Is It Time for NaNoWriMo Editing?

Is It Time for NaNoWriMo Editing? | Writing Between Pauses

I write about NaNoWriMo a lot. It’s no secret that I really love doing NaNoWriMo every November, even though it often leaves me a bit burnt out. And also that I never plan to publish anything professionally, at least right now. For me, NaNoWriMo is more about having fun and really writing for 30 days—and less about producing something I think people want to read. (This might be the imposter syndrome talking!)

However, I’ve never really touched on what comes after NaNoWriMo. You know, the part where you let your novel sit for a little while then you go back to it. And edit it. And keep writing on it.

I’ve done that. (I promise! I probably reread all my NaNoWriMo novels at least twice a year.) But I never really talk about doing it or write about doing it. (Oof, writing about writing, am I right?) It’s just something I do, piece by piece, for several months, until it’s time for the next NaNoWriMo novel.

And just like NaNoWriMo, I have my own specific process for editing my NaNoWriMo novels. Obviously, I come from the unique place of not intending to publish anything, but just wanting to write something really good that I personally enjoy reading. I thought I would share my process in case it is helpful for others.

1. Find a beta

Betas are, in the writing world, people who edit your work for you. The term popularly comes from fanfiction—and I have a group of people I’ve known for years who beta stories for people nearly every single weekend. It’s just something they enjoy doing and they are very good at it. So if you are a writing hobbyist, and you really want to improve, and you don’t just want someone to read your work and tell you its awesome, look for a beta. There are so many great ones out there and you can get great plot and grammar feedback. Many betas have their areas of expertise, so even having 2 or 3 people read over your NaNoWriMo novel and make notes can make a huge difference.

2. Write a list of scenes

One thing I usually do a few months after November is going through what I’ve written and making a list of each scene. I can then use that list to guide me as I do my big reread and note where I want to rewrite a scene, move it around, or take it out completely. I can take notes on that list about what I want to change, and how, and why.

3. Reread, reorder, & rewrite

Once I have a lot of notes about what I want to do (as well as feedback from my betas of what worked and what didn’t), I start the often rather difficult process of doing those things. For me, this part is really tedious—it’s what I hate most about editing. But having a list of the original order of scenes allows me to know what I moved and where and why, so I can keep better track of what I’m doing without getting confused. Usually during the process, I start doing way more than I originally intended, then make myself tired. I tend to cap editing at about 2 hours a week, because otherwise I will absolutely get burnt out.

4. Print it out

If you read that last sentence, you’re probably like, “hold on… you only edit for 2 hours a week?” Yeah. Alongside all the writing I do, for this blog, for my freelance work, and for my job, doing too much makes me go bonkers pretty fast. And there is nothing worse than being absolutely frozen on a deadline for a job that pays, you know? Steps 2 and 3 usually take me a good 3-4 months (I haven’t even started them yet for my most recent NaNoWriMo novel, I’m not ready!). But, once I get that first round done, I will print out my NaNoWriMo novel and read through it with a pen. At this point, I will start noting what I want to add to it, if anything. Sometimes, I want to add in scenes I had originally removed, but have them rewritten and in a totally new place. Or written a totally new way. This step is one of the most fun parts for me, but can also be quite tedious—like when I randomly decide to change the voice about halfway through.

Once I finish this step, I start writing again—compiling my notes from my printed copy. Then, I start the editing process over again: betas, the list, and more writing. I recently thought about restarting this process for my NaNoWriMo novel from 2014—it’s one of my favorites, but needs the most work, as well as a load of research to fix some major errors.

What’s your NaNoWriMo editing process like?

4 Things To Do To Prepare for NaNoWriMo

4 Things to Do To Prepare for NaNoWriMo | Writing Between Pauses

It’s NaNoWriMo prep season. If you don’t know what NaNoWriMo is, I have a blog post for that. But long story short, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month, an event where everyone tries to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days.

I’ve participated in NaNoWriMo since 2010; I’ve won 5 times so far, which means I have 5 50,000 word novels floating around. For some, NaNoWriMo is a chance to binge write a novel they’ve been working on for years. For others, NaNoWriMo is just a fun month to write a novel.

