Ah, November 18. More than halfway through the slog that is NaNoWriMo.
If you’ve kept up with the 1,667 per day word count you should have exactly thirty thousand and six words in your future best-seller. I however, have not been able to do anything near this. Unless, of course Year 7 History reports can be used as part of the word count (at least 2500 words each class!)
I’ve decided to frame my response in a ‘Q&A’ format in order to appropriately capture my current state of mind. As such:
Have you stayed a pantser? How’s that working out for you?
Hahahahahahahahahahaha bahahahaha *choke* waahahahaha I SHOULD HAVE PLANNED.
How’s your perfectionism? Is it getting in the way?
My perfectionist tendencies have not been a real problem this time around, possibly thanks to the lack of planning. However, my pantser style means I’m probably not going to ‘win’ NaNo. Despite that, I’m finding it super fun to write something completely ridiculous that no one need ever see, and has no purpose other than to exist. It is very freeing.
How are your characters? Are they stock? Do you have terrible dialogue?
I’m writing a serialised novella in the form of blog posts by a foodie who calls herself ‘Cupcake’. My lead protagonist, this ‘Cupcake’, is turning out to be truly deranged. She began as a stock housewifely character, but has since devolved into something sinister. The dialogue is horrendous, but I have found a way out of this problem by deciding that she is an ‘unreliable narrator’, and we’ll find out in later chapters that the blog was in fact hacked by the NSA and used as a way to surveil and track users of online recipe websites. It’s all part of a wider conspiracy involving declining global resources of bi-carbonate soda.
Do you think you’ll get the 50k?
No. I’ve adjusted my NaNo target to 10k, because frankly Cupcake is insane and I’m worried about how much time I’m spending with her. Also, I’m very busy.
Day 16, a Saturday: I write this on my phone, on the train to a friend’s hen’s afternoon/evening/bender. Alas, I will not be drunkenly terrorising the city tonight as I am due to see Leonard Cohen at the Ent Cent as well. I mention this not because I wish for you to glimpse my social calendar but by way of explanation re: how difficult it has been to write while the summer socials kick in. I have not attended to my novel since last Monday (Day 11) when I left the word count at 8000 and change, and I do not expect to see it until tomorrow evening.
I am still pantsing and have let my characters do unexpected things, which has made the first act more complicated than I really need it to be. I guess that’s what editing is for *sigh*. The key for me in these last two weeks will be to *make* time rather than *find* time and that has always been one of my failings, particularly when it comes to paid freelance work versus my own projects. I aspire to 50K but realistically it doesn’t look like I’ll be able to sustain the word count I need to finish there. Nevertheless, I’ll still keep the Nanowrimo flame alight until the 30th.
The biggest obstacle for me in getting the words up is my own dissatisfaction with what I’ve written and what I’m trying to write. Words themselves can be easy, but only when I remember that NaNoWriMo is all about quantity rather than quantity. This really offends the egotistical bastard in me that says I should be able to write both quickly and well. This is always a painful lesson.
As for the story itself, some of the principles remain the same, but the target age group changed after some rather major flaws in my outline and world-building were exposed. Oh, also half the characters – tissue-thin templates substituting for real characters – have become new, tissue-thin templates for real characters. I hate each and every one of them. Yes, I have reached the stage in NaNoWriMo where I feel that everything I put down on paper is the worst thing anyone has ever written. This feeling gets worse at night, which is unfortunately when I do most of my writing.
Time-management-wise, things are fine. I took a few days off work – certainly not something everyone can do – and wrote and replotted and wrote some more. Weekends, usually filled with rest and social activities, are now filled with writing and social activities. I’m running myself quite thin really. It’s probably just as well this isn’t in September when it seems the majority of people have birthdays. (I wonder what happened nine months earlier…?)
In the long run, I’ll be rewarded. Some lessons of writing, like proper narrative structure and character motivation, take a while to catch on. I just hope that I can remember to apply them in my next writing project.
40k, wow. How many of them do you think you’ll keep? What’s the quality like? Have you read over it?
No, I haven’t read over anything. I usually like to proof chapter by chapter so I can correct any plot errors early on before they become momentous but with the way NaNoWriMo works there’s simply no time to do that. I’ve had a pretty productive first fortnight so maybe I’ll get time towards the end of the month. Presently I’m just trying to bang out the word count.
I imagine that NaNoWriMo is very much a productive time and then going back, after you’ve given it a breather, editing like crazy. How do you find the editing phase?
I have mixed feelings about editing. Sometimes I find myself really enjoying the process and getting swept up in the story, but usually once it gets past the third or fourth edit I’m ready to punch my characters in their stupid fictional faces. Time is your biggest ally when it comes to editing. Making sure you take time between each copy edit – whether that’s a week or a month depending on your schedule – is crucially important because when you dive back in to the text you see things you didn’t notice before. You’re not as close to it and you’re fresher, which is vital. Having a posse of about four to five proof readers, whose honest opions you trust, is invaluable. These are the people that make your story better by seeing gaps you may have leaped over because you’re so consumed with how it’s unfolding in your head.
You’re exhausted, how have you balanced work/life? Are your friends still talking to you?
Fortunately I had the first three days of the month off work, which was a dream because I was able to take a good bite out of the 50k. At The Daily Telegraph I write thousands of words each day and often the last thing I want to do when I come home is write more – even if it is my own tale. I’ve been trying to make a concious effort to at least get something down - even if it’s only 500 words – during each weekday, then on weekends when I have two days off back-to-back I’ve been bunkering down and relentlessly writing. As for friends? Words are my friends this month.
Panic is slowly starting to creep in now that there’s only two weeks of NaNoWriMo left and I’m still nowhere near a completed draft (or even a very solid outline). The perfectionist in me is going to be mad as heck if I can’t pull off a miracle and get it finished, but I’m still glad to have made some decent progress. The spontaneity that can come out of the crazy NaNoWriMo rush has forced me to confront some really critical questions about my characters and the structure of the story. That’s the good part. The problem is working out the best answers to those questions, which is something that’s not always possible to do on a fixed schedule.
Whether I manage to finish the draft in the next two weeks or not, I still think that it’s been a really valuable exercise in a number of ways. For me, one of the best parts of NaNoWriMo is getting to work alongside some of my very talented friends. My good pal Steph Brotchie and I both first tried NaNoWriMo last year and having her back on board this year has been a lifesaver. We keep each other in check with regular skype meetings which has not only been a great way to stay motivated, but it’s also a really helpful way to brainstorm and workshop new ideas. If you plan to do NaNoWriMo next year (or something similar) I highly recommend dragging a few friends along with you for the ride. I think trying to do something like this on your own would be very difficult.
Have you been burning away, trying to get your NaNoWriMo word count up too? Thinking about it next year? Let us know if you have any questions and feel free to share any ideas you’ve been working on here.