Posted On November 8, 2017 by Print This Post

How to Save Your Sanity with Nano – by Nicole Locke

Please welcome back author and enthusiastic Nanowrimo participant, Nicole Locke.

It’s NaNo time! In case you don’t know what that is, it’s National Novel Writing Month where millions of writers from around the world sign up to write 50k words in one month.

Yes, this truly exists. And yes, it is millions of participants. It wasn’t when I started. I’ve been a fan of NaNoWriMo since I entered in 2008.

I’m famous in my household for entering NaNo. For instance, the time I entered and nothing happened. Entered and stumbled. Entered again and made it! Tried again and failed.

I’m entering again this year. The entering part I have down. The finishing…? It’s the middle bit of the story that I can never seem to write. The complicated connection of character arcs, the day to day weaving of feelings and plotlines. Often with NaNo, all that middle bit becomes too jumbled to have the heart to write it, or if I do write it, to even venture forth to edit it all.

Yet NaNo is now, and I can feel that familiar feeling welling up. That maybe I can make the 50k word count. So this time, I’m employing a trick. Something I’ve tried in the past on longer projects. This time, I’m hoping it saves my NaNo sanity.

It’s a calendar!

Alright, it’s nothing earth shattering…or is it? Obviously, I’ll be using it to track my words, but I also intend to use it to track my storyline as well. Because this time, I need to make those 50k words…count.

In my last article for Romance University, I chatted about Excel saving your sanity when writing a Historical Series.

Excel does help with organising the big picture of the series. Can’t have your hero fighting an English king’s claim in Berwick in 1302 if King Edward of England truly wasn’t in Berwick in 1302.

But using Excel spreadsheets to work the mechanics of time within each individual story will drive you mad. It does me. There are simply too many tiny columns depicting the days the hero and heroine spend together.

That’s what outlines are for, aren’t they? I suppose. But there’s no visual with it. Excel spreadsheets are great because they’re reference charts. Proper outlines aren’t laid out that way.

That’s when you need something else with columns and squares, but a big something. As in the ever-handy desk top calendars they sell in stores and online. These calendars are an even bigger help to writers.

You can hang them on the wall or keep them on your desk, but they show actual days where your hero and heroine meet, fight, and find their HEA.

Now for Nano and in general, I will cheat a bit. Why? Because if I use the calendar exactly as a calendar, then my story would have to start in January or I’m wasting paper.

For this story, I will only use one or maybe two months. Day 1 is the first day of the story and so forth. Ah, but obviously, there are times when weeks pass in the story. How do I not run out of room? When that time comes I simply write ‘2 weeks pass’ in a square, and move on to the next square.

In truth, I could make my own giant square and column chart. But what I like about using a giant wall calendar is that it’s easy and cheap. I’d rather save my time by writing the story than making charts. After all, deadlines and NaNo wait for no one.

Will this calendar save the day? Well, I know it’ll make it easier, and given the time constraints of Nano, I’ll take every trick in the book to cross the finish line.

However, given my track record with NaNo, shouldn’t I be worried? No, because I have another trick to success when it comes to NaNo: It’s the trying that counts.

I’m not talking about the familiar feeling of hope to write the story in your head. Because when you enter, something more happens than simply a wish.

You’ve committed to your story.

Sure, Life could happen and get in the way or you could stand on your own fingers and not type a word. I’m a perfect example of that. I entered NaNo in 2008. My first book was released in 2015. I’d like to say I started that book in 2014, but in truth, I started the seeds to that story in…1999. Along the way, I moved around, had kids and a career, travelled, watched films and sunsets.

But also along the way, I entered NaNo because I didn’t want to only wish, I wanted commitment. And by entering NaNo, I’ve made a contract to that story, and every day I write in that giant big calendar is another win for me.

Best bit is NaNo has a supportive writing community and you’re not alone with your commitment. There are other writers making the same binding wish as you.

I bet they are famous in their households for entering it as well. I bet most of them have faltered along the way. Just remember, your story will become more than a wish simply by trying, and it will become more than a jumbled mess by keeping track of your story and your word count in that big wall calendar.

If you want to join me, here’s the link:


Her Christmas Knight (Lovers and Legends)

A knight to protect her—this Yuletide 

By order of the English king, Alice of Swaffham searches London nobility for the traitor dealing information to the Scots. Little does she know that the mysterious spy she seeks is the man she once loved and thought she’d lost forever…

If Hugh of Shoebury felt unworthy of Alice before, as the Half-Thistle spy he can never claim her heart. Now he must fight to keep not only his dark secrets—and Alice—safe from a vengeful king…but also his burning longing for her at bay!


Bio: Nicole first discovered romance novels hidden in her grandmother’s closet. Convinced hidden books must be better, Nicole greedily read them. It was only natural she should start writing them (but now not so secretly). If she isn’t working on the next book in the Lovers and Legends historical series, she can be reached at:

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5 Responses to “How to Save Your Sanity with Nano – by Nicole Locke”

  1. This is a great idea, and the next time I do NaNo I’ll definitely try it! I just did a quick search on my story files and it looks like I first did NaNo in 2009. I did NaNo three times, and I “finished” every time. I put finished in quotes because even though I crossed the 50K finish line, the stories were nowhere near complete.

    I highly recommend joining a NaNo support group, especially for your first time out. By the middle of the month, their emails helped me hang on to the remaining strands of my sanity.

    NaNo drove me a little nuts, but I’ll definitely do it again. While I do know people who sold books they started during NaNo, I don’t think that’s a realistic objective for me. I can write fast or I can write well, and the two rarely go together. What NaNo did for me was open the floodgates of my imagination when I was feeling a creative blockage. And that is priceless!

    Thanks so much for joining us today!

    Posted by Becke Martin Davis | November 8, 2017, 10:57 am
  2. Hi Nicole,

    One of the best things about Nano is slogging through with other writers. Good luck and happy writing!

    Posted by Jennifer Tanner | November 8, 2017, 5:36 pm


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