For the uninitiated of you, the insanity that is NaNoWriMo, or ‘National Novel Writer’s Month’ is upon us. The goal – to complete a fifty-thousand word novel in thirty days, (though to be honest 50k words, while impressive, is still kinda short for a novel… falls more along the lines of a novella, but I digress.)
50,000 words, you can’t be serious?!
It’s not as bad as it seems. As long as you stick with it. The writing plan breaks the somewhat overwhelming task down into a much more manageable 1,667 words per day. That’s not to say those 1,667 are easy by any stretch, especially if, God forbid, you miss a day. Then that word count catches up, and you quickly feel as though the hole you’re trying to climb out of just keeps getting deeper and deeper.
And then there’s the inevitable antagonist of all writers… Writer’s block. I’ve got stories I’ve been working on for a couple years that I’ve just hit a brick wall on, and have yet to complete. There’s days where it feels like pulling teeth to get a couple hundred words on a page, let alone a couple thousand.
But, as the old adage goes, “Writers write”. So you just push through, and keep writing. Even if it sucks, and is barely coherent, you keep writing. Because eventually, you’ll get from point A to point B, and some little spark will ignite, and you’ll be off again. And lets be honest, the first draft doesn’t have to be great. That’s what re-writes and editing are for. Besides, good or bad, ya gotta get the words on paper before any other magic can happen.
The inaugural event took place in 1999, in the San Francisco Bay Area, with only 21 participants. This year, the 17th annual NaNoWriMo, there are literally hundreds of thousands of people from all around the globe rising up to the challenge. And social media, the other great productivity killer, is overrun with references to the hashtag, #NaNoWriMo.
Eleven days in, and I’m up to 8 chapters and 18,519 words. Thankfully some days are more productive than others, as already I’ve missed two days so far… Dunno what it is about Sunday’s, but I have more trouble trying to find the time to write at the end of the week, than any other day.
I brainstorm throughout the day, and every once in a while, when I have the opportunity, I’ll jot down a few lines or notes. Then at the end of the day, when the kiddos are asleep, and the house is quiet, I plug in my earphones, tune out the world and fire up my trusty old Dell laptop.
This thing was used and abused by several sales and support reps at one of my previous jobs, and when a Windows update finally caused it to blue screen, our IT guys realized it was was no longer worthy of being rebuilt. So, I acquired the laptop, cleaned it up a bit, slapped a fresh Linux operating system (see http://www.lxle.net, seriously LOVE this OS!) and had ol’ Betsy up and running again, good as new, in no time.
So with my ass in my big, comfy recliner, and my feet propped up, I look at the time on my computer, and sigh. Ten o’clock already.
I double click on the nifty little writing tool I’ve grown accustomed to, yWriter5 (http://www.spacejock.com/yWriter5.html), an absolutely AMAZING little word processor, designed specifically for novel-writers. It opens quickly, loading in the last project I’d worked on, my NanoWriMo entry, a steampunk-western titled, Slingers, and I dive right back in where I left off.
Some days I struggle to write 500 words. Others, I’m over 2,000 before I realize it. The action packed scenes are the easiest for me, with the words sometimes flowing faster than my clumsy fingers can find the letters on my keyboard. Seriously, thank God for spell-check!
But it’s those in-between scenes that drag me down… the transitions from one exciting moment to another. Thankfully, I love writing dialog so that helps carry those scenes along, but ya gotta have some substance in there too.
A couple hours later, don’t think I’ve gotten to bed before 12:30 or 1 most nights, I save, then backup the project to my flashdrive, and save again. And again. Because you can never be too redundant when it comes to backing up your writing. Trust me on this one. I once re-wrote an entire not-so-short, short story, only to have a hard drive failure steal my hard work. That’s like the equivalent of the playground bully kicking you square in the balls, and stealing the ice cream or candy bar you just purchased. He doesn’t just take your money, he stalks you, waiting patiently til you trade your hard-earned coinage for some precious commodity. Then when you least expect it, strikes, taking your prize from you… So now you have no money and you have no treat. That cruel bastard.
My main problem though, is my workflow. I don’t outline, which just seems to cause more work and more headaches for me in the long run. I never know where I’m going til I get there. So when I run out of steam, I feel like I almost have to start over from scratch. Like, what now? I think I may give the outline thing a shot when I prepare my next project though, but we’ll see.
With 19 days left, and over 31,000 words remaining, I take a deep breath and resolve to complete what I have started. If for no other reason than self-satisfaction, knowing that I’ve never completed a novel, or anything longer than a short-story before. Forcing myself to sit down and work a little bit each day has turned out to be great so far, and I’m eager to see this come to fruition.
And what the hell? When I finish this one, that alone may be inspiration enough to wrap up the other outstanding projects I have… I’ll just be my own muse! In the meantime, I’ll keep you posted on my progress, and other randomness via my Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/SKThomas.Author