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Weekly Musing: NaNoWriMo 2016

2013 was the year I not only started this blog but also the first year I participated in National Novel Writing Month aka NaNoWriMo. Each year since then I’ve participated and won meaning I accomplished the goal of 50,000 words written during the month of November. No small task under normal circumstances and really difficult a couple of years due to coordinating a cross country move and dealing with family matters.

This year, though, I’m not participating. Not for lack of an idea. I’ve got ideas and characters galore, many of which have been nosily rattling around in my head for over a decade. I should probably deal with the backlog at some point. Nor is it because I no longer believe in the idea of NaNoWriMo. I still do and still think it’s a great idea for writers at any stage in their development to try it at least once. It’s a way to work to shake off the wretched gremlins and just accept a crappy rough draft. It’s also great to accept that one doesn’t have to complete the novel in the month of November. Like I mentioned, I’ve used it to start novels and technically last year’s novel isn’t done. I’m not alone in using it as a springboard.

My reason for not participating is I have been focusing the last couple of months on revising a historical fiction book I’ve been working on and off for the past several years. It has a connection to NaNoWriMo because in 2014 I took the opportunity to sit down and start a true rough draft. The first rough draft wound up being well beyond 100,000 words but the first 50,000 to 60,000 words were written during NaNoWriMo 2014. Instead of stressing my brain out with trying to work on something completely new and killing momentum with my current project, I’ve decided to stick with revising my novel.

It is odd not being involved this year. While I’m not participating, I’m still keeping abreast of those in my local writers group who are and have shared on Facebook when my local library is having write-ins. I will miss the rewards you earn on the NaNoWriMo website for earning milestones. I will miss the community which comes together for the month to share frustrations and successes. I will how it encourages me to set up my own rewards both the daily candy, thank you Halloween, and non-food rewards as I each hit target. It’s probably something I should think about whenever I draft a novel regardless of time of year.

So to everyone out there who is participating in NaNoWriMo this year, whether as a veteran or for the first time, good luck and have fun! You will face frustrations and stumbles and staring at walls, but it can be done. Remember, the book doesn’t have to be finished in 50,000 words, just have 50,000 words down by November 30th. Hopefully I’ll be joining you next year in all the nervousness and excitement of a new world.


Weekly Musing: NaNo Check-in #3

Just about the end on Week Two of NaNo and it went much, much better than Week One. On NaNo’s website, they have pep talks about slumps people go through in the second week due to the excitement of week one wearing off. Apparently I’m a bit odd, which I already knew, because I didn’t notice a slump. I don’t know if it is because I changed what novel I was going to write from one I had planned out to something completely new, but I didn’t feel any anxiety. I’ve just been letting the characters do what they want to do. The only thing worrying me at the end of the second week is I don’t have an ending.

Day 8: A pretty good writing day. I reached 10,000 words the day before which was a really good motivator heading into the weekend.

Days 9 – 10: November 9th was set aside by NaNo as a day to write as much as possible. I used it and Sunday as a personal challenge to write 6 hours each day. I discovered I was averaging about 2300 words in 3 hours so I thought I could probably push my total word count to 5000 each day.

Saturday I did it in 3 hour blocks with a nap in between. I only managed 3800 words which was good but also a bit disappointing. It was a lot of physical and mental fatigue and I lost a lot of steam at about the 5 hour mark but pushed through an additional 30 minutes. I also discovered that stopping at the 3 hour mark I lost a lot of story momentum.

On Sunday I changed up my strategy and decided to do write for 6 hours straight. The word count only went up to 4000 words so still below a target of 4600 words. The straight writing session was easier because I could keep going through with a thought yet at the same time I got more distracted. It wasn’t even the internet that was a distraction, it was just my mind wandered to everywhere but on my story.

Day 11: The novel felt like it was coming along quite well. I discovered it was becoming much easier to get into writing. I spent less time trying to figure out where to start since I developed the habit of leaving the previous day’s work at a good stopping point. I also discovered that I can’t quite completely squelch the Inner Editor but it has been at bay. The only thing I’ve been doing is taking notes and inserting comments to help remind me where I should expand descriptions.

