Latina, Latino culture, Mexican traditions, NaNoWriMo, NaNoWriMo Music, Strong Women, Writing

Butt in Chair, Hands on Keys for 30 Days of #NaNoWriMo

I Wrote 50,000+ words in 30 days and lived.
I Wrote 50,000+ words in 30 days and lived.


Like thousands of other writers across the globe, I did a BICHOK (Butt In Chair, Hands On Keys) for 30 days.

Instead of being a complete pantser (writing by the seat of my pantalones), as I have in the past, I did a half and half of pantser and plotter. Like having one leg into my jeans.

The plotter part consisted of character exploration by journaling, creation of a Pinterest storyboard, and created a logline and premise for the story.

After 30 days, I have a story in a first draft mess which finishes around the 3/4 point. Which means I’ll need 15,000-20,000 more words to complete this New Adult story. 

What helped me to write faster was what I learned in a free online workshop from the University of Iowa’s How Writer’s Write Fiction Course. This is a combination of video, reading, and quizzes, which you can take for credit or no credit.

If you take the course for credit there are writing assignments and peer reviews. A certificate of completion is available for $50 if you meet all the requirements. The course is well worth your time.

An exercise I found helpful to start my NaNo writing was to ask my characters questions and write the answers out in longhand in my journal:

1-Who am I?

2- Who do I love? Who or what do I hate?

3-What do I want the most?

4-Who or what do I fear?

My story has three generations of Mexican American women so I needed to explore all of them through these questions.

There are hundreds of character sketch templates available, but I found that these questions opened my mind up to think about emotional issues, not just physical characteristics.

I used most of the answers in the character exploration to type onto my first pages. (Yes, I counted the words for NaNo). This was helpful so I could re-read what I wrote and stay in character.

The other motivator I used, for the first time, was music. Since the main character has just gone through a broken engagement at 22 years old (many moons past for me) I listened to music from Lana Del Rey and Adele.

One of the locations in the novel is Oaxaca, Mexico where the main character visits a curandera (traditional Mexican healer). I selected some indigenous music to help me when I wrote scenes about walking the pyramids of Monte Albán and listened to music by Lila Downs for cafe scenes.

Singer/Musician/Songwriter Lila Downs, born in Oaxaca, Mexico
Singer/Musician/Songwriter Lila Downs, born in Oaxaca, Mexico

I wish I had printed out my Pinterest storyboard since I found myself going back to the photos every time I sat down to write (distracting and time-consuming). The colors, people, foods, and objects helped to center me as I wrote.

For NaNoWriMo 2015, as for any of my next novels, preparation is the key: premise, concept, logline for the story. Explore the characters through journaling. Listen to music for help to create the setting. Create a storyboard of interesting colorful photos to stimulate the eye. And find a consistent time to BICHOK.

Share your writing tips. So how did you NaNo this year?



8 thoughts on “Butt in Chair, Hands on Keys for 30 Days of #NaNoWriMo”

  1. “…Listen to music for help to create the setting…”

    This is a daily inspiration for me, Mona. The music. Oldies Rollas going back to the early 50’s. But you are on your way with your novel. I like the take of your title, “Love Potion #99.” I’m assuming, as you know I often do, that the title is a play on “Love Potion #9”, the Oldie song from the late 50’s by the Coasters.

    The questions are a good idea to get to know our characters and story. Hope to to see your novel in shop windows and on Amazon. Tommy


  2. You’re right, it’s from Love Potion #9. That’s just the working title of this story, but listening to the song did give me inspiration. I do have a story idea in the works, with a 40’s through 60’s timeline. I’ll bring out the old Everly Brothers, Ray Charles, and Righteous Brothers albums my mom had as well as my old CD collection of Lowrider Oldies 🎼. It’s always a delight to hear from you!


  3. Bravo, Mona! Thank you for sharing the ways you kept focused on your novel. I especially appreciate the Pinterest tips. I try to stay away from too many social network thingies, but…
    One of my struggles this last month has been to stay focus on the novel i am currently writing. I was aware than visuals would help me. I didn’t want to buy magazines but I didn’t consider Pinterest. I will!
    Also the class you are mentionning sounds interesting. Is it specifically for adult writing or would for YA as well?
    I also love the premise of your new work. One of my future projects involes three generations of French and French-American women. So I find it interesting to read about yours !!!
    Best to you, as always.


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