I’ve always wanted to write a book! This post uncovers the events that ultimately brought me here and now. I hope it also serves as a story you could draw inspiration from. I hope it would motivate you to jump into whatever it may be that you would like to accomplish and just start going at it slowly and steadily, step by step. You can do it!
📚 Story and why
I’ve always wanted to write a book. In fact, when I was a kid (~8-10), I wrote a couple of small encyclopedias and a bunch of fictional short stories. I guess I outgrew this phase and for a while did other things, but thanks primarily to my English language teacher in high school - Milena Grudeva and in some portion thanks to Blizzard for creating the Warcraft universe, this writing passion resurfaced again during my teenage years (~15-17).
This time I attempted to write fan fiction in English for the first time. Disclaimer, my mother tongue is Bulgarian, so for me this was different. On some level harder, and on another level more intuitive. I think it went well, I had fun, I learned a lot, and I wrote those few short stories listed under the
fiction section on this eternal archives page. Nothing really special about them, most were finished, albeit very short, others were never completed.
Then I just always figured that someday I’d write a book. I didn’t know when, what and how, but I thought it would be most probably some fiction I would write during my 40s.
Funnily, when we moved to Finland with my girlfriend in 2012, and I was soon about to go through a big career change, going from restaurant business to software development, right before I applied to the university, I reached out for writing again. This time it was an idea for a medieval fantasy setting and I only got as far as to write the first few scenes with main characters in a banquet hall and events unfolding during a royal feast.
I have been focusing on getting into software development since. The more time I spent around other developers (in person and online) the more I got convinced how critical was clear and effective communication. Many times in writing. And the more I communicated and wrote, the more I practiced and in the end, I have to admit - I like it.
Finally, writing articles for this blog has been instrumental to my final decision to take up the adventure of writing a book!
I’ve received a LOT of great feedback for my technical FPV drone setup instructional articles, and knowing that ~ 1000 people per month read those articles, makes me feel like they matter, which gives me the strength to try to make them as best as I could and truly inspires me to keep writing.
The last bit of this story that ultimately pushed me to commit to writing a book unfolded on Twitter during November 2018. Through developers I follow, namely Kent C. Dodds and Jani Evakallio, I learned that a thing called NaNoWriMo exists. NaNoWriMo expands to National Novel Writing Month, apparently it had been happening for quite a few years so far, and in a nutshell, it boils down to you committing to writing a book (or at least 50 000 words) during the month of November. The event runs annually. I felt hooked, it immediately appealed to me to be something I could really want to try and be able to complete if I prepare and dedicate myself to it. I was VERY excited.
However, when I found out about it, NaNoWriMo 2018 had already been going on for ~ 10 days so I was a bit late to the party and admittedly I had one too many things on my plate already. Not to mention that I definitely needed to get prepared to pull this off.
This leads me to plan my participation in NaNoWriMo 2019. I would get ready and I would pull it off. That was and is my plan. Here is where I give inspirational credit for the second time to Kent C. Dodds as resources I found out about from him have helped me the most and have inspired me the most so far. Things like the StoryGrid videos, the Writing Excuses podcast have really started shaping how I see and understand writing in as little as 2-3 months.
Making me believe that I can, indeed, do this!
Which leads us to the preparation phase. This post aims to follow my progress and keep me accountable (I also publish short tweet monthly updates).
In the beginning, I didn’t have any strict preparation guidelines. I just tried to immerse myself into the writing field. Just trying to get an overall sense for what there is. A couple of things that have helped tremendously to get me excited and into thinking about writing and how to approach writing are the StoryGrid and the Writing Excuses podcast. They deserve the double mention too! This is also backed partially by my daily commute to work - I spend about 50 hours monthly in my car. Which is actually a good thing in this case, as it provides a decent chunk of time for listening to audiobooks and podcasts. I had also started reading fairy tales with my son a few months ago and that’s a lot of fun and reminds me of when my dad was reading to me books about Robinson Crusoe, Captain Nemo and the Iliad when I was little. I really enjoyed those moments.
So this is my rough initial plan:
- Read and listen to more books
- Listen to podcasts, YouTube videos by writers
- Craft and analyze stories
- Read The Elements of Style
- Practice brainstorming
- Outline a novel idea by scenes
- Don’t edit self while writing and don’t write while editing
The goal is by the time I have to announce the novel I’ll be working on (September 2019), to have the somewhat solid groundwork to work on during November. Then, when the time comes and the gong rings, to start off writing in November 2019 during NaNoWriMo and write a decent story of at least 50 000 words. Sounds good, let’s do it!
Ultimately, I just want to craft and tell a good story
I embarked on writing those monthly updates and posting them on Twitter. It keeps me accountable and it actually motivates me further because it highlights what I had done during that 30 day period.
1️⃣ January 2019
During January I mostly started immersing myself into the
how of writing. I listened to ~ 30 episodes of the Writing Excuses podcast from 13.1 to 13.29. I started reading The Mysterious Island, The Elements of Style and a bunch of Grimm brothers and Andersen’s fairytales. The latter to my son and I. I also wrote a short story based on real event from my life just to dip my toes into the waters of prose writing.
[1/5]— Georgi Yanev (@jumpalottahigh) January 31, 2019
📘 I've decided to participate in #NaNoWriMo 2019. I learned about it by following @jevakallio and @kentcdodds (and their progress).
I've always wanted to write a book (but thought I'd do so much later on in life), and this seems like the perfect opportunity to do it.
