Tag Archives: NaNoWriMo

To NaNo or not to NaNo

22 Dec

Logo_of_National_Novel_Writing_Month

 

Isn’t that the question?

Unless, of course, your question is “what the hell is a NaNo?”

NaNoWriMo, as it’s awkwardly and affectionately called, stands for National Novel Writing Month. It is billed as a competition – something you either win or lose – to push people to write a 50K word novel in 30 days.

It’s ridiculous, frankly. And it’s something that, considering my writing schedule, I have always disregarded, even, looked down upon. After all, I get up at 4:45 in the morning, 5 times a week (okay, fine, lately it’s been more like 4 but I’m OLD as sin so leave me alone). I write regularly. I don’t write because there’s some random competition about word count.

BUT.

I’m a SLOW writer. I worked for years on Palimpsest before it went out on query. But that’s okay, I tell myself. Anything good takes time, right?

Maybe.

I do believe that writing is an art that must be practiced. I don’t believe that you can sit down in one month and write a book that will be worth a damn. I believe that writing is a daily act, that writing is rewriting and that you need time to do that.

But…I also feel like I write TOO slow. That a book that should only take 1-2 years takes me 3-4. Sometimes more. Not that there is anything wrong with this. But it is frustrating. I had been working on this Ghost Book for a few months and lately, it seemed, I was just re-writing the beginning over and over again. I wasn’t moving the story forward. I was, in all honesty, stuck.

So this year, I NaNo-ed.

I signed up for an account and on the morning of November 1st, the first day of the competition I did exactly what you weren’t supposed to do.

I cheated.

I entered my word count when I finished writing that morning at 20,352 words because that was the point I was at in the Ghost Book draft. In order to complete 50K words in 30 days, according to NaNo, you need to write 1667 words a day. And not just week days.  Every day.

So I was feeling pretty good about my 18K word lead.

And that good feeling lasted for awhile. Each morning I was hitting 2K words or so. This is about as fast as Ally goes, by the way. After that my brain melts inside my skull and runs out my nose.

For about two week, my word count was way above where it needed to be and when I entered in my numbers at the end of the morning, I was feeling great.

Then, things changed. I missed a morning (not to mention weekends) and the space between my word count and the necessary word count started to diminish. I watched my chart on their website with anxiety. (Yes they literally make you a graph. It’s too much.)

Like I didn’t have enough to be anxious about in life, now stupid NaNo was making me feel lousy. Had I turned this thing that I normally loved to do, this art making of mine, into something debased?

Maybe.

Was I advancing my story? Definitely.

Were the words great? Some. But the rest were fixable. See, it’s in the editing and rewriting that I find my voice. But if I don’t have the words on the page, well, there’s nothing to fix. Nothing to work with. It’s like trying to bake with no ingredients.

By the end (technically before but now I’m just being petty) I had 55, 250 words. The NaNO site gave me a little trophy next to my graph.

I’m not gonna lie, I felt like I deserved it.

In the end, it was an interesting experiment. I don’t know if I would do it again. On the one hand it pushed me through that middle ground where I had half a book and couldn’t envision where to go from there. On the other hand, when my word count started to dip, I felt lousy. I don’t want writing to make me feel lousy (at least not more than the usual run of the mill every day lousy it makes me feel.)

I will say this: I’m competitive, especially with myself. So having a bar to hit every day was a genuine motivator. I know some other writers that have systems similar to NaNo where they give themselves marks (or stars) on a calendar for every 1K words. They track their progress. That might be a good path for me going forward.

I don’t know when I would have finished this first draft of Ghost Book if I didn’t do NaNo. Mabye 4 months. Maybe more. What I do know is that getting up to write every morning is HARD. Writing is hard. If something like NaNo helps you get your work done, why not try it?

Just don’t take it too seriously.

And finally, as we wind down 2018 (this was a long one wasn’t it?) and we take stock of what we accomplished and what we didn’t I think it’s important to remember, especially as a creator, that only part of this process is in our hands. So if you didn’t get the agent this year, or sell your first book, or whatever, that’s okay.

All that matter is that you did the work.

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So here’s to 2019. Another year. Another chance to do it.

magicalworld

Let’s go exploring.

Peace, love and starbursts,

Ally

National Novel Writing Month is Ending…What Now? #NaNoWriMo Unsolicited Advice.

30 Nov

Hello kittens

Today is November 30th which means tomorrow is December 1st.

To some of you that means something more than the start of the quick slide into the holidays. I means you have only a few hours left to finish a 50,000 word novel.

I have never participated in National Novel Writing Month for a couple reasons. One, I’m a slow writer. Two, deadlines stress me out. Three, word count isn’t usually a motivator and four, I write every day all year long so I’m sort of doing NaNoWriMo all the time. Regardless I think one of the best things about NaNoWriMo is that it gets your butt in the chair every day putting down words and that is the only way novels get written.

To quote Neil Gaiman

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As we are in the waning hours I have some thoughts:

First off CONGRATS! Writing 50K words in 30 days is no laughable feat. If you didn’t finish, also CONGRATS! Trying to write 50K words in 30 days is no laughable feat.

Because more than finishing you STARTED something. And truth be told that is the hardest part of writing. The starting. But you did. You started a story that only you can tell. This is huge.

So now what?

Now the work continues. First things first you need to rest your creative brain. Get some sleep. Go for walks. Read and read and read and read some more. Put your book away.

Let it hibernate and percolate. Let yourself forget some of the finer points. Let the characters voices fade. Let the stress of writing a novel in one month go.

Then when you’re all rested and recharged take it out and read it. Then read it again. Then read it again. Then read it one more time just to be sure. Then edit. Then read. Then edit. Then read. Keep doing this for as long as you can. Then put it away again.

Then do the whole process over again. Read and edit. Read and edit. Trust your gut to know when it’s ready. Publishing is a sloooowwww business. It rewards patience. Let someone you trust read it. Make sure they’ll be fair and honest. Listen to them.

If what they say sounds right, make some changes. You’ll know it’s right because your gut and heart and brain will tell you it’s right even if it means killing parts you love. Don’t be afraid to go there. If you don’t think what they’re saying is right move on. This is your book. Rip it apart. Then stitch it back together.

Then read it. And read it again. And read it again. Then edit. Keep doing this over and over again until you’re done. You’ll know when you’re done. You’ll know because you’ll be exhausted and wrung out but also pleasantly satisfied because you created something from nothing.

Then read it again. Then write a query letter. Then rewrite that query letter. Show it to other people who have read it. Does that query sound like your book. Is it precise and careful. Is the voice YOURS? Rewrite it again and again.

Research agents. Really research them. Learn what they publish. Spend time on to learn more. Your agent is going to be your champion. You have to find the perfect one. Send out your query. Wait. Wait. Some more.

While you’re waiting, start another book.

Because the only thing you have control over is how hard you work. Work hard. Make art. Do again. Do it in July. Do it in August. Do it all the time. Keep reading. Keep writing. Everything else will is out of your control.

Work hard.

Make. Good. Art.

Make good art.Make it on the bad days Make it on the good days too.-Neil Gaiman

Congratulations, kittens.

You’ve just finished 50K words and you’ve only just begun to write a novel.

Peace, love and starbursts,

Ally

 

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