Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Keeping Track of Nanowrimo

Since many writers will be attempting to write their novel during National Novel Writing Month (Nanowrimo), I thought I’d let you know my biggest headache afterward – finding my scenes.

I made a chart the first year I attempted Nanowrimo and I still use it, except I’ve tweaked it over the years to make it more efficient. The chart shows my daily progress and lets me know if I’m on track to complete the manuscript (ms) by the end of Nov which is when Nanowrimo ends.

My final change to the chart was to add a column where I use a few words to describe the scene I’ve just written. You could do it at the start of the day, but usually filling in my word count is the last thing I do before I go to bed and dream about the next day’s scene. I used to just log in my daily progress by word count and page number. But then hectic December rolled around and I started editing the ms and all I had to refer to was a sheet full of numbers. I couldn’t find a scene in a hurry. And remember, during Nanowrimo, your scenes won’t always be in order. You may run into writer's block and not know what comes next. The best thing is to start somewhere else. So you write the final chapter on day 14 and the black moment on Day 23. By adding a column with a few word description, you can tell at a glance where that scene is located in your file.

I would love to show you the chart here but there isn’t enough room for it and I don’t know how to link to it. But if you leave your email address in a comment, I'll email the chart to you. Or, you can make your own chart using an Excel spreadsheet. I usually just use a Word document so I don’t have to open another program and stress my aging laptop.

So my columns headers are:

1st – Date (The day of the month)
2nd – Pages (Use 1-10, 11-24, etc. Easier to know where to start.)
3rd – Word Count (Daily Word count)
4th – Total (Running Total)
5th – Scene (A few words to jog your memory)
6th – Percentage *
7th – Goal (Day 3 will be 10%, Day 6 = 20%, Day 9 = 30%, Day 12 = 40%, Day 15 = 50%, etc)

* The formula to figure out your progress percentage is this:
Your daily total divided by your book length goal, then move the decimal 2 to the right.

Some days I write more than I need and some days less so my goal isn’t written in stone. However, if I’m only at 13% by Day 6, I know I’d better get a move on or it will be too demoralizing to try to catch up. And that is my voice of experience speaking.

When I start my ms, I set up the page with the nbrs on the top right side of the header just like a regular manuscript. You’ll need it to keep track of the scenes. But I don’t keep track of chapters. It would slow me down and it’s not necessary at this stage.

Then when I save it, I’ll name it under the day like Day 1, Day 10, Day 19, etc. This makes it a lot easier to find if you need to refer back to a name or something in a rush. Trust me, during Nano month you don't have time to be looking for information. You'll need it within a couple clicks. At the end of the day, once you've actually written the scene(s) you can rename your file to reflect that. Sometimes I'll give the scene a name at the start of the day, but more often than not, what I end up with isn't what I planned.

So there’s my Nanowrimo tracking chart. If you have found something else that works for you, please share it with us here. And remember to leave your email address if you want to see mine.

Next week I'll pass on all the Nanowrimo tips that work for me as well as others that I may or may not agree with.

More writing comics can be found at



Karyn Good said...

Puts up hand, waves it around. I'll take you up on your offer of a chart. Oh man, I've given no thought to how I'll stay organized during NaNoWriMo. What you're talking about makes so much sense because, of course I'll be skipping around and writing bits and pieces here and there.

Thanks, Anita. I'm going to much more organized in November because of your post. Also can't wait until next week. Looking forward to accumulating more tips!

BTW - I'm prairiechick for anyone who wants to befriend me. :)

Anita Mae Draper said...

Morning, Karyn, I just emailed the chart to you. By default, it's saved as a docx so if you can't open it let me know.

I hope my tips will come in handy but because it's only a couple days before the start of Nano, I'm cutting it close.

Meanwhile, the most single important thing you should be doing now is working on your character sketches. I've spent hours of wasted time because I didn't have a clear image of what my characters looked like and added details on the fly. The info is so hard to find after. Sometimes, you change eye color, etc without realizing it and I've even read books where it was missed until after printing.

So make a detailed character sketch and tape it to the wall beside your writing space. Leave extra spaces to add quirks etc that you think of as you write. It will help so much.

There, you've got my first tip, but at least you have time to do it.

btw - when you say befriend you as prairiechick, I'm assuming you mean on the official Nanowrimo site, right?

Helena said...

Oh, Anita, you've almost got me deciding to plunge in. Was going to give it some thought, but have been too busy to even think!

Your chart has convinced me I could manage to do this ... so please fire me a chart, too. If you've done it in Word and save as a doc, I should be able to open it.

Thanks so much, and good luck with November, whether I join you or not.

Hayley E. Lavik said...

