Aspen Allegations - NaNoWriMo 2012
2012 was the very first year I contemplated attempting National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo. At the time I had ten medieval novels published and five more in the works. The challenge of NaNoWriMo, though, was to start a novel from scratch. I wanted to do something entirely different for this project, so it didn't feel like "cheating". I wanted to help show my writing friends that this could be done even as a very first challenge in a new area.
Therefore I decided to tackle something completely new. I would write in modern times. I would write a mystery novel. I would write it first person. And I would write it based on a central Massachusetts town. I hadn't even done much "preparation" for this project, other than already loving Sutton. I would simply launch into it and see how it went.
With the task being 50,000 words at the end of 30 days, that meant 1,667 words a day. I gave myself a rough limit of about an hour a day. That way it would be something that "nearly anybody" could do. Most people, if pressed, could carve out an hour of time into their day somehow.
I had a few foundational thoughts for my project. First, I adore Pilgrim on Tinker Creek with its naturalistic storyline. I wanted my own story to have similar references to the beautiful landscape, flora, and fauna of Sutton, to highlight why this town is so pretty. I wanted to bring in the Blackstone River, the forests, the chickadees and nuthatches.
Next, I wanted my character to be a compassionate, caring, peaceful person. I wanted to promote with her attributes the kind of future I dream of for our planet and community.
And finally, I wanted to imbue the story with a sense of realism. As much as possible I wanted to go to the places and breathe in the aromas of the places near to when the story took place. If it was pouring rain on one day, I wanted the rich smell of wet leaves to rise off the earth.
Here are my notes!
|Day 1 of NaNoWriMo||Thu Nov 1||60 min||2,680 words||2,680 total|
|Day 2 of NaNoWriMo||Fri Nov 2||50 min||2,175 words||4,855 total|
|Day 3 of NaNoWriMo||Sat Nov 3||60 min||2,226 words||7,081 total|
|Day 4 of NaNoWriMo||Sun Nov 4||60 min||3,266 words||10,347 total|
|Day 5 of NaNoWriMo||Mon Nov 5||50 min||2,217 words||12,560 total|
|Day 6 of NaNoWriMo||Tue Nov 6||60 min||3,025 words||15,585 total|
|Day 7 of NaNoWriMo||Wed Nov 7||60 min||2,512 words||18,097 total|
|Day 8 of NaNoWriMo||Thu Nov 8||46 min||2,157 words||20,254 total|
|Day 9 of NaNoWriMo||Fri Nov 9||50 min||2,363 words||22,617 total|
|Day 10 of NaNoWriMo||Sat Nov 10||60 min||2,183 words||24,800 total|
|Day 12 of NaNoWriMo||Mon Nov 12||60 min||3,091 words||27,891 total|
|Day 13 of NaNoWriMo||Tue Nov 13||60 min||2,252 words||30,143 total|
|Day 14 of NaNoWriMo||Wed Nov 14||60 min||3,139 words||33,282 total|
|Day 15 of NaNoWriMo||Thu Nov 15||60 min||2,373 words||35,655 total|
|Day 16 of NaNoWriMo||Fri Nov 16||60 min||2,343 words||38,008 total|
|Day 17 of NaNoWriMo||Sat Nov 17||60 min||2,646 words||40,654 total|
|Day 18 of NaNoWriMo||Sun Nov 18||60 min||2,647 words||40,655 total|
|Day 19 of NaNoWriMo||Mon Nov 19||60 min||3,168 words||43,823 total|
|Day 20 of NaNoWriMo||Tue Nov 20||60 min||3,427 words||47,250 total|
|Day 21 of NaNoWriMo||Wed Nov 21||60 min||2,861 words||50,111 total|
|Day 22 of NaNoWriMo||Thu Nov 22||60 min||3,189 words||53,930 total|
|Day 23 of NaNoWriMo||Fri Nov 23||60 min||3,028 words||56,958 total|
|Day 24 of NaNoWriMo||Sat Nov 24||60 min||2,522 words||59,480 total|
|Day 25 of NaNoWriMo||Sun Nov 25||60 min||2,307 words||61,787 total|
|Day 26 of NaNoWriMo||Mon Nov 26||x min||x words||x total|
|Day 27 of NaNoWriMo||Tue Nov 27||x min||x words||x total|
|Day 28 of NaNoWriMo||Wed Nov 28||x min||x words||x total|
|Day 29 of NaNoWriMo||Thu Nov 29||x min||x words||x total|
|Day 30 of NaNoWriMo||Fri Nov 30||x min||x words||x total|
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: How do you physically type out 3,000 words in 60 minutes?
A: 3,000 words in 60 minutes is a rate of 50 words per minute. The average typist can type 50-80 words in a minute. Fast typists do 120 words per minute or more. Using online speed tests, I tend to clock in about 112 words per minute. So definitely I am not a hunt-and-peck typist. One way NaNoWriMo is great is that it helps you build up your typing speed. The faster you can type, the better all your online experiences will be. You will be much more efficient sending email, writing notes, and doing all sorts of other tasks. So I definitely think practicing typing is an important modern skill.
That being said, if you're a slow typist and simply want to get your story out, there are many software packages like Dragon that will let you talk to the computer and have it type for you. In my case, I type faster than I talk, so that would slow me down. If you're an extremely slow typist, it might be worth looking into Dragon while you practice up your skills!
Q: Did you map out or outline your story?
A: I went into this having an overall idea of what the story would entail. I knew there would be a dead body found on the first day, in Sutton Forest. I know I had a heroine who had a male support character. I knew I wanted to feature the three main restaurants in town.
Other than that, though, things flowed organically. When I was out in the woods with my boyfriend on that first day, I had assumed that my character would be a single woman with her boyfriend, going out for a walk. However, while we were in the woods, a forest ranger rode by on a mountain bike. The idea struck me as fascinating. Suddenly I wanted my heroine to meet a mountain bike riding ranger on her first day, when she discovered the body. That then had an impact on how day 2 played out, and so on.
I had three suspects and I wanted each one to be questioned in a different restaurant. We went to one restaurant fairly early - on election day. The second, I arranged with friends to meet them there, so that was fairly easy. But the third was a royal pain because they're barely open in the winter months. I had to keep putting off that "meeting" in the story because the physical restaurant wasn't open on the days I wanted. So then I had to write "filler" in the story itself because the meeting was going to provide key information to move the story along.
Other events, like the band playing or meeting with friends, happened in real life so I incorporated those into the story. Then I thought of ways to have those scenes move the plot along.
So, on this first novel, I didn't do much mapping at all. In some ways it was great, such as allowing me to change the entire nature of the male character on the fly. I love that he's a forest ranger now and it seems so perfect. But I had no idea of that going into the story. On the other hand the repeated delays of getting to eat at the restaurant was a pain. I would much rather have known what their schedule was, and been able to work with that smoothly.
On future novels I will have more of a calendar plan, to account for that. But I will still be open to changes and improvisations, because I enjoy that so much about the process.
Lisa Shea on NaNoWriMo
NaNoWriMo and the Sutton Mass Mysteries
Sutton Mass Mysteries main page