Hey everyone! Yes, I’m still alive! And I’m half-way through National Novel Writing Month. We were supposed to have 25,000 words written by the end of yesterday, and I clocked out with 26,728 after what I believe is my most productive day yet with 3300 words.
So, what am I learning?
- Preparation is important: I spent much of October planning as much as I could. I sketched out the plot (already discarded), the main characters (most of which have different names already), a map for my world, and a few behind-the-scenes sort of details. While I’ve obviously deviated from my plans, having them in the first place has made it much easier to keep going.
- You can’t plan everything: Several times now I’ve been writing along and realized that what I had planned just wasn’t going to work. The characters would never do that, or something that seemed like a good idea before just won’t work the way things are going now. Sometimes I’ve had to stop and rethink things before I could get going again, but for the most part these changes have been for the better, and help keep me on my toes. Being willing to go with the flow helps.
- Editing and Perfection have been my worst enemies: The NaNoWriMo program is, essentially, to write crap if you must, but write. Add something totally stupid and useless if it keeps you going churning out words. Editing comes later, but if you let editing get in the way now, you’ll never finish. It’s true. I think one of my biggest problems with writing has been feeling like I have to get it right the first time. This probably stems from all those years when I was cranking out something at the last minute to submit for a contest or something. I didn’t like editing–I probably still don’t. But that doesn’t matter now. NaNo gives me permission to just write, and leave all but the most glaring errors for later. It’s liberating, and it works.
- I love writing: I’m having a blast! You will notice I’ve not been blogging much. I’m reaching the conclusion that I’ve been blogging because I love to write, so when I find another outlet for that, such as writing a novel, I don’t blog much and I barely touch Facebook. I’m getting my fix. It’s not the feedback that excites me (though it doesn’t hurt, either, usually), it’s the getting stuff out of my head and into writing. I love it!
- Having a goal helps: Having that 50,000 words in 30 days goal hanging over me keeps me focused and writing. Having a friend who is doing this too and who keeps checking in with me keeps me going. It’s not a competitive thing with me (easy to say, since I’m losing), but more just being answerable to someone. To have to explain why I didn’t write very much yesterday bothers me and inspires me to not have to report failure too often.
- I want to keep doing this: I want to keep writing after NaNo is done. I’m pretty sure I will, because for one, my novel probably won’t be finished. My plot is more complex than 50k words will support. I’ll probably be well into December finishing this. But I also want to start writing more, more often. I want to tell stories. I have things to say. I don’t want this to be my last novel. I want to keep writing until something sells. That’s my new goal in life. I want to sell at least one novel before I die.
- I want to find new ways to tell stories: In the midst of all this I’ve finally joined the rest of the human race and discovered Dr. Horrible’s Sing-a-long Blog. I see potential here. Add to that my recent introduction to the Virtual Choir. I want to do a collaborative internet media project. The juices are flowing, but I’m not going to tell you anything yet.
- I’m finding new confidence and patience: I am going to make money from writing sooner or later. I’d prefer sooner, but I now know later is okay, too. Part of the NaNoWriMo experience is pep talks from published authors like Jasper Fforde and Lemoney Snicket, among others. There is a recurring theme in most of them: keep going. I’m getting the impression that the main thing that separates published authors from the rest of us is determination. They didn’t give up before their books were written. They didn’t give up when it didn’t sell right away. They didn’t give up when their first ten novels didn’t sell. And that’s the succeeded. They kept going where 99.9% of people quit. Even NaNoWriMo, which emphasizes cranking out anything necessary just to finish, only reports a 10-20% success rate each year. Most of the people who want to be novelists just give up before the finish line. And that’s just the first finish line.
- I’m full of excuses: At the beginning of this year I posted a goal to become more disciplined. And I admit that in some areas I do need better discipline. But, quite frankly, I’m no longer sure that is the problem. I find myself wondering if my project to develop discipline wasn’t just an excuse to put off doing the other things I needed to do while I work on something else. “I’ll work on this after I’ve developed better discipline. And if I never get discplined? Well, then I guess I don’t have to do that thing I don’t want to do!” NaNoWriMo is as much about getting rid of excuses as anything else. They remove as many excuses as they can so you will just shut up, sit down, and write! It makes me wonder how many more things I could accomplish If would give myself permission to ignore the reasons why I can’t do it.
- Writing, or at least accomplishing something, makes me happy: I’m probably busier than I’ve been in awhile trying to fit everything in every night, but I’m generally happier than I’ve been in a while. Okay, there was that bad day when the car broke down again, but we’ll ignore that. Either the processes of writing, or near-daily accomplishments, or both is behind it. I’m productive on something that matters to me, and it helps.
- People are generally supportive: From my wife to my colleagues at work to my children, people seem interested in the fact that I’m writing a novel. My wife has been the real trouper, helping me find time to write, listening as I complain about how my characters are messing up my plans, and going to bed late when I get on a roll and don’t want to quit (that hasn’t happened often). Two of my three kids are excited enough to want to do it themselves. Fortunately they have the Young Writers Program, and my daughter was able to get in this year. My older son will have to wait, though. Three people trying to meet deadlines on one computer is a recipe for disaster. He can do his story in December while I’m still finishing my novel. If he gets better at doing his homework without complaining and procrastination.
- I want to do this again next year: It’s been a good experience so far this year. I suspect I’ll be ready to go again by this time next year.
In short, this has been a great experience so far! I’ll be sure to update you as the month progresses.