2️⃣ February 2019
In February I watched those five awesome StoryGrid videos that really helped me understand a lot about genres and the inner workings and failings of a book. Although the book is more about editing, I think it’s beneficial for authors as well. I’m also considering buying the book and reading it in the months ahead. I started using WorkFlowy for quickly putting down plot, character and world ideas, as well as to structure some of the decisions I had already made. I also started using Grammarly which I learnt about from Ali Spittel. It is a very useful app to help you check your texts for errors and so much more. This month I also continued listening to the Writing Excuses podcast and went through episodes
Finally, I read these books:
- Finished reading Foundation by Isaac Asimov
- Read Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, Jules Verne
- Read Alice in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll
- Started reading The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson!
[1/3]— Georgi Yanev (@jumpalottahigh) February 28, 2019
Road to #NaNoWriMo 2019, February preparation update:
- Watched these @StoryGrid videos, highly recommended if you are just getting started with writing books - https://t.co/QkZaaRxD9u
- Started using @WorkFlowy for outlining scenes and plot ideas, thanks to @kent_writes
3️⃣ March 2019
March has definitely been my most involved month yet. The absolute highlight was watching the complete writing class by Brandon Sanderson. I learned so much from this, and I think I will be re-watching this at least one more time before November.
I wrote chapters 2 and 3 of my book. I wanted to write a few chapters in discovery writer mode to learn more about my characters and the world. I have 2 characters now, and 3 major locations. I’m looking forward to brainstorming more about the world in April and figuring out some of the bigger pieces of the world.
I watched a bunch of interviews with: Brandon Sanderson, George R. R. Martin, Steven King, James Cameron. Those were very insightful and quite interesting to hear how all these storytellers approach crafting stories.
March update of my personal Road to #NaNoWriMo 2019:— Georgi Yanev (@jumpalottahigh) March 30, 2019
- Watched Brandon Sanderson's BYU Writing Class. This was awesome and so very useful! https://t.co/EaUVNRDofL
- Wrote Chapter 2 and 3 of my book in discovery writing mode, to learn more about my characters and the world
4️⃣ April 2019
This month I wrote the prologue and chapter 4 of my book. I introduced my 3rd character and my first antagonist. I explored some ideas I found interesting.
I watched Dan Wells’s story structure lectures, which I recommened to anyone new to writing books.
As always, I also spent some time listening to the Writing Excuses podcast, but this time I also completed one of the challenges - writing a scene with specific topics and restriction in mind. I might publish this crude work a bit later. I found the exercise useful, nevertheless.
I also completed listening to the Words of Radiance from Brandon Sanderson’s Stormlight Archive. What a book! And I just started Edgedancer - book 2.5 in the series.
April update of my personal Road to #NaNoWriMo 2019:— Georgi Yanev (@jumpalottahigh) April 30, 2019
- Watched Dan Wells' Story Structure videos - https://t.co/BtEpfBXSI6
- Wrote a Prologues and Chapter 4 for my book
- Worked on worldbuilding in workflowy and brainstormed plot
5️⃣ May 2019
This update marks the halfway point between the start of NaNoWriMo and when I started preparing for this adventure. I’m happy with the progress so far, so let’s review what was done in May 2019.
I took a vacation in early May and went back to Bulgaria, and my home town of Plovdiv - for the first time in 5 years and for the first time with my son. We had a great time, I had a chance to relax, gain inspiration from things I had forgotten and read a book. I read “Supermarket” by Bobby Hall a.k.a. Logic. It was a great book to read, at times you just couldn’t put it down, plenty of plot twists.
What I liked the most about it, however, was that I could inspect and think about what the author had done and how he had implemented certain points of the book. This is interesting, because Logic is a hip hop artist, not a writer, and this being his first book, was very interesting to me. Kind of trying to learn from someone else without much experience, as to how they constructed and built a book. Great job, Logic, and amazing work.
I caught up with the Writing Excuses podcast and will start listening to previous seasons next. I love this podcast and I feel like it really helps me to get completely immersed in thinking about writing.
This month I wrote my second short story based on personal events from my life - “Restaurant job; It’s personal!”. It was fun to write and I like to think that it drove the point of the story home. Somewhat of an inspirational story about grit and perseverance.
I wrote Chapter 5 for my book ” Born in space ”. I came up with my first minor plot twist, that connects my main 2 protagonists. I also spent time working on refining the setting, plot, world-building, and characters. Mostly I was aligning features, killing aspects that would not add much to the story, but would make writing the story much harder and so on.
Road to #nanowrimo 2019, update for May (5 of out 10):— Georgi Yanev (@jumpalottahigh) May 30, 2019
This update marks the half way there point between the start of NaNoWriMo and when I started preparing for this adventure. I'm happy with the progress so far, so let's review what was done in May 2019.
6️⃣ June 2019
During June I started reading ‘Gray Mountain’ by John Grisham, as always I listened to the Writing Excuses pod cast and wrote Chapter 5 of the book.
I did a lot of work on world building, sorting ideas around and killing unnecessary details in Workflowy. I fixed all the typos so far and organized the chapters by giving them descriptive names, to help me remember quicker. I trashed some ideas, and simplified others, to streamline and narrow down the initial effort into particular areas.
In general, I’d like to put a lot of effort into characters.
As additional practice and writing, I wrote two short life stories, but am not sure yet if I would publish those. I might still work a bit on one of those called “Why jumpalottahigh?” which deals with why I got that nickname from friends and why did it stick with me for so long. If it comes together nicely I might publish it.
Road to #nanowrimo 2019, update for June (6/10):— Georgi Yanev (@jumpalottahigh) June 29, 2019
This month for my prep as an aspiring novelist, I:
- Started reading Gray Mountain by John Grisham
- Listened to Writing Excuses
- Wrote Chapter 5 for my book (Born in Space)