07 Dec 2015

NaNoWriMo 2015: RECAP

If you’ve taken a peek at my sidebar, you may have noticed that I WON NaNoWriMo this year! YAY!

For those of you who don’t know, NaNoWriMo is short for National Novel Writing Month. Your goal is to write a 50,000 word novel by December 1st. More on that here. I also vlogged my progress for the entire month of November, check that out here!

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On November 30th, I finished the first draft of a 53,000 word novel. Although it was fun, challenging and rewarding, it was NOT easy. I didn’t write every single day like I had planned to. One day my laptop didn’t want to turn on at all and the next day the memory was too full for me to write a single word without cleaning it first (which turned into hours of cleaning it out and a non-successful writing weekend. I vlogged these things in real-time, here). But at the end of November, I pushed through writing a few thousands of words a day and hit the 50K mark early that morning, and my end of the 1st draft sometime that evening. I was motivated because I really love the story I’d written, and I can’t wait to go back into it and edit and polish it as much as I can.

This was my first time participating in NaNoWriMo, so I wanted to talk about some things that worked for me, some things that didn’t and how I felt about the whole experience.

What Worked:

I can’t say this enough. @NANOWORDSPRINTS played a HUGE part in me meeting my word count. It’s a twitter account run by different NaNoWriMers who set up sprints, anywhere from 5 minutes to 30 mins, every so often. During these sprints, you write as many words as you can without stopping, along with a bunch of other people. This was incredibly helpful for days when I only had a few minutes to write, or was having writers block. I would log onto Twitter to participate in whatever the next sprint was, and it just really helped me out. Five minutes here, and 10 minutes there really adds up. I did sprints the entire day on November 29 and got a few thousand words in.

Backing Up My Story: Backing up my story on a flash drive really helped my word count. Since I had my story anywhere, I could write a few lines when I was on the go or when I had a few extra minutes at work. Plus, when my laptop crashed that day, if I would have had to take it to the shop (Thank GOD I didn’t) I could have continued on another computer.

Writing in the Morning: I made it a point to write (almost) every morning a few hours before I went to work. It helped my word count tremendously because the morning is always the best time for me to read, write or film. It’s my ‘quiet time’ and when I’m doing something I love, I’m the most productive at it as soon as I wake up.

Reading: I said I wasn’t going to read during the month, but it ended up helping me a lot. It was a great way for me to separate myself from my story when I had Writers’ Block and it helped me get excited to write my own story. I would also reward myself with reading a chapter or two every time I finished a NaNoWriMo Sprint.

Pantsing the 1st half of my story: I completely pantsed the first half of my story and it was the best thing I could have done. I knew where I wanted my character to go, a few moments I wanted him to have on the way, and that was all. Everything else was completely organic, and it made the story so easy to write!

Talking with other NaNoWriMers: I would talk to other writers through Twitter and through messages on NaNoWriMo.org. We encouraged each other and shared difficulties we may have had during the month. It was a great way to connect with other writers and keep each other on track!

What didn’t Work:

Not doing household things ahead of time: My hair takes AT LEAST three hours to wash, dry and style once a week. And then you have non negotiable things like cleaning and laundry. Trying to do all of these things at the last minute when trying to write a novel was not a great idea. I should have done these things at the beginning of each week (or a little bit of it each day) instead of trying to lump all of it into one day. Writing would barely get done.

NOT writing at Night: I thought that if I set a time to write every morning, my nights would be free. Although this did free up time to do things that I really needed to do besides write (see above) I missed a lot of valuable writing time and probably could have finished the novel earlier in the month if I didn’t block out nights for myself. On November 29, I stayed up until 3AM writing 5,000 words so I could finish on time, so I ironically had to do the one thing I said I didn’t want to, which was pull an all-nighter.

Vlogging: If I do NaNoWriMo next year, I will most likely not do weekly vlogs. Picking up the camera every time I decided to sit down and write didn’t work out like I planned to, and then the editing and uploading process took a few hours that could have been devoted to actually finishing the novel. Next time, I’ll vlog once at the beginning of the month, and once at the end of the month.

Reading: Notice reading was also under What Worked. While it definitely helped keep my creative juices flowing, it was definitely a distraction as well. I was reading Winter by Marissa Meyer (look out for the video discussion that I’ll be posting soon!) and once the book started to pick up, I started writing my own story less and less until it was crunch time. It worked out once I had a formula (NaNoWordSprint, then read a chapter) but before then, it definitely slowed down my writing process.