Day 12: I passed the 25,000 word mark! Half way there to the 50,000 goal for the month! That doesn’t mean the novel is half done, though. Still don’t have an ending and the characters keep changing their minds about what they want to do and who they want to be. But at least I earned my reward of a nice lunch, a NaNo T-shirt, and cupcakes. Hmmmm, cupcakes.

Days 13 – 14: During this time period I passed 30,000 words count, another milestone down! I feel that the quality of the writing has been hit and miss but that’s not bothering me. What’s also not bothering me is the fact that I brainstormed a different opening and am considering aging up my main character. I’m still fumbling around with who these characters are as people. I think if someone read it the way it is, not only would they be confused as to what’s going on, but the inconsistent actions by each character. Might come off as a world full of bipolar schizophrenics. I figure when I revise it, that’s when I will get characters hammered out better and fix some of the gaping plot holes that currently exist.

So heading into Week Three I wonder if that’s when I’ll hit that wall I was supposed to have hit this week. I’m hoping I’ll get something nailed down for an ending to shoot for. I also think I may be surpassing 50,000 words before considering the novel finished. The overall experience for me has been a freeing one. It’s shown me that yes, I do have the work ethic and that I can get into a good routine. I can make the daily goal of 3 hours writing work even on days I am running around doing errands, filling out paperwork to sell my house, looking at houses for my new home, and being sick.


Weekly Musing: NaNo Here I Come

Next Friday, November 1st, is the start of NaNoWriMo or National Novel Writing Month (NaNo for short.) It’s been around since 1999 when only 21 people participated but this year, over 140,000 writers have signed up. The purpose of NaNo is to write at least 50,000 words during the month of November.

I’ve never participated in NaNo and felt this year was a good time to start. I’ve got a novel I’ve wanted to write for over 2 years and have been doing lots of research for it. While the research is crucial for my understanding of the history of the time period I’m setting the book in, I have hidden behind it. I’ve been too afraid to actually tackle writing it. I have good excuses I tell myself. I’m a new writer so I need to practice more with short stories before I write a novel, right? Oh, my research has turned up something that I think might be good to explore but I’ll need to do even more research. I don’t want to make a mistake since I do have a degree in history.

What also hasn’t helped is I’ve changed the plot a gazillion times. Officially I’ve done 4 outlines. The last one I did was sometime summer of 2012. Since then, though, I’ve added a lot of notes about plot. Snippets of color-coded paper. Notes stored in EverNote. Notes stored in a Word file. I’m organized but not despite a tri-fold board filled with slips of paper listing historical people, events, and places to help keep me straight on the facts.

Now that I have less than a week before the start of NaNo, I am starting to panic. The time has flown since I made the decision back in the summer to do NaNo. I thought I was giving myself plenty of time to do as much research as possible, work on developing characters sheets, and quasi-finalizing an outline. Ahhh but life got in the way. In the midst of all of the prep work, my spouse was interviewing for a new job which he got. The catch: it’s across the country. Now we are in the midst of selling our house so who knows when it will sell (quickly I hope!) so time has been lost dealing with a huge life change. Then all of a sudden it was mid-October and I had yet to do any real prep work for NaNo.

But from what I’ve been reading on the forums on NaNo’s website, that’s okay. Lots of people are first time NaNo participants. Some are working on outlines, some aren’t, and some aren’t even sure yet what they are going to write. Reading words of wisdom from veteran participants has put my mind at ease. Just a little. The closer the calendar gets to November 1st, the more the realization of what I’m about to embark upon gets larger.

I’m not alone, though, as NaNo encourages people to join a home region within their state or country as a means of connecting writers. Ideally each region will have a leader, ML they are called, whose job is to organize the kick-off party on November 1st and subsequent write-in sessions. Write-in sessions are in person gatherings where writers get together and well, write. Writing is a solitary sport but sometimes a group of writers just need to get together. I’m guessing that creative energy gives a writer a needed boost. So while I don’t know any of the other people in my region, I’m looking forward to meeting them.

Throughout the month of November, I’ll be providing updates on my progress towards that 50,000 word goal as well as what it feels like to be a first-time participant. Scary but I am hopeful it will be a great learning experience and yes, even a bit fun.