012 and haven’t missed a year since. I have also done Camp NaNoWriMo 6 times and met the word goal I set each time.

As a veteran NaNo Writer, what are some of your previous stories?
Liberty: The Fragile Empire, (Science Fantasy). Utopia Lost (Science Fiction), The Final Battle (Fantasy). All these novels are still in revision.

Why do you regularly participate in NaNo?
I liked the idea of the challenge and wanted an excuse to start the sequel to my first fantasy novel (still in edits). The forced deadline helps train me to be more productive as a writer.

How much preparation do you do in advance?
Not a huge amount. The characters and the world details form in my head, whizzing around helter-skelter, fluid and changeable right up to the point I start typing the first draft. Those few ideas I’m able to nail down firm I jot down in notebooks beforehand.

Would you like to tell us a bit about your 2015 NaNo project?
The working title is “Severed Wings/ Neon Dreams”. It’s an urban paranormal fantasy and is a collaborative project with my sister (she’s an illustrator). We were going to insert graphic novel elements/panels at the beginning of each section/ or chapter.
The story is centred around an elderly woman named Sam. Sam is dying of cancer, unmercifully slow. She accepts her fate, believing it’s what she deserves after the type of life she’s led. In this final twilight stage of her life she receives an 11th hour visitor. She never gets visitors, people with redacted pasts rarely do. This visitor in question sets about changing her life, or rather, her death forever. The problem is Sam hasn’t known any other life and certain lethal habits are hard to break.

Can you please describe your writing process; how do you fit NaNo into your daily routine?
I write whenever I get the chance. Generally when the kids are at school, sometimes in the evening (although my brain usually closes up shop by 8:30). Occasionally I brave an early morning writing session in the hope that I might get some done before the kids wake up.
I like to write uninterrupted for at least an hour. I only resort to outlining when I am stuck, even then they are brief, loose notes. I enjoy discovering the story as I write it—it’s much more exciting that way. Word sprints are my life savers, the 20-30 minute bursts can really get those words flowing.

Do you have a preferred “writing space”? If so, what about it makes it ideal for your project?
I have the office space in my room, but I like going out to libraries or cafes. There are often too many distractions at home, like animals, housework and baking.

Do you have any tips or tricks for coping with writer’s block?
Create a loose outline for the next chapter.
Showering (maybe the mystical shower portal will speak its warm glowy wisdom)
Music (and sometimes dancing)
If all that fails then I’ll skip the scene completely and go to a scene that I am excited about.

Thank you Jessica/Ami! Best of luck with your NaNo 2015 success.

NaNoWriMo in Christchurch

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It will soon be November and for writers throughout the world, that means it NaNoWriMo time again.

But wait… I hear all those new to writing ask, “What is NaNoWriMo?”

Well, NaNoWriMo is the international event where writers decide to throw caution to the wind and attempt to write that first draft of a novel within the span of a month. It’s free to participate. All you have to do is sign up at and commit yourself to your writing. To win amazing prizes and discounts to brilliant writers’ sites, you need to write 50000 words.

It’s a great way to personally challenge yourself in a way that doesn’t involve going to the gym, dieting yourself into starvation, or spending a fortune on something that you don’t need, however, I can’t guarantee that you won’t work up a sweat. Basically, if you cheat at NaNoWriMo, you’re only cheating yourself.

So what are we doing here in Christchurch?

Since the earthquakes, the writers within our region have become so spread out, living as far north as Pegasus and as far south as Rolleston and Lincoln. To accommodate the growing size of the Christchurch region, we have two Municipal Leaders for the forthcoming 2015 NaNoWriMo: Judy Mohr and Amy Paulussen. See Judy’s blog for more on the interests and writing background of our two MLs.

Amy and Judy will be working together to ensure that all NaNo participants throughout the greater Christchurch region get the opportunity to meet with other Christchurch NaNo crazies (I mean writers). Write-ins will be planned for throughout Christchurch, starting with the kickoff on Saturday, October 31st at Mexicano’s starting at 10:30pm. On Sunday, Nov 1, our first daytime write-in will be held at the Central Library on Peterborough St at 10am. Once Judy and Amy have a better feel as to where the writers are located throughout the region, more write-ins will be scheduled accordingly.

