Actually spent the official “day one” of Nov 1 working on paid writing not my NaNoWriMo. Day One was a Saturday. I did get a few notes jotted down for building an outline.


Nov 2 – Dealing with health issues and tremendous pain in my head. Feels like my left ear has closed up and is just going to have that lovely screeching noise from inside my skull. Fabulous. I wrote something. Not a lot. At least I tried. Not even 50%. 709 words and more outline notes.

Nov 4 – was too sick to write; wrestled with Scrivener though trying to figure out simple formatting issues.


Nov 9 – skipped a few days of NaNo or only got down a few hundred words. Have been working on comic script for editor, going through revisions. Finished second draft of that and back to NaNo. Lost my mind enough to spend over an hour posting nothing but gifs in my timeline.

Nov 10 – This is what I looked like after writing nearly a full work day, not all on NaNo though. I created a lengthy blog post about my morning which looks like it’s a couple thousand words at least; then I dove into my mystery. The noticeable change in my NaNo dashboard was that the vertical bars on my progress chart were getting taller meaning I’m writing more at each session. But if you see that diagonal line in grey on the image below, it shows where you are supposed to be. I’m halfway where I should be. In my Scrivener (whose Twitter handle is actually @ScrivenerApp, not just Scrivener, a mistake I’ve made twice), the Daily Target at the bottom center of my template page and the word count in my Project Targets menu don’t match. I don’t know why. I got a reply from @ScrivenerApp and they suggested that I make sure there aren’t extra things in To Be Compiled. I turned off all those possible things like my character and setting sheets. The numbers still didn’t match. So I’m using the higher number because I need to feel a little bit less of the failure than I am at this point, the second week into the project.



Above you see what I looked like at the end of the day around 5:00 when I had to quit. My story was still working in my head – like the next bits of dialog in the scene were ready to be put on the page – but I simply couldn’t sit there any more. I had even put my head down on the blanket on my desk where Caico sleeps. It was covered in Caico hair but for 30 seconds, I didn’t care. My eyes needed to not look at a computer monitor. I ate some food and crawled into bed with Janet Evanovich & Lee Goldberg’s THE JOB. I read maybe six lines when my eyes closed completely. I felt that little dozing off movement of my hands holding the Kindle so I put it down and turned the TV on. Then of course, I was wide awake. Different kind of energy expenditure, I guess. I wasn’t able to read or write at the point so it was my typical marathon of TV watching. I crashed during Castle.

Nov 11 – Trying to get motivated. Read a nice interview at Dead Darlings about writing your own projects and indie publishing. Then I recapped yesterday to get my fingers moving and my eyes adjusted to the computer screen again (after a few exciting games with Oliver and his toy mice). Mainly what I’m thinking right now is how I really could use a yoga class. My body is tight and feels like it hasn’t moved in months – because it hasn’t.

start-typing tom hanks

Nov 14 – Wrote some. Invented a smoothie. Bananas with Goldschlager, cognac, & caramel vodka.



Nov 15 Saturday – It’s the end of week two so a lot of people are posting about reaching their halfway point of the 50k. And some are talking about how they are already passed 50k. What? I knew the tweeters claiming to be at 50k during week one were possible cheaters but week two is sort of plausible. Instead 1,663 words per day, they could be have been cranking out 4,000 or 5,000 words per day which what the majority of writers would consider a “big” day. But it’s possible, I suppose. Not for me. I’m roughly 3,000 words behind at this point which is still in the realm of possibilities to catch up on. If I write extra words per day, I can eventually close that gap. Truthfully, I’m impressed I am this far along. I used to wince at every NaNo post by friends and wanted to mute it as much as sports because I thought there was too much wrong with the premise. It emphasizes word count not word quality. It emphasizes rushing if you only look at the month of November but you’re allowed to do your planning and pre-writing before November. If someone’s outline is fleshed out enough, the dedicated days to only writing quickly and without editing, are what NaNo is really about. I entered last minute so I lost time to thinking and jotting down plot points, not even fully outlining. At the time of detouring over here to draft this entry, I’m fighting with myself over getting out another measly 200 words. It’s after 6pm and I’ve been at this since before 11am.

I’m kind of feeling like this:


Don’t get me wrong. I like my story. It’s one that has been in my To-Be-Written file for many years. I’m simply burned out from the writing part and would like to crawl into bed and catch up on Constantine instead. Twitter has been invaluable in finding out how other people are getting along too. Like I said, I’ve been watching countless strangers post about their daily targets and total count. One friendly tweeter even gave me a funny suggestion for my character when I said she was opening a bag of chips and it made me crave chips. He said make it pop open and explode all over. Since my character was having the worst day of her life, I thought that was the perfect thing to have happen to her when all she wanted was comforting junkfood. I also wanted comfort food and was super glad to have some. I had bagels and made my first ever Cosmo. It was much better than I expected. I’m not a fan of cranberry juice even though I like dried and cooked cranberries mixed up in other things. I know a lot of people are lazy and order “vodka and cranberry” but that’s not a real Cosmo. That’s only half a Cosmo. I don’t know if it’s the Cos or ‘mo. A full fledged Cosmo is freshly squeezed lime juice, sugar, triple sec, cranberry juice and vodka. And it was deeeeeelicious.

