My NaNoWriMo (hereafter NaNo) is going absolutely freaking fantastic. I am pleased as punch at how well I'm doing, which is far better than I expected. Today I want to give an update on where I'm at in my MS, in the hopes of encouraging all my fellow participants, as well as discuss some things I've been doing that I believe are key to my success.
First of all, me:
I am at over 28k, less than two weeks in! In terms of my structure, I am actually one "chunk" behind, because I had a numbering snafu plus inserted an extra one for plot reasons. Which begs the question: what's a chunk? See below :)
In terms of my par (60k at 2k a day), I've only missed my par one day, which I made up on the following day. I've written a little extra every day, which has added up dramatically. Plus I took a double day instead of my usual day-off challenge last week. At this point, there is little doubt in my mind I am going to win by NaNo rules (50k). I'm fairly confident about hitting my goal of 60k, as well. I'm not as confident about actually finishing all 32 chunks by the 30th, but I feel certain I will finish them by at least a week into December. If I stay on the same course, I expect my finished zero draft to be about 75-80k, if not longer.
How am I getting so many words out?
1) Chunks - this is a phenomenally effective organizational method for me. A chunk is a daily wordcount-par-sized collection of segments, roughly analogous to a chapter. My chunks on this MS are 2-2.5k, most coming in around 2.2k. Some of those chunks have 5 or more sections, some have as little as three. Each section is a change in viewpoint character, new location, and so on, the same as I would organize a short story. When I am done with the full MS, I can go back and reorganize the sections into actual chapters, moving them if necessary.
What chunks do for me is they allow to think of my daily work in discrete, finite terms. Rather than writing until I drop, I write until I'm done. I never have to quit in the middle of a scene, I always know when I'm done for the day, and I'll have easy units to rearrange as needed when I'm done. At the beginning of my writing session, I read over the last few chunks, adding to them as needed, then dive into the newest chunk.
2) No editing/zero draft - These are two sides of the same coin. It is vital that I give myself permission to write absolute crap. In all ways: story, plotting, characters, phrasing, grammar. I do not give the slightest whiff of brimstone whether I am producing anything but a story. This allows me to turn off my inner critic and just go. If I come up with a nice turn of phrase, I include it. If my sentence is a rambling mess, as long as I understand it, I let it be and roll on.
The zero draft is the draft before a first draft, the one whose sole purpose is to get all the puzzle pieces out in the open so the writer can go back and reassemble them later. My only goal this NaNo is to finish a novel. No qualifiers, just finish. When I'm done, I expect to have to go back and rewrite much of the prose, flesh things out, and so on. That will be the first draft. But not yet. For now, the finish line is the most important thing.
3) Daily Plan - This is a brief pre-writing period where I look at the day's chunk, break it down into section, and detail the events of each section, briefly. The idea isn't a comprehensive outline, just a few sentence fragments for each section. For me, neither pure pantsing quickly becomes a snafu, and heavy outlining bores me to tears. A daily plan provides enough direction to keep me from painting myself into a corner, and a quick reference for what happens next when I'm on a roll.
The most important thing about the daily plan is that it gets my mind oriented and aimed, like pulling back the rubber band on a slingshot. Then all I have to do is let go, and write.
4) Other - I take a brief break when I finish each section, noting my current wordcount and celebrating it (ie 1/3rd done=woo-hoo! and so on.) I often reward myself during these breaks with an article I want to read, or snackies, or whatever. I write every day, mostly mid-afternoon. If I miss making my wordcount early, I stay up after the rest of the house has gone to bed. Once I hit my wordcount, my priority for the rest of the day is anything but writing. I tweet every day when I hit my par, and post on NaNo, these trophies really help.
So that's some of the things that have worked for me. I'll have at least two more blogs while NaNo is running, and one post-NaNo wrap-up, as well, with more news, more of what works for me, and more encouragement. I'm very interested to see how the holidays (Thanksgiving weekend) affect my writing, and if I'll be able to keep up this pace for the rest of the month.
Until then, good luck, keep writing, and remember that the only way to lose is to quit.