Preparing for NaNoWriMo 2019

“Writing Progress Sticker Calendar” by NaNoWriMo

Last year, I had big plans for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) in November. I spent a lot of time preparing to write a novel in the last few days of October that year, including transforming a notebook into a Bullet Journal, brainstorming and outlining, buying a cork board and index cards, and otherwise trying to put myself into the “Let’s write 50,000 words!” mindset.

And I did pretty well, considering what happened around Thanksgiving: big family revelations, lots of drama and emotions, etc. It was a whole thing. I stopped writing during the height of this turmoil and only wrote a couple more days late in the month, finally ending up with 33,339 words total. Close! So close! I’m not going to be too hard on myself about it.

I decided a few weeks ago I was absolutely not going to participate in NaNoWriMo this year. I’m writing a lot of poetry, my short fiction is developing nicely, and I’m super busy teaching and taking writing workshops, among other activities. There’s too much to do without trying to participate in and win NaNoWriMo, too.

Then author and Micro.blogger Cheri Baker posted “Let’s Half-Ass NaNoWriMo Together.” She followed this with five other “Nano Prep” posts in October. All of these posts suggest a straightforward, low-key, relaxed, personal approach to NaNoWriMo that I appreciate a lot.

So, I’ve changed my mind. I really, really, really want to reach 50,000 words in November and I want to do it in 2019 before the new decade starts and we’re in the far future.

Wow, that sentence doesn’t sound low-key or relaxed at all.

But there’s an option in the new NaNoWriMo project interface—the organization dramatically upgraded their website this year—that lets you pick projects other than novels to write during the month. Since I’m writing short fiction lately, I decided to personalize my goal: I plan to write 10+ short stories in November to reach 50,000 words. A better half-assed goal would probably be to aim for fewer words, but for a few reasons, I decided to participate in NaNoWriMo and its nominal high word count goal as usual this year.

First, I’m not traveling, so I won’t be landing in Portland, Oregon to earth-shattering family news. Anything can happen, but I’ll be comfortable in my Tucson, Arizona home instead of unmoored in another state should any more huge revelations come to light this Thanksgiving.

Second, I read a lot of excellent speculative short stories, novellas, and novels this year. The diversity of voices, approaches to writing, and subject matter in fiction today is staggering and inspiring.

Third, I recently read excellent books on writing fiction, including How to Improve Your Speculative Fiction Openings by Robert Qualkinbush, Writing Monsters by Philip Athans, and Elements of Fiction Writing – Beginnings, Middles & Ends by Nancy Kress.)

Fourth, I learned a lot about craft this year by teaching workshops. I learned so much, in fact, that I feel this has been a breakthrough year for me.

Fifth, and perhaps most important, I’ve been ramping up my short fiction writing all year by participating in contests, including NYC Midnight’s various short fiction writing competitions. In general, I’m writing, revising, and submitting more short fiction to contests and potential markets than ever before (27 submissions so far in 2019 compared to my previous record of 12 in 2017.) I’ve also been brainstorming and jotting down ideas and fragments. I feel imaginative and in a good place about short fiction this year.

Only a couple days away from the start of NaNoWriMo 2019, I feel momentum already. I just created a digital Bullet Journal to keep me organized. I’m on top of my calendar and all the outside appointments and events I need to account for in November. I’ve set preliminary daily word count goals, reducing them on days my schedule is particularly arduous, setting them higher on days I should have a lot of free time. I already have titles, ideas, and summaries for 14 short stories. Tonight and tomorrow I’ll come up with some character sketches and story beats. I’m just about prepared!

If you are participating in NaNoWriMo 2019, I wish you many ideas and many words, low stress, and people in your life to give you the space you need. Look for “RichardLeis” on the website and add me as a writing buddy! I’m not sure if I will participate in any local events, but I may join a few online write-ins. Happy writing to all of us!

Richard Leis

Richard Leis

Richard Leis (he/him/his) lives in Tucson, Arizona where he writes poetry and fiction, attends and teaches writing workshops at the Writers Studio Tucson, and works for HiRISE, a team in the Lunar & Planetary Laboratory at the University of Arizona with a camera in orbit around Mars onboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

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