Today we welcome Sophie Claire to the blog to talk about her experience with November writing challenge NaNaWriMo, where participants attempt to write a novel in a month.
Sophie writes emotional stories set in England and in
sunny Provence, where she spent her summers as a child. She has a French mother and a Scottish father, but was born
in Africa and grew up in Manchester, England where she still lives with her
husband and two sons.
Previously, she worked in Marketing and proofreading
academic papers, but writing is what she always considered her ‘real job’ and
now she’s delighted to spend her days dreaming up heartwarming contemporary
romance stories set in beautiful places.
You can find out more at, on Twitter
@sclairewriter and on Facebook @sophieclairewriter

Over to Sophie…
This time last year I
decided to take part in NaNoWriMo. Why?
Well, for most of
October I had been wrestling with the opening of a new novel, but I was
frustrated at my lack of progress. I figured if I could complete the NaNo
challenge and write 50,000 words in a month, I’d be well on the way to
completing a first draft. However, I’d tried NaNoWriMo before with no success, and
I’m a slow writer, so I was more than a little apprehensive.
Throughout the month I
kept a diary of my progress. Here’s a quick peep to show you how I got on:
November 2016
Days 1-4:
I’m writing 2000 words
per day (weekdays only – weekends are too busy with family life) and the first
few days go according to plan, but my worry is can I sustain this pace for a
whole month? I have a plot outline and three or four characters, but the rest
is hazy, as it always is when starting a first draft. However, the doubts which
were slowing my progress before I started NaNoWriMo (Does this story have legs?
Is it going to work?) are laid to one side as I focus purely on output. NaNoWriMo
is unashamedly about quantity, not quality.
Days 5-10:
NaNoWriMo is making me
more disciplined about my writing, and I realise that in recent months I had
let my standards slip. I would start writing, then check emails. Write a bit
more, check Twitter, then Facebook, then do a little internet research – and
before I knew it I’d lost hours. Now, however, I don’t allow myself to do
anything else until my 2000 words are written. Surprisingly, this can take as
little as two and a half hours. I resolve to keep up the strict discipline once
NaNoWriMo is over. Then I wonder, is it easier to stay disciplined when you
know it’s only for a month? And perhaps there’s comfort too in knowing that
thousands of other writers (including friends) across the world are working
hard too?
Days 11-15:
I’m prioritising my
writing over other activities, and I hadn’t anticipated how satisfying this
would feel. I’m totally focused on my novel, and when I’m writing I lose track
of time. I’m really enjoying being immersed in my fictional world. It feels as
if a love affair has been rekindled.
Also, if NaNoWriMo is
anything like new year’s resolutions, then I’d expect the halfway point to be
the time when a lot of people give up. I’m still going, however, and proud to
have made it this far.
Days 16-20:
I unexpectedly hit a
wall and for several days in a row writing is like pulling teeth. I manage to keep
up with the word count, but it takes twice as long, and I’m worried: is this
the point where my plot will run out of steam? I’ve written thousands of words
but are they all rubbish? I tell myself it doesn’t matter; if it fails, I’ve
only lost a month’s work. Head down, I persevere.
Then I turn a page and
it all begins to flow again. There’s no time to analyse what caused the blip. I
keep forging ahead, relieved and thankful that the momentum is back.
Days 21-25:
I’m suddenly reminded
that I haven’t done any Christmas shopping and have no prospect of doing any
until NaNoWriMo is over so I make the spontaneous decision that, having
dedicated November to my novel, December will be a time of catching up with
family life and non-urgent jobs, like research and proofreading a friend’s
novel. This motivates me to work even harder at NaNoWriMo and I up my word
count from 2000 words per day to 2500.
Days 26-28:
I’ve reached 44,000
words and a writer friend emails to say ‘Make sure you get the ending down’.
She’s right. 50k words will be an achievement but it’s not a complete novel, so
now my focus shifts from meeting daily word counts to racing through the final
plot points before I run out of time. The characters are finally coming alive
now, and new scenes and twists are coming to me while I’m doing other things
like shopping; fortunately I carry a notebook with me everywhere and
frantically scribble notes so as not to forget these unexpected ideas. I love
this stage: the book is becoming a living breathing story in my head, and I
can’t wait to get to my computer each morning.
Days 29-30:
I hit 50,000 words on
day 29 – a day early – but the ending isn’t complete so I carry on writing. On
day 30 I cross the finishing line with 52,000 words under my belt. It’s rough,
it’s going to need a couple more drafts at least, but I have the beginnings of
a book. The first draft is always the hardest part of the writing process for
me and that’s done, so now I can look forward to reshaping and editing it in
the new year. The sense of achievement is huge! My goal was to kick-start a
slow-moving project and, thanks to NaNoWriMo, I’ve certainly achieved that.
Sophie x
Thank you for that insight into your NaNo month Sophie. It’s fascinating to see how the writing process changes with a new structure or incentive.
  1. Author
    Natalie Kleinman 5 months ago

    Great to see your diary, Sophie. Thank you for showing us the pain and the pleasure that is NanoWrimo. So informative and I think the message that for me stands out from all the rest is 'focus'. Well done. What did you do next with your 52k words?

  2. Author
    Sophie Claire 5 months ago

    Thanks Natalie. And that first draft is in a queue – need to finish the current book before I can go back to it!

  3. Author
    Felicity Dwyer 5 months ago

    Thanks Sophie I enjoyed reading your diary notes of Nanowrimo challenge. It was the disciplined writing schedule that was inspirational and something I might adopt. Social media is a big distraction but of course can wait until writing is done.

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