For me, NaNoWriMo is all about having fun, writing a novel that I want to read, and feeling the joy of success afterwards. Usually, by November, I’m feeling a little “burnt out”—I spend most of my waking hours grappling with words in some form of another. I work as a digital marketing content strategist and copywriter; I maintain a blog; and my main hobby is creative writing.

However, oddly enough, November is often the thing that refreshes me for the next 12 months. It is sandwiched between my two big blogging challenges, Blogtober and Blogmas, so by January 1, I’m feeling decidedly ready for anything.

I’ve written a lot of posts about NaNoWriMo previously, especially about how I handle the task while also caring for a child. I’ve shared my planning strategy for NaNoWriMo, my typical prep, my tips for succeeding, and preparing for NaNoWriMo in 3 steps.

Every year, I feel like I tweak my NaNoWriMo process just a little bit in a way that makes a huge difference in my ability to succeed. This year, I want to share not just how I am preparing for NaNoWriMo, but also my schedule for doing so. So these 4 steps are all about setting deadlines for myself.

Ready to prep for NaNoWriMo? If you’re planning to go for your first NaNo this year, or you’re an old timer like me, I hope you find some value in this timeline. Let’s jump in!

1. By October 10: Pick a Topic & Sketch Your Plot

By October 10, you should know the basic form of your novel: the genre, what happens, and a few climactic points you want to hit in your writing. This is always my first step when beginning to prepare for NaNoWriMo (and I’ve outlined it in detail before in my posts). But my basic process is to have a notebook or Google doc dedicated to notes for my novel where I include all the basic information. This includes:

  • All my characters names, basic descriptions, and basic information that may come up (like birthdays, important events, and character traits)

  • A synopsis of the novel

  • and at least 3 important plot points, twists, or scenes I need to include for the plot

From here, I can begin working on the outline of my novel.

2. By mid-October: Write an Outline

Speaking of outlines, I always write from an outline for NaNoWriMo. That is: I’m a planner, not a pantser (aka flying by the seat of my pants). I divide the 50,000 word minimum into 10 chapters of 5,000 words and then divide each chapter into 5 1,000 word scenes. I then plan out each scene in basic detail: my point for a scene might be anything from “introduce [character]” to “[character 1] fights with [character 2]” to already fleshed out dialogue and scene details. They can be vague or descriptive. But the important thing is: I get the outline on paper so that I never find myself stuck on day 10 of November.

I try to have my outline completed and in a Google doc by October 15, or October 20 at the absolute latest. This makes the run up to November way less stressful.

3. By October 20: Sign Up on NaNoWriMo

This is a basic step, but every year, I find myself scrambling to remember my NaNoWriMo password. It was only last year that I reminded myself (by putting it on my calendar) to log in to before November 1 to set up my novel. Tracking my word count is a lot easier when I use the NaNoWriMo website because it gives me a daily word average, an average words per day I have to write to get to 50,000 words, and much more, as well as a graph of how I’m doing comparatively to everyone else. Plus, to officially win, you have to validate through the NaNoWriMo website. So, sign up at by October 20!

4. By October 30: Plan Your Writing Schedule

I’ve mentioned before that in November, I keep my schedule really strict when it comes to writing. I set aside two hours every night (or on the weekend, every morning) to really get writing done. And in that time, I have to meet my daily goal or exceed it. If I don’t, I’ll probably fall behind—and once I fall behind, it’s really difficult to catch up again! So, by the end of October (but before Halloween, because obviously, you need that night to celebrate!), have an idea of what your writing schedule will be. Maybe you’ll take your laptop to Starbucks every day during lunch to write. Or maybe, you’ll wake up an hour earlier to get writing done that way. No matter what, pick a schedule that works for you—you can even test it out a few days in October to see if it’s good for you—and stick to it.

How I Plan to Win NaNoWriMo

How I Plan to Win NaNoWriMo | Writing Between Pauses

I wrote last week about what NaNoWriMo is and why I personally choose to participate. 

This week, I wanted to talk about my NaNoWriMo process. I’ve touched on this a few times here and here, but I’ve never gone in depth. 

I have a really specific process for outlining for NaNoWriMo. You read that correctly: I’m a planner, not a pantser. (Confused by those terms? Click here.) 

