How NOT to Write a NaNoWriMo Novel…

…if you ever want to do anything with it.

Don’t get me wrong. I am grateful for the 50,300 words I produced in November. But next time (and there will be a next time) I will work somewhat differently.

I probably won’t have more than a scrawled paper semi-outline in advance, no more than I had this time. (I am what NaNoWriMo veterans call a “pantser”, i.e. someone who only has the vaguest idea of what they want to write before they start.) BUT —

I will create an outline as I go along. Let me explain.

In order to make keeping track of my word count easy, I broke my novel into thirty 1,667 word chunks. Each chunk represented a nominal day’s output. Even when I was behind, I would break my novel at the arbitrary 1,667 word boundary, thus when I had thirty chunks, I was done. Each chunk had a name that more-or-less represented what was happening in the narrative when I started that chunk, but which had pretty much no relationship to what was happening in the narrative at its end. These were each part of a Scrivener project, so that my output looks like it’s a thirty chapter novel, in which each chapter has one scene. In fact, each “chapter” has between two and five scenes. (A scene change being defined as a change in time, place or both.) Some scenes are split across a chunk boundary. And I have to open them up and read them to figure out what is going on in them.

What a mess.

Next time I will break my narrative after each scene. So if my setting changes, I will begin a new section. If there is a gap in time, I will begin a new section. I will give each section a descriptive name, and a brief synopsis. I will not break a section in the middle of a scene. Then, when it comes time to revise, I will have scenes of my novel separate and identifiable, ready to move around into a real outline. I take a solemn oath that I will never again spend two weeks reading chunks, splitting out scenes, naming them, and writing synopses for them, when it would have taken me two minutes tops for each scene to have done it while I was writing.

The good news is that I am about 30% done with this process, and as I get more practice with it, it’s going faster. I may have my scene breakdown in a week or so. sighs

I suppose this is learning by experience. While a useful process, it never fails to suck.

6 thoughts on “How NOT to Write a NaNoWriMo Novel…”

  1. We all write differently and it takes us time to learn how and which way is best. Keep doing it, that is what matters.


  2. Thanks for your encouagement! Actually, I should not be surprised. I was a software developer for decades. I even taught software development for a few years. And what did I preach? “Break your code into small coherent sections. Give each one a meaningful name. Be sure you put some comments in, because a month from now when you have to revise it, you won’t remember what you you were thinking.”



  3. Hey Sandra, thanks for the candid self-criticism and advice. Don’t know if I’ll ever be in the same situation, but your experience sure sounds useful. It’s probably “transferable” too…


  4. I couldn’t tell whether you felt that the problem you had in Nanawrimo was inherent within Scrivener or whether the problem was with the way that you used Scrivener. But, there is a public community for Scrivener Users on Google+. We have over 130 members. Since it is public you can read the community page before you decide whether or not you want to participate or not.


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