Monday, November 9, 2015

NaNoWriMo First Week: Observations

Lots of writers are participating in the National Novel Writing Month this November (NaNoWriMo for short). It’s the second time I’ve done it; the first was in 2013, when I was finishing another novel that had been progressing, off and on, for ten years. This time, I’m working on a novel that’s only been bouncing around in my mind for a few years; only recently, I started to work on an outline. An outline that I didn’t finish because I just wasn’t sure where that last 1/3 would go. But it was a good start, and so I figured that for once, I could just dive right in, using the chapter outline as a guide.

I began on Monday, November 2 because really, I can’t get anything done on the weekends. For four days, I plugged right along. That opening scene was one I had contemplated for a long time, so it spilled right out once I sat down. I finished working on Thursday the 5th with 8725 words, averaging over 2000 a day, more than what the NaNoWriMo website recommends for a target total of 50K at the end of the month.

Things I noticed during those first four days:

1)      Writing is fun. I really missed being immersed in a world of my own making. It felt like the beginning of something (which it was, of course), but similar to when you open the first page of someone else’s book and it really feels like it could go almost anywhere. It’s exciting.

2)      It was relatively easy to fit in the necessary writing time, even with the interruptions of everyday life. Really, the actual writing of this amount a day would probably only take 3-4 hours but then, of course, you have distractions like research and re-reading earlier chapters. I watched a twenty minute video about the glass-making process one day, for example.

3)      The NaNoWriMo framework is great, because it makes you feel that you’re reporting to someone—the website where you keep your stats, your writing buddies, etc.

And then Friday happened. I actually had a clear schedule that day. I had factored in a morning run but still figured I’d have no problem getting in at least 1600 or so words. I could probably even get to those errands in the afternoon, I thought. But then I looked at the outline. The next section was a very pivotal one. It would reveal a big discovery but also had to convey something fundamental about the main character. And it was Friday. And I was distracted. And I didn’t know how I wanted to go about the section yet; I needed time to think about it. Mostly, I didn’t feel like writing.

True hardcore NaNoWriMos may have gone to a less-demanding section, perhaps, or worked on character sketches or some such thing. Mostly, I took the day off. I wrote about 500 uninspired words. Then, I took the weekend off too. I saw a movie, watched my kids’ games, drove to LA for a dance show. At first, I felt some pressure, a little guilt. But I had three days to think about that pivotal chapter and now I’m ready to dive back in. I know how to approach it now.

The important thing about NaNoWriMo, I would say, is to increase your numbers, whatever they are. To think about your writing routine and how it can be improved. You have to stay true to your own process too, though. It’s quite possible I may still make that goal, if I work some overtime or really get on a roll. Maybe I won’t. One thing is for sure, though. I’ll have much more of this story committed to page than before November 1st came around. And that feels like a big relief, and an affirmation too.


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"As soon as we express something, we devalue it strangely. We believe ourselves to have dived down into the depths of the abyss, and when we once again reach the surface, the drops of water on our pale fingertips no longer resemble the ocean from which they came...Nevertheless, the treasure shimmers in the darkness unchanged." ---Franz Kafka