Ok, let’s see if I can stop looking at videos of a cat on a skateboard and pictures of all my friends who are attending Bouchercon right now.

Nov-16 This morning my cat was howling and being a general diva pain in the ass much earlier than she normally is. During my unemployment, I’ve loved adjusting to this particular schedule where I get up at 7am. That’s a great time for me to function. I usually fall asleep right after 10pm. I’m kind of an old fart that way. I have a routine and I like this routine. Go downstairs with Caico at 7 and let Oliver have the upstairs for a couple hours. Today, Caico decided it needed to happen earlier. That means I drank my coffee earlier. Writing wasn’t what you would call coming easy today. At 400 words, I wanted to be done. By 600 words, I was looking for any imaginable excuse to walk away. Eventually my friend Ally tweeted about one of the costumes she’s working on and that reminded, HOLY SHIT – I have a costume I’m supposed to be working on for a friend and that project has a deadline but I’ve been wrapped up in NaNo! Crap. Well, I did want an excuse to walk away from the keyboard but I wanted to walk towards a nap not into a new project. I spent one hour drafting the costume pattern and basting pieces together to plot out where I think the color blocking will work best. I left the basted pattern pieces on the sewing form and went to relax. I watched a couple episodes of White Collar, sorted my laundry into baskets though I didn’t actually put any in the washer, and finally made more coffee. That was enough moving around to get my ass back to my computer. I found it much easier to get my character to go through her motions then.


I worked until 5:30 and miraculously managed to reach 27,722 words which puts me just over the edge of the 26,666 for today’s stat goal! That means it took days for me to write enough over my daily target to close the gap from the days I missed. And I DID IT!



Nov 17 – Having a difficult time concentrating. So happy with making up words over the last week. Having a lot of feelings of worry even though this doesn’t really matter. If I do hit the 50K words and my story isn’t complete, I can keep writing. I have no idea why I’m so worried about it. I know people have already written over 50K. The average for a novel is somewhere around 80K anyway. I think part of it is that I have other things to do for the next six weeks like work on a costume for a friend and two more scripts for Learning A-Z. The book will be there for whenever I can I get to but this stupid pressure about it won’t stop. And on top of that, I know it’s hundreds of pages of info dump or exposition writing. There’s a plot in there – somewhere. Plus, I’ve rethought who the murderer will be now.

Nov 18 – Was accidentally woken up an hour early so I took advantage of that and started writing a little earlier than I have been. I’m a morning person in the sense that I know I am more productive earlier in the day than after lunch. This morning, before 11:30, I felt like I had earned my break to go find food and my stats were pleasing. I had accomplished my 2500 word count (my internal, unofficial goal) for the day which means I can either get back to that sewing project this afternoon or begin researching for a script I have due next month that I haven’t even started yet. I’m hoping to write 2500 a day on NaNo so that by the end of November I’m around 60k words. Then hopefully that will have set me in a good routine to keep going and build this up to where it needs to be for a more average-length manuscript.


Nov 20 – Yesterday I had a lot of other writing to do but I am happy that I still managed to complete a full scene with my NaNo project so my daily target was hit. This morning, I’m feeling physically and mentally wiped out and would love nothing more than crawl into bed. Last night’s modeling was offset by a goddamn parking ticket which was $6 more than I made at the gig. So today was spent running around paying things including taking Caico to the vet for her annual rabies shot and checkup (she’s on the thin side but otherwise healthy) and I feel too wiped out to formulate scenes in my head no less type them.

Anyway, one of the motivational things for me, is to see visible progress. I’m not really seeing the page count go up because I’m using Scrivener so all my scenes are in separate subfiles in the manuscript tree. However, I obsessively watch my word count. In Scrivener, there are charts like in the NaNoWriMo dashboard. The NaNo goal is 50,000 words. When I plug that into my manuscript, it looks like I’m making headway and achieving something. I happen to think 80k is more typical of a novel so I have taken snapshots of what my progress bar looks like with various word count goals:

nov20wordcomparison nanowrimo

The bar in the first picture is motivating. It’s like it’s trying to break out of that yellow area. And trust me, when it was red, I felt like it was screaming at me in drill sergeant style. But there’s less green to no green at all as I bump up the target word count. I’m not even halfway to where I want to be based on 80k words. I’m like, “JUST GET OUT OF MY HEAD ALREADY!”


Nov 23 – It’s the 4th weekend of NaNoWriMo. I’m joyous that my vertical word count bars on the graphic (on the official site’s dashboard) are still higher than minimum target needed to complete. I’m seeing more and more people everyday validate their words and post their WINNER graphics. Just remember, you’ve won a word count; you need to edit. I know my 40,000 words so far are half “info dump” at least, probably more. After a third cup of coffee and three hours writing (with decent breaks), my progress bar for total count is finally green! By mid-afternoon, I felt like my brain was goo. I clocked in 3,535 words which I think is my personal highest.