The very first year I did NaNoWriMo, I was a pantser—and it is crystal clear in the novel I produced! It is easily my weakest year. However, since then, I’ve written outlines and followed a detailed plan. I’ve worked out a system that absolutely works for me and if you’re already struggling to stay afloat this month, I think it can work for you too. 

1. Write a Synopsis

First things first, I write a brief synopsis. This is just my idea. Usually, it’s something very simple like: a marathon runner witnesses a gruesome murder. As she tries to put the pieces back together, the victim’s identical twin destroys evidence of her sister’s secret life. This is the basis of my idea: no more, no less. (This synopsis is verbatim from my 2013 novel.) 

2. Write 3 plot crucial points. 

The first point is usually the beginning piece of information in the synopsis; in my example, it’s the murder that the runner witnesses. The second point is usually the climax of the story, when the tension is highest; in my example, the climax was the arrest of the killer. The third point in the conclusion; in this case, it’s the murderers trial. 

3. Start Your Outline

From there, you have all the information you need: beginning, middle, and end. Now, it’s time to get into the nitty gritty. When it comes to writing a detailed outline, I have a very specific process. Here it is. 

A NaNoWriMo novel is 50,000 words; so, I plan 10 chapters that are 5,000 words, at least, each. Each chapter has 5 scenes of at least 1,000 words. If I can plan more words or more scenes, that’s great, but that is the bare minimum. 

On my outline, I name each chapter, identify each scene, and briefly describe each scene. It might be something as simple as, Rory, the runner, returns home to find her boyfriend, James, has left her a letter. Or, it might be something as complicated as: Molly returns home to search her sister’s bedroom, where she finds a black notebook that her sister used to journal and a stash of cash, as well as other assorted possessions that seem out-of-character. 

I also usually place my big three plot points: the beginning plot point usually goes in chapter 1 or 2; the climax usually occurs somewhere between chapter 6 and chapter 8, and then chapters 9-10 deal with the conclusion. 

Outlining in this way always gives me a scene to work towards and a goal to hit. I know when I start a new scene, I need to write a bare minimum of 1,000 words. And as I’m writing through the month, I may add additional scenes or break scenes up into small, vignette-style scenes… but I always have something to move on to, even if I’m experiencing writer’s block. 

4. Edit your outline. 

I usually write my outline in September. Yep, September! Then, in late October, I read over the entire thing and make any changes: I add details, write character descriptions, move scenes around, add scenes, change plot points… Basically, I fine tune everything so that when November starts, it’s as easy as pie. 

What is NaNoWriMo?

What is NaNoWriMo? | Writing Between Pauses

Oh, you thought I'd take a break after Blogtober? Well, that would probably be a good idea. Instead, I'm taking on NaNoWriMo and I plan to blog through the entire month. Wow! Also, I'm pre-writing December content for Blogmas. Uh oh, I've overbooked myself! 

It was 2010 when I decided to take the plunge and do NaNoWriMo for the first time. I’d heard of it through a few friends throughout college—I distinctly remember one of my good friends making an attempt in 2009—but I’d never committed to it myself. I knew I was better at writing short form than long form and I felt pigeon holed into that. 

However my senior year, I was living alone in a little apartment off campus without heating; I had a lot of spare time despite having a full schedule. I spent a lot of time with friends, or studying in the library, or working out in my apartment just to stay warm. I figured I might as well fill the time and take on something big, right? 

2010 was the first year I won. I won in 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2016 as well. I don’t think I attempted in 2011; I can’t totally remember and I can’t find any evidence of a story, that’s for sure! It should go without saying: that first novel in 2010 was bad. I distinctly remember halfway through the month losing my notes I’d written—so I suddenly couldn’t recall how old characters were, their full names, how they were related. Halfway through, it just turned into a brain dump mess. 

My novels have steadily gotten better since then. 2010 was tragic, and so was 2012; 2013 has a good idea and I remember really liking what I wrote, but reading through it recently, it is also tragic. 2014 is quite good; with a little hard work, I think it could be really good. And 2016 is my best novel yet and, funny enough, was the easiest year I can remember winning. I was always ahead on my daily work count. 

As I go into my 6th time doing NaNoWriMo, I wanted to talk about what NaNoWriMo is and why I do it. 

What is NaNoWriMo? 

NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month, aka November. It’s a month where writers attempt to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. You write round 1,670 words a day. You can sign up on to officially commit (it’s free, don’t worry) and be verified through their word counting system. (Although, as a warning, their word counting system is always at least 4,000 words off my word documents counter! So write more than 50,000 before you verify or you’ll be mad.) 

For lots of writers, NaNoWriMo gives them a community to work on their writing skills, get inspiration and feedback, and find kinship with other people. 

Why I Do NaNoWriMo

I recently posted a thread on Twitter about how I don’t do NaNoWriMo, and I don’t write in general, with any thought of publishing. The truth is, I don’t want to be published. I used to think that was my dream, but I realize now that it’s just not something I want to pursue; I am happy to write my passion projects, the books I want to read, and leave them at the end. I love the novel I wrote last year for NaNoWriMo and even my husband says I should attempt to get it published; but I just don’t want to! It’s too personal. I write because it’s my hobby, because it’s how I motivate myself, because I need to create to feel happy. But for me, publishing isn’t the end goal. 

Are you doing NaNoWriMo this year? 

Is it your first year taking on NaNoWriMo? Or are you an old timer like me? I’d love to connect with you on Twitter so we can motivate each other, talk about our books, and grouse about the NaNoWriMo word counter! Follow me here and send me a note! 

4 More Lessons I Learned From NaNoWriMo in 2016

When I completed NaNoWriMo in 2014, I wrote a great post about lessons I learned. Reading through that list, I still identify with everything I wrote previously. It's funny, at the end, to see how excited I am for the next year--without knowing that in 3 months, I would be pregnant. It's weird looking back on statements like that and laughing at how much your life can change in a few months (isn't that what blogs are great for, though?). 

I thought I would revisit this post and share a few more lessons I've learned from NaNoWriMo--especially my first successful November as a parent! 

1. I have to prioritize where I put my energy.

I say this frequently, but when I get overwhelmed, I tend to shut down. In November, I often find myself pulled in a hundred different directions: I do NaNoWriMo; I'm working; I have Forrest; and I have an entire house to take care of. Personally, I find it very easy to just shut down and not really achieve anything in that time frame! 

However, I find that if I prioritize, I can get everything done without getting overwhelmed. But that also means, I have to let some things fall to the side. Notice how I barely blogged in November? Yeah, it was because I was trying to do NaNoWriMo, work my day job, and keep myself and a toddler alive. These things happen. C'est la vie! 

2. Get ahead while you can.

In previous NaNoWriMos, I've kept myself to a strict daily word count. I usually didn't write ahead more than 500 words or so. And each year, I've gotten behind and had to spend weekends catching up, which meant I got very quickly exhausted.  

I feel like this lesson is true of everything in life--not just NaNoWriMo. When you can, work ahead. For example, I have a cleaning schedule I try to keep: on Fridays, I tidy the entryway; on Saturdays, I clean the bathrooms, etc. However, if I'm feeling motivated, I'll clean the entryway and clean the bathrooms on the very same day. I know, living on the edge there! 

This year, I ended up writing my first 10,000 words for NaNoWriMo in the first few days. By November 15, I was 15,000 words from winning. I wrote ahead--I let myself write as often as I could without falling behind on my other responsibilities and it paid off. It helped that I was writing a story that I'd been thinking of for months, but having a buffer really made me more comfortable and I was able to write with joy, rather than stressing to stay on deadline. 

3. It's ok to think NaNoWriMo is stifling. 

As much as I love NaNoWriMo (and this being my 5th year completing, I do love it), I also inevitably start to wonder how, as a practice, it inhibits or improves my creativity. 

Ultimately, what we take away from NaNoWriMo is up to us--and it's ok to love it as an idea, but also ultimately believe it to be stifling. You don't have to follow the rules of NaNoWriMo to the letter; it's your novel and your life. Do what you want! 

However, you often see NaNoWriMo critics emerging in early November, talking about how NaNoWriMo is a time for "writer-wannabes" (ok) to emerge and dedicate one month of the year to writing. Not only is this a totally unfair statement which I've seen way too many supposedly professional writers state, it also ignores the point of NaNoWriMo. 

The point of NaNoWriMo isn't to be a professional writer and write your perfect dream novel in a month. NaNoWriMo is about empowering more people to write, to make time for writing and creativity, and to enjoy their lives. 