Keep an eye on the Facebook group (“NaNoWriMo Christchurch”), the hashtag #ChChWriMos on Twitter or the Google calendar for more information.

The Christchurch MLs for 2015: Judy Mohr (left) and Amy Paulussen
The Christchurch MLs for 2015: Judy Mohr (left) and Amy Paulussen

Kiwi Judy L Mohr writes fantasy and science fiction filled with adventure, dark monsters, humour and romance. She is also a freelance editor, working on projects from writers around the world. Judy is currently the president of the Christchurch Writers’ Guild, but is also a member of SpecFic New Zealand and the Scribophile on-line writing community. Recently, she was appointed one of the NaNoWriMo Municipal Leaders for our region. You can visit her at, or follow her on twitter (@JudyLMohr).

Pushing Your Way Through NaNoWriMo

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(written by Judy L Mohr)

So, you have signed up for NaNoWriMo.

Wait… I hear you ask, “what exactly is NaNoWriMo?” Well, this is the international event where writers decide to throw caution to the wind and attempt to write that first draft of a novel within the span of a month, and not just any month. NaNoWriMo is in November every year. It’s free to participate. All you have to do is sign up at and commit yourself to your writing. To win amazing prizes and discounts to brilliant writers’ sites, you need to write 50000 words. Simple enough… Or is it?

All writers fall into one of two main categories: plotters and pantsers. The plotters will aim to plot the details of their manuscript before they write, determining the full structure of the story from start to finish. Pantsers will have a rough idea and will just let their fingers decide what finds the paper as they just go for it. Both methods have their merits, and they both have their flaws. Neither is wrong, just as neither is right. It all comes down to how your brain works.

For myself, I’m definitely a pantser. My mind is often flying off in a million directions at once. When writing, my brain will hone in on a particular story thread and follow it through to a natural conclusion, even if that’s not the conclusion of the story. My fingers fly across the keyboard, taking me along a journey of discovery as I delve into the minds of my characters. I just go with it.

So what does this mean for my first drafts? Well, they’re all over the show. More often than not, I’ll be following a character, then he (or she) will have a conversation with another character referring to some event in the past that hasn’t been written yet. That mysterious event is a vital turning point for one or more of the characters. Oh boy, now I have to go back over here in this part of the story and actually write that event.

The plotters out there would cringe about this, but it works for me, and I’m sticking with it. But how does this method of writing help me plough my way through events such as NaNoWriMo?

Well… Imagine that you’re on a roll with your writing, the words are pouring out of you. You’re following the journey of your characters, then you hit a snag. The characters enter into a cave and refuse to come out. Inspiration has failed and the characters have fallen asleep; they won’t wake up to do anything worth writing about. Some writers would just stare at the computer screen (or page), unable to write another word. Their characters would spend eternity in that cave waiting for inspiration to strike.

The plotters out there would say that you deviated from your plot somewhere and you need to go back and rewrite it until you get them out of the cave. But this is where my erratic, out-of-order writing style becomes a godsend.

The characters went into the cave for a reason. They were supposed to find something of importance. Exactly what it was, you can’t see. Exactly how they found it, you have no clue. But you do know that the price in getting it was extremely high: Joe died in the process. The details of the scene elude you, but you can clearly see the outcome.

At this point, I make bullet-point notes about the details that I can see (i.e. Joe died and Sally is hysterical, meaning that Daisy is forced to take command and get the rest of them out of the cave safely). Then I jump to the scene that I can see and carry on writing. In a future scene, Sally and Daisy will explain the details to the officials and… Wow… I can now go back and write the details of the scene I was missing, and if I’m lucky, I’ll discover that Joe didn’t die as Sally and Daisy first thought, but was taken captive by the cave monster and now needs rescuing.

I will agree with the plotters in that the new sub-plots that develop out of this methodology are not always strong ones and need to be edited out at a later date, but I would like to remind the plotters of Ernest Hemingway’s famous quote: The first draft of anything is shit.

