Week 4

Since my personal National Novel Writing Month ended yesterday, I thought I’d just wait the two days before posting my final update.

I did it!

Fifty thousand words in thirty days. What a ride. Honestly, it feels stupendous.

I’ve successfully completed NaNoWriMo once before. But it’s been a couple years since then. Last year I ran out of book and this year I ran out of writing time. So I honestly wasn’t sure if it was going to happen.

The thing I’m most pleased with is that I’m so close to the end of the manuscript now that I can taste it. I just need to get everyone out of danger and hit that juicy denouement and I’m home free. I’ve said it before, but this novel is taking so much longer than I expected to write. I’ve never looked forward to the editing process more, but that’s for later.

Okay, so some takeaways:

First, WriteTrack is awesome! I’ve never been someone who needed the external motivation to write. If you want to be a writer, then write. I love writing. I’m honestly miserable when I don’t write. That said, there’s something fun about watching bar graphs go up. But if you do need that external motivation or something to keep you honest, this is it.

Second, fifty thousand words is hard to do on the fly. I have an outline, sure, but every time I sit down I need to have done some mental prewriting first. And since I have a full time job, I never had a chance to sit down and crank out three thousand words all at once. On the days where I created some padding for myself, that usually meant sitting down in three smaller chunks to reach the total. Because I need all that prewriting, it pretty much meant I was eating and breathing my novel for the past month as I was always thinking about it. That’s pretty great. I feel more in tuned with the world and characters than ever before.

Third, its great to have goals. Writing is a marathon, not a sprint. Even then, what’s your mark of success? The completed manuscript? Getting an agent? Getting it published (traditional or otherwise)? So having something like this challenge definitely spiced up the day to day, so even though I’ve finished, I can’t break the habit of recording my daily word count in a spreadsheet. I did that very thing this morning.

So there you have it. It wasn’t the easiest thing, but it was totally doable.

Great time. Would do again.

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Countdown

Writing is a discipline.

It’s true. The simplest distractions or interruptions can all too quickly rip you out of the moment. I was having another one of those days. I slept through my alarm, my back was killing me from a bad gym tweak and a morning spent helping my wife move out of her classroom, and on top of everything it was storming like a biblical apocalypse movie outside so it was pretty easy to decide that today would not be a running day. It was time to listen to my body.

Fine, well then I was going to get to work and write extra hard. I want to get this novel finished next month and this was a golden opportunity. That was until I had a fight with my wife about something stupid. Point is, the shouting scared my little creativity critters back into their trees. It took a while to coax them back down and I was finally chugging away but then my phone would ring or somebody would come in my office or they’d need me to catch a pokemon or … OK well that last one might not have been true, but it was pretty close.

Anyway, it just reinforced the whole concept of you can’t always choose when you write. Something will always come up that either sounds more appealing or is actively trying to stop you. Unless you make a living by writing and your personal time is also your work time, time management is pretty freaking huge. This goes beyond turning off your WiFi or whatever so you don’t get sucked down the internet rabbit hole. This is sentences flowing freely and then – oh something shiny! – the well literally drying up a moment later. This is where the discipline part comes in.

Yes you can’t always choose when you write, but its hard to go in cold too. Prewriting, brainstorming, anything that’ll keep me thinking about the plot in between writing sessions is huge. As I type this post, my phone is buzzing out of control as my wife keeps texting me. See? Distractions can come from anywhere.

I got my words in today and at the end of the day, that’s all that matters. Kind of like the first goal of the last Women’s World Cup game. It wasn’t pretty, but I’ll take it. The longer these distractions go on, the less I write. The less I write, the less I like the book, the less I like the book, the harder it is to finish. You get the picture.

My life has become a ticking clock and in a month and a half – maybe only a month?! – it’s going to explode and reveal two baby dragons. That’s a good thing. An amazing thing. A thing I’ve been looking forward to for almost 3 years. But if I already have all of these distractions vying for attention, I imagine that shit’ll increase exponentially with the onset of babies.

Other Worlds Than These

Time has been in short supply these days, but I’ve usually managed to carve out some space for writing. I’m still coming up on the midpoint of the novel and damned if I’m not excited about it.

I don’t know why I’m so surprised at myself at how much I’m enjoying working on this book. Who would spend so much time writing something you didn’t want to, right? I think a large part of it is comparing this novel to my last one. The last book was a fantasy adventure story. It had some great kernels in there that really got me going in the beginning. When I go back and look at the worldbuilding, what at the time felt lush, I see now is really only half baked. There are a few things though: a magic system, a religion maybe, definitely some of the animals, that will show up in my later works. They’re just too cool not too.

The other novel was also the first time that I tried writing a book from multiple perspectives. That ended up being a mixed bag as more than half of them were on the same crew together. Oh right, yes, they were on a sailing ship looking for an ancient secret. When it’s laid out like that, it sounds kind of dull doesn’t it? Anyway, so there were only so many times when the crew would split up – usually fight scenes – that would require different viewpoints to tell the story. Other than that, they often had the same objective. I was just telling it from a different angle each time.

I spent a long time on that book. So much that a third of the way in I felt like I still wasn’t getting the characters right. I scrapped everything and started over. It only added to the overall time commitment. I’ve mentioned before that my rule of thumb is to hit 1k words a day. That’s a minimum as the story progresses. Well, as the book was drawing to a close, I was hitting my 1k, but it was broken up into 500 here, 500 there as I fluttered around it like a hummingbird. I couldn’t bring myself to crank out everything in one go. Whatever had drawn me into that world initially, I had lost by the end. What should have been an exciting build to a conclusion I’d spent months working toward was just some event I couldn’t get to fast enough.

“What happened to that novel?” you ask …

It’s sitting in a digital trunk somewhere. Normally, I dust it off again a few months later for some editing, but that one is still only the rough draft. One of these days I may go back and see what’s what but for now I have other things to do.

Do I regret it? No. There are some good ideas in there that I got to play with and will hopefully see again. I was disappointed for a while and felt like I had nothing to show for my efforts. I don’t make my living off of my writing so there’s only so much time in the day that I can devote to it. Every day that doesn’t produce results is a wasted opportunity. That said, I may not have a viable product with that old novel but it taught me a hell of a lot if only in lessons of what not to do. I’m definitely a stronger writer because of it.

We may yet see a future for Edison Pearce, Annika Draey and the crew of the Gallow’s Ticket, but for now, they were lessons in multiple viewpoints, characterization and running with what made sense over what the plot demanded. I wish them well on wherever their adventures take them and think of them often.