We have a winner! After an interesting month, I finally stumbled across the finish line about 2:30 this morning with a total of 50,192 words! I done, but I'm not done-done, I still have more story to go. I'd have to say that I'm about half way through a tale of heartache, angst, passion and things that blow up ... in space. Oh, and starships, hostile aliens, giant killer robots, nefarious politicians and damsels-not-in-distress. ("We can take care of ourselves, thank you very much!") I have managed to pull off Phase 1, but that was the easy part! Project Mjölnir rolls on; I have December and January to finish the draft and complete the edits. This is no time to shilly shally.
NaNoWriMo was a win, but is wasn't a pretty win. Thanksgiving week I spent four to six hours a day, hammering out deathless prose at a rate of eight to ten thousand words per day. That saved me. I would have been far better off if I'd stuck with the 1,667 words per day suggestion, but I'll get to the hard lessons learned a bit later. How much of the final push am I going to keep? Well, all of the ideas generated in the final seven days will be incorporated in some fashion, however looking over what I actually ground out; very little of the prose, at least in its current form. There's going to a world of editing and rewriting in my future.
I did (finally) pick up some tips I found useful and some habits I found helpful. I may sound like I’m weaseling around, but after all of the pep talks, write-ins, critique groups and helpful family suggestions, the only thing I found to be universal is you need to pick what works for you! And this is what worked for me:
- Adhere to the BIC principle. Whether it's your happy place, man cave, bomb shelter, whatever; park it and write.
- Turn Twitter off. Yep, I’m addicted, there are so many interesting people. I’ve detoured several times to follow threads of conversation. So, remove as many distractions as possible. There will always be a reason to not write. Learn to ignore it.
- Don’t edit until the first draft is completed! Don’t continue to pick at it, you’ll leave a scar.
- Follow the outline until it doesn’t make sense. Then, set the outline aside. I lost whole days trying to make some plot point fit in my outline. As we say in broadcasting, “We’ll fix it in post.”
- No, you can’t catch up tomorrow, do it now! Set aside a regular time, whether fixed point in the ever changing temporal stream or after the baby goes down for her nap, and write.
- No, you can’t cut your writing time short and make up for it by writing for a longer period of time tomorrow. Instead, write the normal length of time today and then write for a longer stretch tomorrow.
- Karate is physical exercise, writing is mental exercise. With both, the only way to improve, to get stronger, faster and more graceful, is to practice every day. You have to push yourself in order to improve. You have to challenge yourself to build confidence.
- Take notes, lots of notes. Life is easier with a crib sheet.
- Don’t feel like you have to write your story linearly. I was stuck near the middle of the tale and the only way I crossed the word count finish line was by writing the final epic battle scene and the resulting comeuppance. I’ve got a couple of characters I really don’t like, so I justly desserted them. (And no, I spelled that correctly!) We all can’t be Robert E. Howard.
- Take all advice with a grain of salt. Or, if you prefer, pepper. Season it the way you like and don’t allow someone else to unduly flavor your story for you.
There are likely more, but a sensed a theme when I started repeating myself, so I stopped. Now that I have established something of a habit with my writing, I'll be back on a more regular basis.
No, seriously, I will.