Wednesday, November 10, 2010

NaNo? Not for Everyone

Thanks to J.E. for sharing her thoughts yesterday. Nobody likes rejection, but dealing with it is part of the job.

First things first - an exclusive for my faithful blog readers. I was going to wait until I hit 250 followers, but 249 is close enough. For ONE WEEK (ends Nov. 16th), I have a coupon offer at Smashwords for A Summer's Eve. The story costs 99 cents and the coupon is for 99 cents off, so do the math. For this week, it's a Free Read. And it's short enough so you don't really need a dedicated e-reader. It's available in almost every possible format, so I hope one will work for you. Just enter Coupon Code BL83R at checkout. (And if you want to use your savings to buy either of my other two titles there, I won't complain.)

Yesterday, we signed the contract with the contractor for our basement remodel. He left, certified plans in hand, to begin the process, which starts with getting the necessary permits. He's estimating two weeks before they're approved, and so we have that long to get everything moved out of the workspace. He's promised that once they start, they'll work "straight through" but with the weather and the holidays, I'm sure there will be delays. But it's exciting to know that in a few months, we'll have a 'complete' house.

The month of November for many writers is the annual National Novel Writing Month, where people vow to write 50,000 words in thirty days. Do I participate? Nope. Why?

Well, first, you're supposed to write a brand new book. Since I was about 60K words into a manuscript, it would be foolish to set it aside to start something new.

Second, it's designed to make participants write in one direction only – forward. If I tried that, I'd need a complete plot outline, and you know how I feel about that! Plus, the focus on NaNoWriMo (or NaNo) is not to stop. No tweaking, no research, no going back and fixing. Instead, they suggest you note the places where you have to do more, and when you're finished, you go back and plug the holes.

That simply doesn't work for me. I may not write as fast, but when I get to "the end" my draft rarely needs a complete overhaul. I fear if I tried the NaNo approach, I'd end up with a tangled mass of spaghetti.

And then there's the pressure. To complete 50,000 words in 30 days, you need to write 1666.66 words a day (nice number, right?). Every day. What happens if life intervenes? Some writers will budget their word counts for a 5 or 6 day week. I decided to see if I could write at the NaNo daily pace but still following my own methods.

So, according to my spreadsheet, I wrote the following:
Day 1: 1493
Day 2: 1792
Day 3: 1491
Day 4: 1790
Day 5: 1884
Day 6: 2034
Day 7: 1318
Total for 1 week: 11,802 or 1686 words per day.

Not bad, and those words include my fixing paragraphs for flow, reading and revising the previous day's work, and making changes based on crit group feedback.

But the next couple of days have much lower word counts. I'm at a point where I need to think about wrapping up the story, and there are still some niggling plot points I haven't resolved. And for those who think, "Well, if you'd plotted it all out from the start, you wouldn't have to slow down now," I say—I'd probably still be thinking about them and wouldn't have anything written." If I were participating in NaNo, I'd be stressing about letting a day go by with only 1100 words. Or what about yesterday, where most of my writing time was spent dealing with the non-writing side of things. Getting another short story ready for Smashwords, which means formatting AND finding cover art. Or updating my Author's Den Page, or my Filedby Page (which was having issues, so I wasted a bit of time there). Or any of the myriad "other" stuff that's not putting words on the page, but is still "writing" in my book. (no pun intended).

And then there's the new wrinkle. My agent emailed me late yesterday afternoon with her comments on my proposal, and she liked my first revisions, but she's asked for one more round. So guess what I'll be doing?


Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Good luck with your revisions, Terry!

I never do NaNo either, although I really like the idea of it. I'm just always in the middle of something and can't start a new project.

Noelle Pierce said...

I'm a NaNo participant for the second year and I agree with what you've said, to a degree. I happened to start a new project both years because I didn't have 50k left in my other WIP to write. If I had the room, I would have used NaNo to finish that instead of starting a new story. But this new story is related to the first two, so when I finally get an agent, I'll have 2.5 books ready (one polished, the other, not bad). I stop and do research (I write historicals...I *have* to stop and research), I write other things, and my goal is to finish before Thanksgiving because I won't have time that week to write at all.

My point is that we all use NaNo in whatever way works for us. I like the competitive spirit, which helps spur me on. It's like a deadline, and I really, really like deadlines. One might even say I need deadlines because my self-motivation is in the toilet. I don't have an authoritarian internal editor, so I don't really need the push in that way, but I have friends who cannot turn it off enough to move forward, so they use NaNo for that.

I agree it's not for everyone, but the rules aren't as stringent as one might think. They're set up to help you overcome whatever demons you may be struggling with to let the creativity flow. For people without those demons, that's excellent, and I applaud you! For those of us with them, NaNo helps us conquer, one day at a time. *grin*

Good luck with your book, Terry! Did you know some people are doing NaNoEdMo? Instead of writing 50k, they're vowing to edit for the month of November.

Terry Odell said...

Elizabeth - timing is everything, isn't it?

Noelle - you've made some good points. One of our local writing groups has what it calls NaNoTRYMo, which sounds a lot like your group's variation. For me, it's about writing, and so far, I've managed to find the motivation to keep going--although I agree, a contract and a deadline are much better motivators.

GunDiva said...

This is my 2nd year participating in NaNo and last year I felt pressured to move ahead all the time (I did complete 50k in 17 days). This year, I've been more relaxed about it and have actually gone back (a big no-no) to what I've written in previous days and edited, tweaked, whatever. It's great incentive for me to put my butt in the chair and write (plus the competitive side of me is happy).

We have a whole group of people named "NaNo Rebels" who are continuing work on WIPs or non-fiction pieces. One of our Rebels is working on a book of poetry.

One of the best things NaNo has done for me is increase my confidence to write what seems like an insurmountable number of words. When faced with a ten-page paper for one of my Master's classes, I didn't go into a panic. Ten pages - didn't even break a sweat over it and it took me less than a day.

Hart Johnson said...

I can totally see the 'timing issue' and if, in the future, I've got a competing deadline, i will probably forego because it is too fast for something that needs to be relatively clean, but this year, though my deadline is Dec. 31, i actually used NaNo start as my initial deadline (got my Cozy to my agent before it started) and think it helped me THERE as well as for writing the NaNo book.

What I really love about it is the adrenaline of a group activity--the competition helps a bit, but so does having a huge swarm of writers all at the same stage in a process at the same time--we make so many great friends, but how often are we all doing the same thing at the same time? I really love that.

ALSO: I've got a huge editing stack, and have sort of convinced myself I really need to clean up a couple books before committing to new big projects, but I need to keep writing to keep my heart in it--this is a nice way to get to write, but in a limited time. I am also writing first person for the first time--an experiment of sorts--and a month is less to lose if it's disastrous (though I think it's going okay--I was just afraid.)

Terry Odell said...

Gun Diva - it's the 'going back no-no' that wouldn't work for me even if the timing was better.

Hart - I like the idea of an experiment.

Jemi Fraser said...

NaNo has so far come at a pretty good time for me. I love the frenetic pace - although I don't stress out if I want to go back and change things up. I couldn't keep it up all year, but it gives me a good kickstart :)