HappyDanceDeanNov 24 – Listening to the first episode of SERIAL because everyone is buzzing about it. It’s a true crime podcast sort of – it’s one former reporter’s POV about a real case. In my head it’s like if Garrison Keillor’s talent for connecting to an audience was morphed with the gritty noir of the pulps that addresses a real story about an American-born Pakistani teen convicted of murdering a teen girl in Baltimore. It’s interesting and compelling but too long. I guess if it were an audio book, the number of hours would be perfectly normal as they can be anywhere from 8-17 hours of listening. For a podcast though, I want a beginning, middle and end within the span of one show, two tops.

When I reached 45,000 words, I was seriously starting to panic that the “meat” of my story was never going to be coherent. I still haven’t picked which character is the murderer. My character note sheets have several suspects but I don’t know which darling I want to metaphorically kill. One of them will likely be off to prison, implied anyway, that they have not gotten away with the crime. So after a thousand words this morning, I’m in quest of helpful tips on honing story structure. Last night my BFF asked me if I was following a three- or five act structure. Truthfully, neither. I have it broken down in an outline but never wrote the numerals I, II, III, IV or V next to them. I have short descriptors about what needs to happen to move the story forward otherwise it would characters talking and nothing happening. I get caught up in having characters talking. However, when I study my outline’s brief descriptions, it definitely falls more into the five act structure. I have folder names like “Challenge the hero 1” and “Challenge the hero 2,” “Reversal of fortune,” and first and second police interrogations, etc. It’s more than five because the second act is always a big composite of different scenes that I am strongly hoping resemble a roller coaster not only a steady upward climb than drop “TA-DAH!” here’s your criminal.

I stumbled over to Writers Helping Writers. This Traci Stoilo post is far too basic for what I need. It’s got good information but it’s more like what you’d learn in the first five minutes of a mystery writing workshop. I need the sort of information you’d be digging into during a college class by midterms. From there, I went to the navigation of the blog WHW categories for their blog posts. They have called Plotting so that’s my next attempt. I’m feeling too much like a “pantser” and not the “plotter” I am. If I don’t wrangle this together, I’ll type in circles and end up having my protagonist kill herself because it’s so impossible to sort out any way to end it. Sadly, I did not find the kind of detailed help I’m needing from the WHW website. It’s a decent blog of short posts that introduce tips at the surface. Telling me “write your plot points on index cards,” is not the guidance I need about how to build the tension and know when to release it or when to reveal the clues.


nov24wordsThis was by far the most I ever wrote in fiction in one day, 4,462. I’ve done over 7,000 for blog/memoir stuff but that type of writing is nothing like the creative process of crafting scenes that fiction is for me. This was an exhausting day and I didn’t realize how much so until I left my desk, went to the living room and sat down on the couch. I fully anticipated that I’d only be “on break” and would get back to work to finish the remaining 1,400 words. But my body and brain felt wiped out. My muscles were tight and tense but my brain felt like loose giggly pudding.


Nov-25 I am happy to report that I reached the 50,000 word requirement. I know it’s tradition to say “won” NaNoWriMo, but I don’t think it’s a race to the finish. It’s a personal challenge, at least for me. I’ve been unemployed since my birthday in August. I was too depressed to write anything creative for months. I managed to make a few blog posts about charity events and conventions but even my podcast, Vodka O’Clock fell away from my priorities and that’s one of my favorite things to do. I had the time. I sat in this chair where I am right now and wrote for five to six hours almost every single day. I think I missed 3 days and in the beginning, I wasn’t even breaking 1,000 words. There was no pivotal moment I can think of that broke me through the barrier. Something about my depression is that I need distractions but somehow at the same time, I need to keep my routine or I freak out. My routine for months has been not leaving the house. I have coffee until 8 or 9 in the morning with my mother then I get upstairs and sit at this really uncomfortable desk.

How did I do it? I spent the first couple days not writing. I was outlining. Something most people do all that in October and it makes them prepared to zoom along through November. My participation was last minute. My outline isn’t even that great.

I also listened to episodes of Writing Excuses, Write for Your Life, and other podcasts even if I heard them before to get motivated.

I tackled each day’s target as a scene. Because I had to make up for the lost word count, I bumped up my daily target to 2,000 then to 2,500. That was a good place for me to get through a scene completely. When my daily target was reached, I gave my brain the much needed break and would watch TV. But I also have other writing with real deadlines and freelance invoices plus a costume that have invisible fairies poking me in the back with long pitchforks saying I shouldn’t be fucking around with NaNo when I have more important work to get done. So now that the 50k was reached, I have to pause on my novel and go do all those other things.

Winner-2014-Web-Banner-withCountAlso, I learned how to make a great Cosmo during this. Cheers!


“Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on.”
― Louis L’Amour

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2 Comments on #NaNoWriMo diary

  1. Amber, what a great portrait of the struggle to create. Congratulations and thank you so much for detailing your journey. I found this post very, very inspirational. Cheers to you!!

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