Trying to pants the second half of my story: I wanted to pants through my whole novel, but once I hit like 25K, I had no idea where the story was going. I had to sit down and make outlines, checklists, and small summaries to power through the second half of my story. It helped me keep the direction and voice of the 1st half of the novel. As much as I would like to be spontaneous with things like this, I’m a planner at heart and lists and things really keep me organized.

Would I do it again? 

If I’m not agented by this time next year or on deadline for an editor (I fully expect to be, you have to speak these things in existence, people!) I would definitely do it again. This experience was so fun and challenging and I learned a lot about myself as a writer. I pushed myself to write 53,000 words with the support and structure of NaNoWriMo, and I read that Marissa Meyer wrote three novels during November, so, why not? If you are an aspiring author, I encourage you to do the same!

Thanks for taking the time to read this, check out my NaNoVlogs if you haven’t already and let me know how your experience went if you participated!

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  • Watching Beyoncé’s new documentary as an HBCU grad and someone who is a huge admirer of her work: In high school, there were many microaggressions thrown my way (my teacher got fired for saying the N word in class 🙄) and I felt overlooked. Afterwards, I attended Claflin University, a small HBCU in South Carolina. There, I felt I got the attention I needed as a student, and I didn’t feel discriminated against for the color of my skin or the texture of my hair. It was there where I fell back in love with writing, embraced my natural hair texture, met my husband and my best friend. I built community, confidence in the workplace, and made friends from all over the world (different races as well). Beyoncé’s documentary showcased the beauty of attending a Historically Black College in a world where people constantly judge you for skin color or culture. I’m so glad Bey shed light on HBCU’s — I’m excited for the kids who are thinking of attending an HBCU after watching her performance. I’m motivated by her 15 hr work days, while breastfeeding and eating literally NOTHING but vegetables to gear up for her Coachella performance, months after her emergency c-section w/ her twins. One of the reasons I love Beyoncé so much is how she embodies the Black Southern Woman to a Tee for me. She’s done it again, and I’m continually inspired. 🐝✨#beyoncehomecoming
  • Some of you may know that I used to work at HBO, and one of the coolest things about my job was having a small part in working on Game of Thrones. GoT will always remind me of living and working in NYC, and I’m excited to watch the final season premiere tonight! Who do you think will take the throne? I hope it’s a Stark ❄️🐺😩 #gameofthrones #forthethrone
  • New, blue planner. 💙 Tell me what Planner you’re using this year!
  • This is my literary agent, Holly! 💚 I love working with her so much, as I feel she understands my dreams, goals, and what I want to do with my career. Not to mention she is ahh-mazing at what she does.

I get asked all of the time what are the best ways to find an agent to rep their work, and although I’m not an expert, I put together a video for beginners with tips on finding a literary agent that’s right for you! The link is in my bio. 📝
  • GUESS WHAT CAME IN THE MAIL!! Advanced Readers Copies (ARCs) of THE FORGOTTEN GIRL. I felt my words in the form of a published novel for the first time. I’m so excited, thankful, and blessed for this author journey so far and for what’s to come!! 🙌🏽 ARCS are never for sale and for promotional purposes only, but I will be hosting a few giveaways, so make sure you stay tuned. 🤗💙 Scroll for the video @rhythmofrob took of me opening my arcs for the first time — don’t judge my appearance, I work from home lol
  • If you know me, you I loooove a good planner and notebook. As a writer I have both with me at all times! I had the pleasure of modeling for my FAVORITE planner brand, @simplified, and they’re celebrating their cover reveal today! Head on over to their profile and tell me which cover is your favorite? I’m torn between Garden Party and Navy Blooms because they both remind me of my wedding day! (I had a bouquet of pink peonies🌸) Also, @allyandbobby, can you take my picture all the time?! 😂
  • I read this amazing anthology back in February — @wellreadblackgirl: a collection of essays edited by @guidetoglo, written by Black women, on the first time they saw themselves in the pages of a book they’ve loved. I’ve read and loved so many books as a child and have related to many characters, but I don’t think I really saw myself reflected racially in a book until my teenage years (except maybe Jesse from the Babysitters Club books?) For me, I always wanted to feel happy when reading, and the books presented to me about Black girls where always sad and/or dealing with slavery. I knew we were worth having more stories with happy endings too, and that thought fuels my writing to this day. ✨ Do you remember the first time you saw yourself in a book?
  • Thank you so much to @disney for gifting me this cute package to celebrate #marypoppinsreturns! It’s out now on digital, 4K Ultra HD and Blu-Ray. These books are so adorable! Have you read them or watched the movie yet? ☂️