This is great info, Anita. If I do NaNo, it will probably be next year, so I find it really fascinating right now to see people's strategies to get through this, the amount of plotting or pantsing, and the things a person might not think of, like deciding eye colour on a whim and then forgetting what page that info's on. Keep us posted!

Silver James said...

Oh, you organized people. LOL! I'm...weird, I guess. When I write a book, I start at the beginning and I write it in order until I get to the end. The joys of being a pantser, right? ;) I stay on track with my word count by using an Excel document. Column one is Days: 1-30. Column two is Word count. I set up formulas at the end of the column that show the current total word count and how many words I need to reach 50K. My goal is 1667 minimum a day, every day.

October is when Iffy gets to run with her scissors. She can dream up plots and settings and characters. I make a few rough notes and do whatever research is needed so that I'm ready to go come 12:01 a.m. on November 1! (Just kidding...I usually wait until about 8 a.m. to start writing.)

I'm Silver Norwood on NaNo. Come be my writing buddy! I'll buddy up with y'allI suppose I should blog one of these days where that name came from...

Anita Mae Draper said...

Helena, even if you only do Nano for a week or two, you'll have a head start on a book.

Actually, this would be a good time to say I don't join Nano at the official site for that very reason. It's perfect for people, like Karyn, who are using it for the what it was intended which is to start and finish a 50,000+ word book in a month. That's why you do all your prep work ahead of time and don't write one word until Nov 1st.

I wrote and completed Charley's Saint during my first Nano and loved the hectic experience.

However, for those who need to edit or complete an ms, like me with Emma's story, or who want to write a couple short stories or a novelette, you can't use the official site.

That's why I do my Nanoing (new word) at the eharlequin site because we set our own goals.

The best thing about Nano is the daily encouragement and accountability of being with other writers - just like BIAW. Use it as you will, but please, take advantage of it.

Anita Mae Draper said...

You have the right idea, Hayley. All the prep work is done ahead of time and readily available so when you start, there's no dickering around.

You're planning ahead, giving yourself lots of time to do the prep work and planning. By the time you do join Nano, the characters and plot should be firmly fixed in your mind so there's no reason for you not to succeed. Well, as long as you actually sit and do it.

I will try to keep everyone posted but no guarantees during Nanowrimo. Heh.

Anita Mae Draper said...

Hello, Silver Norwood - you're very organized yourself. I'm assuming your goal is for a 50,000 word novel?

Usually I need a daily word count of 1833 but that's because I target the Love Inspired line and that works out to 55,000 words.

For Outlaw - Emma's story, I would need to write 3000 words daily if I were starting from scratch because it's 90,000 words. But it's mostly written. I'll use the same tracking chart but just copy and paste the info I started with the Seeker's BIAW a few weeks ago.

I'd love a spreadsheet with the formulas set in like you have it but I'm a wordster and can't wrap my head around some simple math stuff. (Red face)

Thanks for sharing, Silver. You reminded me of a ribbon Cheryl Wyatt wore at the ACFW conference that said something like 'Runs around with scissors'. LOL

Karyn Good said...

Yes, prairiechick at the official NaNoWriMo site. :D

I've done an indepth character sketch for the hero and started one for the heroine. I've jotted down four plot pivots and ten plot points. It's an Aspen Lake story so I've got the setting. And now, I've got a worksheet to keep track of everything. :)

I like I'm almost ready.

Karyn Good said...

Or not, because now I'm confusing the word 'like' with the word 'think'.

Silver James said...

Nope. I use it to kick start a new novel. My NaNo goal is always to exceed the 50K since my 'finished projects come in around 80-90K. When I've hit the 50+K at the end of NaNo, I'm well on my way to completing the first draft. I'll work slowly through December because of the holidays, and then push hard again in January. Provided RL and/or other writing obligations don't interfere, I finish up by February and start edits. As we all know, (hear me whine!) POV is the bane of my existence. When writing NaNo, I don't even think about it. I just write. It's wonderful and I seldom hit writer's block because of it. I can always clean it up later. My standard line about Iffy, dear sweet Muse that she is, contains a reference to running with scissors...and owning a big, pink gun. ;)

Do you have Excel, Anita? I'll happily set up the form and email it to you as an attachment. Let me know if you want it by days, chapters, etc.

LOLOL! My spam word? "inkers"

Anita Mae Draper said...

Thats a very good system you have, Silver. It's reminiscent of the one I blogged about from Allie Pleiter's workshop last year. Hers was filled with projections and it was also done on Excel

Yes, I do have Excel. In fact, I've just sent you an email with my tracking chart attached so you can see what I'm working with now.

The good thing about using a spreadsheet is that you don't have to pull out the calculator at the end of a long day of writing. There have been days when I was too tired to check my results after punching in the wrong numbers and then had to report my error the next day.

Like I said, numbers aren't my forte.

Thank you, Silver. I appreciate you stopping today with your offer.