That's it! That's all that NaNoWriMo is about. 

It's ok to think it's stifling. It's ok to get to November 30 and think, "Well, that sucked." It's ok to feel like you wrote a crapper of a novel. (I have had that feeling many times myself.) But the most important thing is, if you completed a novel, you proved that you can write every day. Enough to pile up the words. And that's pretty monumental. 

4. When I read more, I write more. 

At the end of October, I signed up for Kindle Unlimited. Since then, I have read 46 books.

46 books

I know. It's actually kind of embarrassing. In that time, I have written more, and felt more creative, than ever before. I have started to realize that if I want to write--and I mean, really write in a way that is productive and meaningful--I have to keep my reading habit. Which, thanks to Kindle Unlimited, is totally possible. Even if I'm reading the most embarrassing, sappy romance novels of all time. 

Did you participate in NaNoWriMo this year? What did you learn about yourself, about creativity, or about life in general?

Writing with a Toddler: How to Win NaNoWriMo & More

As another NaNoWriMo check in: I officially won NaNoWriMo on Thanksgiving Day!

I hit a small snag when I copied & pasted my 50,100 word novel into the NaNoWriMo validator and was told I'd only written 49,600 words. I copied and pasted again and, again, was told I'd written 49,800 words. Ok, so at least it went up. 

The word count validator was broken, didn't believe me on Twitter, and it was a huge pain. I wrote an additional 600 word scene, while screeching at my husband and homph-gomphing some extra coffee, and got validated, but I'm still mad. 

Why am I still mad? 

Because writing with a toddler is really, really hard. 

Writing 1600 extra words per day with a toddler is a challenge that I'm not entirely sure why I took on, but I did it. 

And I did it exactly 5 days before the deadline. 

I'm sorry, but I'm very impressed with myself right now. 

I'm somewhat less than impressed that I've blogged what? Five times in November alongside NaNoWriMo? That's a big oops, but in my defense, November has been quite the month, personally and socially, so it's to be expected. 

When it comes to writing with a toddler, I find myself constantly challenged. I'm creative all day at my day job and when I get home, I'm pretty much moving nonstop. I'm playing with Forrest; I'm making dinner; I'm cleaning as I go. It's hard to be creative when you're mentally and emotionally wiped out, that's for sure.

But when it comes to writing, I set a few rules for myself. 

1. I try to set aside 30-60 minutes every evening to write.

This might be when Forrest is spending time with Danny, post-dinner but pre-bedtime. Or this might be when Forrest is already asleep. If I have important chores to do (like vacuuming, laundry, or deep cleaning the kitchen), I put them off until later in the evening. I make myself write--whether it's for NaNoWriMo or work, my blog or in my journal--for at least 30 minutes. It just has to be done. 

During NaNoWriMo, by keeping this schedule, I really improved my word count. I also found that if I got Forrest to nap while I wore him in our Ergo, I could get a solid 45 minute (or more!) writing time in. It all adds up. 

2. Don't worry about writing when your toddler awake. 

Maybe it's just me, but I know myself and I know my child. I cannot get anything done with him during the day. I can lightly clean the kitchen, keep him fed and clean, and work on organizing downstairs. But the minute I try to sit down, he's all over me. If I'm on the couch with my laptop, he wants the laptop. If I'm at the kitchen counter with my laptop, he's standing at the gate crying because I'm not with him. If I try to write while I'm feeding him lunch, he's yelling because he needs all of my attention. That's how it is with toddlers. And really, I'd rather get him to repeat "all done" or play pattycake than write anyway. 

3. Give yourself a break.

You know what? There are some days where I just can't write. Where I'm just so tired (Forrest is teething or he refused to eat all day, or we had doctor's appointments, or whatever) that I can't do anything else. On those days, I curl up on the couch and watch the Simpsons, or I run a nice bath, grab my Kindle, and turn on my favorite podcast. And you know what? I don't beat myself up. It's ok! You can't get everything done! That's fine. Forgive yourself. 

Want more NaNoWriMo and daily life updates? Follow me on Instagram!

NaNoWriMo Halfway Check In: Why Did I Do This Again?

There is always this point in the month of November where, if anyone asks me how things are or how NaNoWriMo is going, I say something like, "I don't know why I get so excited about doing this every year! I hate it! I'm stressed out!" 

