Sunday, November 20, 2011

NaNoWriMo Part the Third

Week three of NaNoWriMo (hereafter NaNo) is drawing to a close. Like the last two weeks, I want to talk about how the experience has been for me. Particularly the lessons I've learned, what has worked and what hasn't. As always, my hope is to provide some encouragement, as well as a sense of solidarity. We're all in this together!

First things first. I am currently at 44.6K. about 2K of that is because of the Double Day I took back in week one. The rest is from doing my best to go over par every day, plus words I've added to each chunk as I've reread them. So I am only a few days from winning NaNo by the official count of 50k. I should win by my par of 60k a few days early, too.

I generally read the last two chunks before I start writing, just to get my head back in the story. I try not to do any actually editing (rewriting for clarity or style), just get a sense of the story's flow. I've noticed that I am spending more time pulling up old chunks to recall what happened earlier, in the dim past of weeks one and two.

I've also noticed that my characters have changed, sometimes radically, from my original conceptions. When I go back and rewrite, I will have to do more than just fix awkward sentences. Since I intend to add a lot more to each section of each chunk (chunklets?) this shouldn't prove to be much of a hassle.

My original outline was really sketchy, intentionally so. I wanted some kind of arc, plus enough idea kickstarters to maintain momentum all the way to the end of the book. Much of what I wrote in that outline early on I am reinterpreting now, and some of it I'm just ignoring. Hopefully I'll do a more complete outline (as well as prep work in general) on the next novel.

Not being organized is OK for this draft, though. The main intention here is to finish a novel, period. Learning exactly what goes into a novel is a strong secondary goal, and that knowledge will help me with the next book. I am going to go back and do a synopsis and a detailed outline when this story is done, so I have a clear idea of my novel's structure.

I've learned a lot from what I've written so far. The rate of "figuring things out" seems to be accelerating each day, more like a curve than regular growth. My chunklets are getting longer and easier to write, although the chunks themselves are generally still just a little over par.

If I had it to do over again, I would have organized by chunklets rather than chunks. I would have saved each one as a clearly labeled (like an outline summary) and numbered individual file. I also will make a new outline as I write next time, so I can use that for story structure reference more easily.

Even so, the chunk system has worked really well, both to motivate me and to keep me from having to wade through a really long .doc every day before starting to produce.

The mindset I detailed above, of focusing on finishing rather than quality, has been key. The zero draft, or what I'm now referring to as the Less-Than-Zero draft, has kept me writing when I would have quit out of disgust at my storytelling skills. But a writer learns by writing. So keeping at it is not only giving me a complete draft, its teaching me how to write the next one better.

And that's what it's all about. As a writer, and especially as a beginner, I have to be focused on the next story, not the last one. Looking ahead is what will get me past the first million words and into the good stuff.

As far as what hasn't worked (and still isn't), my biggest problem right now is sleep deprivation. Between work and home, there just isn't enough time to write for me to hit my pars without me sacrificing some sleep. Over the short term (NaNo) this is doable, but over the long term I am going to have to scale back my pars. 2k a day every day is not sustainable for me, especially because it leaves no time for editing or epubbing. In other words, I'm borrowing from next month to pay for this month.

The hardest part of my day is sitting down in front of a blank page. my outline is so unrefined that I am spending a lot of writing time just figuring out what happens next. I adressed this above. Next time i want a far more detailed and clear outline. I believe I will be able to write faster and a higher quality prose with a better map.

Finally, surfing the Internet kills my writing time. Twitter, I'm especially looking at you. But everyone already knows that, right?

So that's what I've got for this week. Overall things are going well, better than I expected even. I hope your NaNo is just as awesome. Heck, I hope your NaNo is even awesomer. <--zero draft style grammar.

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