Saturday, December 12, 2009

NaNoWriMo: The Report

I failed. Of that, there can be no doubt. I can, however, report good news.

On 1 November, I and a bunch of other people undertook a unique challenge: write a 50,000-word novel in the thirty days of November (why not the 31 days or August, May, or July?) . I entered the task with two simple goals: finish my 50,000 novel and get myself into a writing habit, something I had fallen out of in recent months. The task, while daunting, broke down into 1,1667 words per days. Imminently doable.

The first thing I had to figure out was when I was going to write in order to instill the writing habit again. The second day of November was a Monday. With my CSI: Miami recap duties for, I knew I would have no time that evening (watch “Castle”; watch “CSI: Miami”; write recap). Thus, the natural alternative: Lunchtime. I took my PowerBook with me, ensconched myself in Starbucks, and wrote for an hour that first Monday. Word count: 1,880. Hog dog! I was rolling.

And I kept rolloing. Every lunchhour, I wrote. It got to the point where I couldn’t wait for noon so I could again sneak into the world of my character. (BTW, I’m writing the first novel-lenth adventure of Calvin Carter, the hero of my story published by Beat to a Pulp earlier this year.)
Then, one day, I had to work through lunch. Was that a miserable lunch hour but I made up for it later that night.

Unfortunately, the day job kept creeping up on my time and, more and more, I worked through lunch. Sucks, yeah, I know. I missed a day. Another day, I didn’t make the 1,667 word count. If there is one thing you can’t do with NaNoWriMo, it’s get behind. You get behind one day, unless you have a great day in which you write 3,200 words, you’re screwed.

I got screwed. I missed a few more days and fell farther and farther behind. Have to admit that was discouraging. Onward I pressed and onward the day job pressed. Day job won. Battle lost.

But, the wider war was won (how's that for alliteration?). I have instilled in myself the Writing Habit. Even when I knew that I’d never make the 50,000 words by 30 November, I still took my Mac to work with me. It was a pain sometimes as I also carried my work laptop as well. The lunch hour is now a glorious oasis of creativity for me. I continue to bring my Mac to my day job. At lunch, I close the office door or steal away to Starbucks or Rao’s and write. Boy, it is delicious, the coffee as well as the writing.

In addition, I’ve transformed my writing room at home. I’ve separated the writing desk (for longhand notes and writing) with my Mac desk (computer writing). The neat thing about the Mac desk is that it is, in reality, an old server desk, with shelves on both sides of a central post. And it’s adjustable. As a result, I can raise the keyboard and monitor and stand to write. I’m coming around that that way of creativity. Let me tell you: it’s fantastic. More on that in another column.

Cliché alert: I’m a loser but I’m a winner. I failed in my ultimate goal of a 50,000-word story. I’m a winner in that my writing habit has returned. I’m also a winner in that I know I’ll complete the novel early next year. And I’ll write more. Were this a scale, the balance would be tipped in my favor.

I’ll take it.

How about other NaNoWriMo’s out there. Did y’all finish?


Brian Drake said...

Nice report! I didn't finish, either, but got back in the habit that had been dormant for a while because I have been busy sending out queries to a novel I finished in '06. I later finished the ms. only to fall way short of 50k words. Now, I'm doing a ton of work on the ms., writing additional scenes, editing, revising, the whole bit. I want to be done by 31 December so I have three chapters ready to show starting 3 January 2010. Completing the NaNoWriMo assignment wasn't the goal; writing a new manuscript was the goal. The contest helped me discipline myself to write every day, it was a great experience, and my record for first draft ms. production is now one month instead of three. How about that?

John McFetridge said...

Sounds like the wider war was won all right (I like alliteration).

Thanks for the report. I find things like NaNoWriMo quite valuable. I once entered the Three Day Novel Writing Competition and also failed but used what I'd done as the first draft of a book that did get published.

Good luck with the book, please keep us posted on further progress.

Steve Weddle said...

Robert Browning: "Ah, but a man's reach should exceed his grasp, or what's a heaven for?"

Congrats on getting the habit and the workspace squared away. Looking forward to how the book ends up.  

JackiAnne said...

You participated and got into the habit of writing regularly, to the point where you're anxiously awaiting your appointed writing hour. You are a true NaNoWriMo winner, no matter what your word count was on November 30.

I clocked in at just over 55,000 words, but my story is unfinished, so after a short break, I'm resuming writing tomorrow and hope to have the completed first draft by the end of the month. Editing begins in January.

Em said...

Congrats on your achievement, fellow WriMo, whatever the wordcount!
I wound up with 53k or so this year, and just barely managed to drag it out that long. I'm not really a writer - I can write words, I have written here and there, but it's not something I enjoy for long stretches of time. The local write-ins were my salvation, with great chunks of laziness in-between. I'll do anything for enthusiasm & a shiny button, but when I'm sitting at home I'd rather just read someone else's words. ;)

Chris said...

I pulled it off, just barely, and can echo what everyone else is saying about developing/renewing the habits necessary to keep it up long term. I enjoyed it more than I thought I would, despite some stress here and there. I blogged more at length about it here, if you are interested. . . .