NaNoWriMo is not about writing that masterpiece from word go. It’s about actually getting the story down on paper so you can edit and re-write it in the months that follow. I don’t care how good a writer you are, if you have nothing on paper, then you don’t have anything to work with and you don’t have a novel.

There are many ways of pushing your way through a first draft of a story, propelling yourself toward your NaNoWriMo goals. This is just one way, and it works for me.

AuthorPhoto-JudyKiwi Judy L Mohr writes fantasy and science fiction filled with adventure, dark monsters, humour and romance. She is also a freelance editor, working on projects from writers around the world. Judy is currently the president of the Christchurch Writers’ Guild, but is also a member of SpecFic New Zealand and the Scribophile on-line writing community. Recently, she was appointed one of the NaNoWriMo Municipal Leaders for our region. You can visit her at, or follow her on twitter (@JudyLMohr).

Camp NaNoWriMo

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I found myself signing up to Camp NaNoWriMo yesterday.

“What is Camp NaNoWriMo?” I hear you ask. I asked the same thing! But really simply, it’s the same as NaNo, but not in November.

There’s a few differences. It uses a different website (though you can log in with your NaNo details). It’s run twice a year, rather than just once. And you get allocated to a “cabin” which has 4 other random campers in which you can chat to and support during the month. That makes it an awesome way to meet new writers and build new friendships (which is totally in line with April’s themed blog posts: Writing and Relationships).

It also seems very easy to change your words goal, so if you just want an awesome environment to get some amount of words down, set yourself a goal and come join in.

There will be weekly meet-ups at The Make Cafe on Sundays from 2-4pm. I’ll make sure the ladies will know which table to point you to if you decide to turn up.

I’ve made a Facebook Group for us. If you’re in Chch or the Guild and participating jump into the group for the month and join us. We (Tammie and I) will probably post random challenges and dares throughout the month just to keep things fun and interesting.

Join us. Write words. Have fun!

Nano 2012

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So… I was supposed to post something in the first week of November. That didn’t end up happening… National Novel Writing Month does this to my life a lot. This is the month that I give myself to my writing. This year I started two new jobs as well but if you asked me what my main priority this month has been I would tell you. Nano.

This is the reason I chose to volunteer when the ML (Municiple Liason) position became vacant. This is the month where if someone asks me what I do I might actually answer, “I am a writer.” I do not have any published novels. I have not polished any of the many files hiding in my writing folder into something that can be shared with others. But in November I truly believe that one day… One day I will finish those first drafts, or begin the long painful process of editing them into the polished pieces I know are in there… Somewhere… November I pour my soul onto the screen of my laptop with my lovely little program that makes nice typewriter noises as I type. I feel like a writer. The rest of the year I look at the things I have written and I criticize the style, the spelling, the typos… I see the flaws in my writing. But for this one month of the year I take that part of me that whispers that I am not good enough to call myself a writer and I lock it away. Whenever it yells through the bars of its cage that I spelled that wrong or I mistyped something, I ignore it and I keep writing. This year, this year I have managed something that I aim for every year. I have no zeros in the column of my spreadsheet entitled “Daily wordcount.” I had a number of days this month where I felt more ill than I have in years. But I still wrote something.

This year was my fifth year participating in Nano. I have failed only once. Last year I aimed for and achieved 75,000 words… On the 18th or 19th… So rashly at the beginning of this month I declared that I would get 100,000 words. I have never regretted something as much as I have regretted declaring that. But, at the same time I have not experienced Nano this way since that very first 50,000. The first year I did this insane challenge I saw these people with their 10,000 word days and I said ‘I have no idea how they do that!’. To be honest I still don’t, apart from they must type an awful lot faster than me. But when I passed that 50,000 word mark for the first time… I don’t know how to describe the feeling. The Relief. The Joy. The Amazement. The Pride. I had done this thing. I had written 50,000 words. My inner critic could harp on from his cage about how bad the words were, I didn’t care. I have not felt that same feeling again… until today. I have hit my 100,000 word goal. The lingering… Elation? Relief? whatever this emotion is. I truly hope that everyone experiences this at some point in their lives. Set yourself what seems like an impossible goal. It is a journey that you will remember.

Lady Talia,

ML for Christchurch.