For the first 10 days of November, I was a writing machine. I wrote almost 20,000 words in those 10 days. I felt motivated. I felt powerful. I felt completely capable of kicking NaNoWriMo's butt. 

Then the election happened. 

The day of, I was too anxious to write. As time went on throughout the day, I knew I wasn't going to be able to hit my word count for the day, so it was good I had written up a pretty strong buffer to keep myself from falling behind. 

The next day, however, my motivation was zapped. It felt so pointless. It was the same with my blog. I didn't write hardly anything for two days. I mostly sat and read and thought about stuff. I retweeted things on Twitter. I did the bare minimum in terms of writing. 

I hit a slump pretty badly last week and a lot of it had to do with the social and political upheaval that was going on. 

Another part of it had to do with the fact that I just get so tired. Every single year it happens: around 13 or 14 days in, I just get tired: of writing the same thing, of keeping the same schedule, of pushing myself. Mentally, I end up exhausted by writing so much. It sounds great to write 1500+ words per day--actually, it sounds totally easy. But I also work at a creative job where I write every day too. Writing blog posts, social media, and emails for work, then going home and writing blogs and social media for myself, and then sitting down to write a chapter of a novel? 

Not ideal, creatively. 

However, I think I'm finally on the other side of it. 

Yesterday, I posted a tweet about how I had no motivation to blog. I got responses from three of my favorite people on Twitter saying, essentially, the same thing: you don't have to write every day, you don't have to blog every day, but it's worth it to do so. 

It felt really good to be validated (and to know that people missed my blog!). It also felt really motivating to know that, yes, other people feel in a slump because of the election too; they feel like maybe it's a little pointless to do these things now. 

But another part of me thinks it's more important ever to write--and to write the stories that I, as a woman, want to read. Our world is changing and I'm not 100% sure it's for the better, but the more I use my voice, the better I will feel. Maybe it's pointless--who knows?--but it feels better to keep doing it. 

Then I find myself thinking things like this: The story I'm writing for NaNoWriMo is definitely not life-changing. It's a true crime story centered around 3 best friends in 1970s New Jersey. It's kind of dumb, very self-indulgent, and ultimately just something I had been thinking about for months. 

I write sentences like that and then I think, "But Michelle, you're using your voice to talk about women, to talk about victims, to tell a story that hasn't really been told before." 

OK, self-indulgent. That's fine. But I wouldn't be writing something if it didn't matter, right? 

These are the things I work through every NaNoWriMo, but this is the first time I've ever written about it. Even though I write near constantly and blog all the time as well, I'm very insecure about my writing; I don't like other people reading my writing and I don't really enjoy talking about it. Sometimes people are actually surprised to learn I write both fiction and poetry because I tend to just not mention it. 

As of last night, I had written 35,000 words. I'm 15,000 words away from winning NaNoWriMo which means I can effectively calm down. Last year, I only got to 20,000 words through the entire month of November. That's a huge improvement in terms of "writing after having a baby," at least in my mind. 

And if nothing else, I can at least say, "2016 didn't totally suck. I wrote a novel."

If you'd like to follow my progress on NaNoWriMo (or just want to chat about your NaNo progress), I post occasional updates on Instagram. You can follow me here

My November Goals

November is always a big month for me, thanks to #NaNoWriMo. I thought I'd share a few goals I have for November, because it's always fun to talk about goals. 

1. Win #NaNoWriMo!

NaNoWriMo is my number one goal for November! I'm already 5000+ words in--and so, so excited to be there. You can follow my progress on NaNoWriMo on Twitter and Instagram

2. Read

I've been reading a ton lately! Like 3-4 books a week thanks to a Kindle Unlimited free trial. I want to keep it up this November--thankfully, that free trial will go to the end of the month. Reading is a huge priority for me because I feel happier and healthier when I have time to read. 

3. Take more photos

I love photography--always have, always will--but I haven't legitimately practiced at it for several years. I think November is the month to finally get back in the game and learn how to balance taking photos with entertaining Forrest. 

4. Save money

Danny and I have a Disneyland vacation to save up for! The past year has been pretty expense heavy, between hospital and medical bills, formula, and more. We're going to be dialing it back so we can save money. I have a few ways I plan to sneak extra money into our savings.