Weekly Musing: 2015 NaNoWriMo Update

Unlike the previous two years I decided not to do a weekly NaNoWriMo update. With monthly updates regarding revising a novel I didn’t think posting about a different WIP would be interesting. Instead I thought just one post would be sufficient.

As of when this hits, I should be close to that glorious 50,000 word mark or beyond it. However, this doesn’t mean the story itself is done. By my rough estimate I’ve got probably a couple more weeks left to finish it. Not sure how many words it will be in the end but it certainly won’t be anything close to the behemoth of a rough draft my historical fiction book was.

Going into NaNoWriMo this year, I had a vague idea story in my head. I wrote down a few key scenes on notecards and was prepared to wing it. Since my focus the last few months has been on historical fiction I wanted this book to be in a different genre. I like doing this because it gives my mind a break as well as allows me to play around in a completely different world.

Primarily inspired by Halloween I decided to the main character should be a witch. I wanted to stay away from some of the familiar tropes. For example, she’s not an ugly old hag yet she’s not overly pretty or beautiful. Also she’s not either purely good or purely evil and she’s not part of a coven. Definitely more of a loner type as she lives in the woods with her faithful dog until an old acquaintance appears on her doorstep. Adventure ensues. Not very well and probably not very coherent in many spots, but the story is for fun. I’m not sure at this point if I want to revise this or not.

A few differences I’ve noticed this year from the previous two years is I feel like I have a far better grasp on the concept of what makes a chapter. I also feel like I have a better idea of how to end a chapter on a note that makes a reader turn the page. Again, this is a very rough, terrible draft but as I’ve been writing, I can feel a natural rhythm dictating each chapter. This is most likely due in large part with working on a chapter a day for the other book so my mind has gotten into a grove.

Another difference is this hasn’t been as stressful as years past. In 2013 I was in the process of planning a cross country move. Last year I used NaNoWriMo as a jumping off point to write my historical fiction novel. Going into that I knew it was going to be vastly longer than 50,000 words. This year, with the exception of the last week or so, it hasn’t been that stressful. There’s no pressure I’m placing on myself and as I mentioned above, I’m not sure I’ll be revising this next year. I’m enjoying the story and the characters for what they are and trying something new.

The other big thing, and this is something that’s been developing more over the whole year rather than during this month, is I’m able to consistently able to write above the 1,667 words/day goal. I’ve always been one of those people able to write well over a 1,000 words/day just because I’m incredibly wordy to begin with. But this year I seem to have upped the ante a bit.

So for everyone out there who participated in NaNoWriMo, I hope the month went well for you. And even if you didn’t meet the 50,000 word goal or finish the story, that’s okay. Look at November as the month you began your novel. Use the momentum and routine you developed this month and carry that over into December and beyond.


Weekly Musing: It’s a Wrap

The final word on my first NaNoWriMo experience. It certainly had some bumps but it was a very valuable learning experience. I can’t really narrow it down to just one thing but several things I learned about writing a novel and about myself during November.

As my spouse pointed out to me the second day of NaNoWriMo, just concentrate on what it feels like to write a novel rather than focusing on if it makes complete sense. That was probably the biggest thing I learned during November. It was about understanding what my process is, discovering what it physically feels like (hello more callouses and wrist pain), and discipline. Don’t get me wrong, finishing the novel was a huge goal and one that I’m happy to say I accomplished even though I wound up adding to the ending a bit earlier this week.

Another thing I learned was it is more than okay to have a really, really terrible first draft. My draft is terrible and makes little sense to me. The characters are inconsistent and at one point I decided I wanted to age up the main character. Since my original plans for NaNo weren’t working out, I focused on writing a story completely from scratch. I truly tapped into the pantser way of thinking and I found it quite freeing. It also means chunks of what I wrote will be cut as it doesn’t make sense for the story. I got the feeling around the middle of the month that I had written myself into the story. All this means is that when I go to revise the novel sometime next year, it will be a lot more work than the draft.

This leads me to the next thing I’ve realized. I think of my NaNo draft as a bones draft. No, not Dr. McCoy (dammit Jim, I’m a doctor not a writer). To me a bones draft is just getting down the basics. I got down a lot of dialogue with some actions and some setting descriptions but beyond that, there isn’t what I would consider a lot of ‘meat’ to it. I’m thinking my technique may be to flesh out the story in terms of setting and getting inside the characters in subsequent drafts before paring it down again to a concise story. I guess it’ll get fatter before getting down to a healthy weight.

I also learned to somehow keep that inner editor at bay. The phrase ‘I can fix this later’ was circulating through my head every day. I needed to constantly remind myself to just concentrate on getting the word count in and just getting thoughts down. Also that it is okay to run spell check but to ignore the grammar stuff, especially passive voice reminders, because again, it’s just a rough draft and the story itself will change significantly. The story became the guiding force.

Discipline was another biggie in November. I had been struggle all this year trying to figure out some kind of routine. It even got to the point that I created a time sheet for myself to help me stay on task. That didn’t work but telling myself I will write at least 3 hours each day, 5 if I can manage it, did the trick. Somehow I managed to commit myself to that schedule nearly every day despite the fact I was prepping for a major move. The only exception was when I was out of town yet that break was beneficial. It allowed my brain time to refresh and make the final push to the end. So if I can get 50,000 words in during all that imagine what more I could do when life isn’t so crazy?

Finally, I think I learned this past month was that each novel will probably have its own process. This one had none other than to just write anything down. But for novels that will have had more research, thought, and plot notes done, the process should be less seat of the pants. This novel was written linearly yet there are plenty of scenes that need to be added to it which means in the revision stage I’ll be writing out of sequence.

Overall I enjoyed my NaNo experience. I think I will definitely participate in 2014 and beyond. I’ve learned to be a bit gentler on myself and let that inner editor go far, far away. While I wasn’t as active on the forums on NaNoWriMo’s website as I intended to be, just looking around that international community of over 300,000 writers meant a lot of them were going through the same experiences at the same time. Somehow that worked for me psychologically more so than reading or listening to author interviews. I think that says a lot about the people behind NaNoWriMo and their approach to novel writing.


Weeking Musing: NaNo Check-in #5

Last and final week of NaNoWriMo and it has been hectic not just for me, but probably all other NaNoers. Not sure that’s a word but it is now. I started off the week well behind in my writing due to being away from home for almost a week dealing with moving to the other side of the country. I took my writing with me, though, anticipating I would have plenty of opportunity to work on it while on planes and waiting to get on planes. I should have known better. My month long issue with insomnia and time zone changes resulted in me getting very little sleep. As a result, I spent a good portion of that time trying to catch up on sleep or being so out of it that whatever I did write wasn’t very good.

When I got back home, I decided the best way to get back into the groove was to do a 5 hour marathon. That really helped with my productivity and allowed me to get over that magical 50,000 word mark before the end of the month. Woo hoo!

While I’ve technically ‘won’ NaNo, the book is not done. One thing the several days I was away from writing seems to have done is allow my brain to come up with an ending. Or at least an ending that will work for now. This in turn reenergized my writing knowing that an end was in sight. What a concept! Have goal, will write.

I know I won’t be done by November 30th, in fact I think I won’t be done until the middle of next week. Finishing the manuscript is very important to me especially as I will be moving in 2 weeks and also because I want, I need that feeling of having completed a novel. Granted it’s a horrible draft that will need a lot of work in subsequent drafts, but at least I will be able to say ‘Yes, I wrote a book.’ Something many people talk about doing but never start while others start but never finish.

Next week will be the final entry in my first NaNo experience. I’ll be sharing what I’ve learned over the month as well as how finishing up the book went.