Tag Archives: NANOWRIMO

NOMONANOWRIMO

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When an accomplishment addict like me retires, she has to find a way to impose deadlines, milestones, items to check off the to-do list. I sort of feel like I don’t exist if I’m not getting stuff done. Two years into retirement, I still crave those external markers of accomplishment. One such is National Novel Writing Month. Each November, thousands of writers pledge to churn out a 50,000-word novel by month’s end. That’s 1,667 words per day.

After two years of “winning” NANOWRIMO, I’m taking a break. This November will find me at my writing desk every day, of course, but I won’t be churning out a first draft of anything. As a matter of fact, I’m still refining and polishing the story I started back in NANO 2014. The also-promising mystery novel I started in NANO 2015 is marinating in a folder, patiently waiting until I get back to it. This year I’m focusing on Chuck Wendig’s valuable advice: “Finish your shit.”

Just in case you haven’t read this sharp, funny, poke-in-your-writerly-ass essay, here it is: http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2014/11/26/why-its-important-to-finish-your-shit/

NANO has given me good habits, a sense of determination, and some fun writing contacts in my local area. But despite the sparkly appeal of new beginnings, it’s time to plod, chug, crunch, grunt and push my way through this latest revision and then launch another round of queries.

New beginnings are such fun, but it’s the steady plodding forward that gets stuff done.

NANOWRIMO 2015: Emerging from My Cave

Blink, blink. I slowly push open the door to my little green office and gaze in wide-eyed wonder at the world beyond. NANOWRIMO is over. Well, it’s not officially over until the 30th of November, but I had to hurry things along due to family visits at Thanksgiving.

This was my second time “winning” National Novel Writing Month. To win, you simply write 50,000 words of a novel in thirty days. I can’t claim that I’ve written a novel, since the average mystery novel (genre of my current project) is around 80,000 words, but 50K is an excellent start. No doubt, I’ll end up dumping some scenes that I wrote this past month, but having written them means that I’ve done some in-depth character study that will make my final story that much richer.

In fact, I started this November by attending Write in the Harbor, the first annual Gig Harbor writers’ conference, sponsored by Tacoma Community College. (It was good. You should go next year if you can.) Here’s my magic writing ring, a gift from that conference.

My magic writing ring from Write in the Harbor 2015.

My magic writing ring from Write in the Harbor 2015.

Garth Stein, our keynote speaker and author of Raven Stole the Moon and The Art of Racing in the Rain, told us that an early draft of A Sudden Light, his most recent novel, seemed flat. He decided to write the history of the family around which that novel revolves, and he ended up with a 100,000-word epic—which he threw away! I assume he didn’t actually dispose of the manuscript, but he didn’t use it in A Sudden Light. Stein assured us, though, that the effort was worth it, flavoring the novel that he ultimately published to great acclaim. So there you go—unused scenes are not wasted effort.

What I love about NANO is that it fosters good habits. Scientists disagree on how much daily practice it takes to instill a new habit; lately, we’re hearing that it takes sixty-six days. Ay ay ay! But that annual ritual of shutting myself up in my writing cave and pounding out at least a few thousand words every day is invigorating, and the habit has stuck. Oh, I don’t necessarily achieve 2K words every day, but I do write at least a few pages daily, or revise several, if I’m in that phase of a project. Some writers say that time spent pitching a project to agents doesn’t count—I say it does.

Since I’m writing a mystery novel, this year I experimented with more planning and outlining than I’d ever done before; I’m usually a complete pantser (no outline, write by the seat of your pants). From this post by sci-fi author Rachel Aaron, I got the idea of planning out each scene briefly before writing it. https://www.sfwa.org/2011/12/guest-post-how-i-went-from-writing-2000-words-a-day-to-10000-words-a-day/  Sounds pretty obvious, right? Well, I’m not called Late-Blooming Rose for nothing; this technique was new to me, but really helped with my daily productivity.

What’s really challenging about writing a mystery is that you start with the story of the murder, which I wrote in October, and then you go back and write the narrative of how the sleuth solves the mystery. It’s great fun to plant clues, but it’s challenging to give away just enough information about the real killer so that, at the end of the novel, the reader will say, “Aha! Of course it was him/her.” I don’t want the reader to figure it out in chapter ten of thirty, though.

The downside to my November troglodyte existence is—well, about three pounds, just enough to make my favorite pants too tight. Watch this blog for a future post: the NANOWRIMO workout. Let’s start with some desk-chair squats: down, up, down, up, feel the burn…

Happy final writing days to all my fellow NANOs.