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A November NaNoWriMo Experience


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This past spring, I participated in a WOW! blog tour for the Save the Cat! Cracking the Beat Sheet Online Course. Because I already have the book, Save the Cat! Writes a Novel and love it, I decided to use the online course to flesh out a new idea I had for a mystery/suspense novel. I love reading this genre, but have always been too intimidated to attempt my own full-length novel. By the time I completed the course, I had a 3,000-word outline, complete with the 15 essential “story beats” mapped out. Around mid-October, I wondered if I should consider participating in National Novel Writing Month this year. I hadn’t been able to last year, because I was focused on producing scripts and episodes for my true crime podcast, so I didn’t feel that bad about missing out. This year, I had fewer projects on my plate, so decided to give NaNoWriMo a try since I already had a rough outline ready. I “won” NaNoWRiMo in 2013 with a rewrite of my contemporary YA novel, “Between,” and in 2014, I wrote a suspense YA called “Under My Skin,” which I still have yet to revise. 


I gave myself a goal of 60,000 instead of the usual 50,000 that’s the benchmark for NaNoWriMo. I knew 60,000 would be closer to the completed version of a full-length suspense novel, also called a “Whydunit.” According to the Save the Cat! Method, this type of book includes three things: A “detective,” a secret, and a dark turn. That broke down to 2,000 words per day, and I figured as long as I managed my time wisely, I could hit that goal. So far, I’m on track at a little over 29,000 words. While I did have the rough beat sheet in place, I began changing things about the story, about a podcaster trying to solve her older sister’s disappearance, almost immediately. (I guess you can't completely take the "pantser" out of me). I changed the “fatal flaw” of the character from an eating disorder to a sleep disorder, because I realized there were a lot of scenes I could write about dreams and the side effects of a prescription sleep medication. I also had to decide exactly how I was going to tell the story. Once I decided to use a variety of storytelling “devices,” such as first person POV of the protagonist, a therapist’s notes, newspaper articles, and podcast scripts, the story began flowing. Some of these scenes I can write as standalones and figure out where they go later. I’m using a simple “post-it note” method where I write a brief description of each scene and put in on the wall. I line these notes up in order, and if I happen to write a scene and don’t know where to put it right away, I’ll stick it off by itself as a placeholder.


I’m at the part of the process where I need a “fun and games” section and a “midpoint.” I’m determined to get through the end of this month successfully, and I’m happy to report my husband has been pitching in as much as he can on the weekends with running errands and grocery shopping so that I can focus on writing along with my current magazine production deadline. 

Is anyone else giving NaNoWriMo a go this year? I’d love to hear how it’s going? 

Renee Roberson is an award-winning writer and freelance editor who also hosts the true crime podcast, Missing in the Carolinas. Learn more at www.FinishedPages.com.

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