What I’ve learned this Nanowrimo

This is the fourth time I’ve tried to write a rough draft of Continuo, my cellist/music producer contemporary M/M romance, for Nanowrimo. I wrote a 30-scene outline, one 1666-word scene per day; I did research, I made playlists, I pondered over characters’ names, I thought about themes and hero’s journeys and character arcs.


I love this story. I’m enamored of this story.


I can’t seem to finish this story.

Not in 50,000 words, anyway, and not in 30 days. Every time I go back to this plot it gets bigger: it went from two men meeting in a park to a decades-long romance-turned friendship-turned romance again. I’ve dropped characters and added more, I’ve added locations and events — and I’ve realized something. This story wants to be big.

No, this story wants to be big.

I’m not afraid of big stories, of course; I’ve written my share. With this one, I’ve been thinking a lot about structure, and how not to make it overwhelming, and I think I’ve decided it will be a series of novellas rather than one long novel. (Of course I also often ask myself, Maybe it’s a screenplay..?)

I am planning to write it all before releasing any parts. The influence of the past is very important to Continuo, and I’d like to have the end written before I decide exactly what happened in the beginning.


I’ll try to blog about Continuo during the writing process. We may be in for a long, long tinker before this thing is done.

Preptober #1: Sixteen days to go

Just like there’s no one right way to do Nanowrimo, there’s no one right way to prepare for it. There are checklists, prompts, and worksheets available, but I’ve worked out a method of my own to get ready this year.

This year’s Nanowrimo project is my third attempt to write a music-based romance: Continuo, the story of a cellist named William and a music producer named Oisin. I’ve always gotten stuck about 10,000 words in. This year, though, I’ve made a plan, and have spent October refining it.

I started with Dan Harmon’s Story Circle. This lets me see the main beats of the story, from the approach of Orderly World -> Chaotic World -> New World. Since Continuo is a romance, I made a circle for both William and Oisin so I could see their character arcs separately, and then one for the two of them together to see where their arcs conflict and intertwine.

With the general beats in place, I then worked out a 7 Plot Point Structure outline. This lets me see the actual events and actions that lead to the emotional beats, and their consequences. So now I know why William and Oisin (and the secondary characters) do what they do, and the consequences that result.

I’ve been jotting down ideas for scenes for months, so I collected them into a notebook in GoodNotes, my new favorite note-taking app, along with notebooks for William and Oisin’s character notes, research, and flashbacks that may or may not appear in the actual story. I’ve also been making a Mood board on Pinterest, and a playlist. That’s just in iTunes: I may share it on Spotify later. It’s a lot of cello music, including classical quartet covers of pop and metal songs (classical quartets love Metallica), and songs that fit the story thematically. I visited one of the locations last year, so I’ve made a notebook of my photos for more visual inspiration.

The Hotel del Coronado, San Diego, CA.

Still to do: face casting for secondary and minor characters, more research, and deciding on which writing app to use. That will probably be the subject next time.

Good luck to all participating!

Nanowrimo ahoy!

An idea, a playlist, a lot of caffeine, and absolutely no fear.

If you’ve ever said to yourself, “Someday I’m going to write a novel,” Nanowrimo is here to give you that someday. Set the goal of writing a 50-thousand word rough draft in 30 days, and surprise yourself with what you can accomplish.

Three of my four novels started out as Nanowrimo projects, so it’s fair to say I’m a big fan. I haven’t reached my goal every year; some years I’ve barely made a dent in the wordcount; but there’s something about planning for this goal every November (and April, and July) that helps me plan my year. (And I do plan for the year. Sometimes into the next year, too.) This year, the plan is to finish the rest of Fidele so that I can post more often and regularly, and have the entire story online by February 2018, three years after I started writing. There will be a few other projects, too, to round out the word count. That’s right, I’m a rebel.

Sign-ups are open until the 25th of November.