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NaNoWriMo: This Time is Going to be Different!

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Monday, 02 November 2009

Two days and 4612 words into NaNoWriMo.  This time, I’m doing it. 


November snuck up on me this year.  A couple of weeks ago, while staring in disbelief at a calendar that indicated October was half over, it hit me that it was nearly NaNo time.  Was I going to make excuses for not participating, as I have for the past three years – toying with the idea then watching November pass with no effort on a novel?  Or, was I going to stop talking about wanting to be a writer and actually, you know, write something?


I primed the pump by registering at NaNoWriMo.org.  I set up a profile with a picture (gooblink) and a brief, poorly written bio.  Then I started “following” Twitterers who referenced #NaNo or #NaNoWriMo.  Some even followed me back.  I announced to my friends on Facebook – “Hey, I’m gonna write a NaNo novel.”


I set the alarm to get up early on November 1.  Even had an extra hour to play with due to the time change.  But, as luck and habit would have it, I squandered my extra time the night before, staying up way too late, and hit the snooze button multiple times before I finally climbed out of bed at 8:00 and had to shower and dress for church.


So, no writing in the morning.  Harbinger of another failed attempt?


Church.  Lunch.  We got back home at 1:00 PM or so and the weather was looking beautiful!  Too nice to stay inside.   I started to feel sick –headache, sinus pressure, achy.  That’s a good excuse to not write, right?  Maybe Chuck would take the boys out somewhere so I could take a nap.


Yes.  And no.  Chuck rallied the troops and said, “C’mon fellas.  We’re gonna give Mom three hours of writing time.”  He looked at me, “Can you do 2000 words in three hours?”


I had no clue.  Never really tried it before.


So, the guys leave me with an empty house, except for Pumpkin, whose paws really stink.  She needs a bath. 


No!  I have to write.  Chuck gifted me with three hours of uninterrupted quiet. 


I need inspiration…maybe if I play the piano my creative juices will start to flow.  I play for 15 minutes.  No juice.    


What do I usually do when I have no idea how to start?  I head to the bookcases and pull out several books I like and read the opening paragraph of a few.  Now, things are starting to simmer.  Ideas starting to gel. 


My notes.  Get my journal and pull out more ideas.  Yes!  Yes!


Next - Butt In Chair.  Fingers warming up the keyboard.  Don’t think.  Write.  Don’t stop, don’t question, don’t listen to the inner critic, whatever you do, don’t revise.  Just.  Write.


Chuck and the boys return, has it really been three hours? 


“What’s your word-count?”


I check, “1030.”


“Hmmm, so now we know it takes about 6 hours to write 2000 words,” says Chuck.


“I had a slow start, and my head is pounding.  I’m on a roll, though, I think I can get the next 1000 out faster,” I continue to work.


A couple of hours later I come to a line that makes a great cliff-hanger for an end of chapter.  I check my word count:  2010!  Yay!  I did it.  I save the file (Chuck already lambasted me for not saving my work at 1000 words) and update my NaNo profile (their word counter actually registers a few more words than mine), brag to my Tweeps and FB friends and call it a night.  I’m in.


This morning, I get up at 5:30 AM, full of rest, no headache, no aches, no pains and pound out the next 2000 + words in three hours.  Cha Ching!


My story is taking shape.  My characters are revealing themselves to me; they have stories to tell.  I’ve got a lot of work to do, but I am stoked.


This time, I’m gonna do it.


Day 3 of NaNoWriMo

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Tuesday, 03 November 2009

My official word count is 7001, and today I was able to knock out nearly 3000 words in about two hours.  That first 2000 word exercise was a killer - taking nearly 6 hours to compose and began with far more perspiration than inspiration.  I'm so glad I pushed through that first day because the story is becoming much easier to write.

The characters are leading the way as they tell me who they are and what makes them tick.  I'm learning to trust the process.  When I started this project on Monday, I had no real clue how to stretch the simple bones of a story idea from my imagination to the page, nor how those bones could possibly develop into more than a blurb.  The flesh of the story is in the development of the characters.  They are the story.  Just as the presumed coincidences of real life culminate to an event intersection point of two or more people, so will this story develop.

Make no mistake - what I've written so far is far from great - even good - writing.  NaNo has handed me a pass to write a sh*tty first draft and I'm claiming it.  November is for brain dumping; revisions will come later.

It's exciting; even exhilarating.  What took me so long?


Day 4, NaNo NaNo

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Wednesday, 04 November 2009

Today was another good writing day despite the fact that Chris decided to set his alarm for 4:30 AM so he could be awake while I'm writing.  Though I love his company, his 9 year-old's propensity towards chatter didn't help my focus.  Still, today I worked on character development and can see tension building between some of them.  Tension is good.  Essential, in fact.

9238 words, by the official NaNo count.  And Chris is asleep on the sofa next to me. 

Over the past couple of years I've been reading more fiction and trying to focus through a writer's eye.  Expert use of well developed plot lines with clever, unexpected twists and sub-plots has always amazed - and intimidated - me.  How do you outline all the little nuances of a story?

I suppose there are writers who do.  Some who know their characters so well before they start a project that they know exactly how the story will begin, end, and foresee all the action in the middle.

Not me; at least, not yet.  I think I finally understand, on a large scale, the concept of layering.  For a scattered, somewhat ADD type like me, layering might just help make the leap between a finished project and the apprehension of starting one.

I'm thinking, too, that sub-plots will kind of take care of themselves.  9200 ~ words in to my story, I can see several areas of conflict, tension, and intersections between my characters that, I hope, will make this a proverbial page-turner.

Enjoying the ride!


Day 5 - NaNo Word Count

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Thursday, 05 November 2009


Do novelists really count their words every day?  I doubt it.  Unless you're writing an article or short-story for publication, where word count is a key consideration, keeping a tally of words is a silly way to measure the quality of a story.

Of course, NaNo is different.  NaNo is all about word count and process over product.  It's been said that it takes about a month of repetition for a behavior to become habit.  One of the purposes of NaNo is to encourage wanna be writers into the habit of writing.

If you can keep up a pace of 1600-2000 words a day for 30 days, preferably blocking the same set of hours each day, then writing will become habit.  The habit of daily practice will improve your writing.

Today I closed with a NaNo word count of 11,497.  This last 2000 words were really tough to pry out.  I had many distractions; I lost direction.  Today was a heavy dialogue day, which I find extremely difficult to write, especially because my inner critic is so adamant that I'll never live up to my expectations.  My mind wandered over to chores that need to be done.  Papers that should be filed.  My fingernails that need trimming.  Anything but scraping together that next line of dialogue.

The results are painfully unspectacular.

Despite the rough day, I will carry on, even laughing at what I've written because if I believed these words were the end and the best I could do, I'd surrender to my inner critic and cry.


NaNoWriMo - Day 10 & I have a few hairs left.

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Tuesday, 10 November 2009

16,984 words.

How many books have you read or movies have you watched with a critical eye, pointing out the problems and saying, “I could have done a better job than that"?  You know, it’s really not as easy as it looks.

What started for me as an idea and, for the first several days, seemed to be taking shape with little effort has morphed into a sluggish, droll blur of words strung into sentences that bear so little resemblance to anything readable that I’m embarrassed to even open the file and continue.

Is mid-novel too late to outline?  I think I need an outline.

I added a character today – a new guy - because my main character needs more depth.  I mean, she is who the story is all about, but she is the person to whom I’ve really paid the least attention.  She needs a life – especially if I’m going to make a reader care that she loses it.  This new guy promises me he’ll not be a minor player in this adventure.  He likes to be the center of attention; or, at least as close as he can get.

So, I continue.