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Author Topic: So how'd we all do?  (Read 2277 times)
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« on: December 01, 2007, 11:46:28 AM »

The thing that's most important to remember is the thing that's also hardest to remember, especially when the work is in progress: that this is neither a competition nor a test. It's an exercise. And what does exercise do? It makes us stronger.

If you've never tried writing a full-length novel before, and you were successful in reaching 50,000 words in a month, you now have a much better idea of the sort of dedication and commitment it takes to develop an idea into a book.

So far I've put together 57,497 words according to the OpenOffice word counter. Not that you'd know it to look at my account on the NaNo website - I wasn't able to log in yesterday, so I'm shit out of luck for submitting a 50,000+ word manuscript.

I won't lie to you. I don't have a whole lot of luck with NaNo. My creative energy doesn't follow an annual schedule. The only manuscript I've ever been able to complete between November 1st and November 30th has pretty much needed to be entirely rewritten from the ground up. The following year, I had to abandon my manuscript to deal with a more pressing issue that cropped up in the middle of November. This year, I missed sending a 50,000 word manuscript to the word counter by one day. (And was it just me, or was the NaNo website a nightmare this year?)

It's not as if I can't write a decent story in a month. "The Swamp Poet" was 65,000 words, was written in thirteen days, and needed very little editing. "White Crusade" took six weeks to draft and clocked in at over 95,000 words. And "The Last King of Mercury" is a good story. Not really developed enough, but it's got legs.

November is a really bad month to hold this sort of thing. (My last paycheck had over 30 hours of overtime on it.) For me, that month has always been the perfect storm of obligations and responsibilities, and it isn't practical for me, or fair to the story, to try to wedge a novel in there.

However, I want to warn those of you who haven't made it across the finish line against the feeling that your efforts have gone to waste. I've had a little look at the NaNo forums, specifically the ones who haven't made it to 50,000 words, and you never saw such a bunch of quitters in all your life. Dozens of people, all claiming that their efforts are for naught, because they failed to meet an arbitrary word count on an arbitrary day. I mean, there is no WAY I'm going to tip the poor King of Mercury into a paper shredder and have done with him. He still has a lot of work to do if he's going to end the Civil War and marry the Princess.

Believe me, I understand the rationale. Maybe you feel that if your idea doesn't generate sufficient energy to produce 50,000 words in 30 days that it isn't worth pursuing. All that really means is that it's a bit underdone. Now that you've got this material, take what you have and see where you're going with it. You no longer have the whip cracking over your head - you have time to read what you've got so far, take some notes, develop your idea, decide where it's going and how to bring it to an end. I've got a conclusion for mine all picked out. I just need to map out how I'm going to get there.

Love, Ben
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« Reply #1 on: December 01, 2007, 06:21:38 PM »

The word count and day of deadline were arbitrary only up until the point the authors decided to accept them as goals.  Any goal we set for ourselves is meaningful, and failure to reach that goal should not be passed over as an insignificant thing.

There are cases when a goal is set unreasonably high.  In the case of Nano that might be a possibility for some people living lives that are jam packed full of activities and responsibilities already.  There might also be an unforseen disaster, such as the loss of the manuscript, which would place a goal beyond the reaches of completion.

However if these things are not the case, an author needs to seriously reflect upon their efforts and determine just what it is that went wrong.  Brood no, but reflect yes.  Then move on with their life and complete the manuscript as they had wanted to.

My avatars?  Think of them as multiple personality disorder in a good way.
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« Reply #2 on: December 01, 2007, 06:41:54 PM »

One thing I found really weird was how hard I found it to go on when I hadn't firmly worked out what I wanted to write next. Not to the point of having an outline for the scene, but I really had to know which scene I was intending to write, and have thought it through before hand, spend a lot of time picturing it in my head etc.

I think I may try reinstating my policy of taking a half hour 'nap' before every writing session during which I let my tired mind ponder the plot.

Anyway. I got past 15K, which I'm quite happy with given my numerous delays, procrastination, etcetera. Also I'm quite happy because Nanowrimo is over, and that means I am now free to start delving into obscure bits of my plot that I didn't want to touch for fear that it'd invalidate most of what I'd just written. I think when I work I tend to write a bit, go back and edit a bit, write a bit more, go back and edit a bit, and so forth. I couldn't really stick to that for Nanowrimo, though, since it slows down my rate of writing considerably.

One thing I will say about the whole experience. I had so much fun pretending to be important enough to monopolize myself a forum thread. Tongue
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« Reply #3 on: December 02, 2007, 12:23:39 AM »

I made it to 51,000 words on Thursday night. So that's the second year I've actually completed the NaNo. I agree that November is a terrible month for it, and February or even January would be a whole heckuva alot better, but they have a thousand excuses for why they choose one of the two worst months of the year for it (the other being December of course) so I doubt it will change.

I'm pleased with what I have, though it's far from even being a finished draft. Probably another 30K words or so are needed to complete the plot line and tie up the loose ends. Heck, I didn't even reach the dramatic climax yet. But I will. I have every intention of getting this one wrapped up before Christmas. It's too good a story to let it languish and besides, it's complicated enough that I'm afraid I'll forget the essential details before I get them all down.

It's better than last year's book I think, and it's really for an adult audience (not because of "mature" topics but because of the complexity of action and emotion) rather than the pre-teens who were last year's target.

I agree with you, Ben, that the whole purpose of the NaNo is not so much to finish an entire book as to practice the discipline of writing every day, whether you feel like it or not. In that respect, it has been quite a success for me.

And I'm still hopeful. After all, Sarah Gruene started Water for Elephants as a NaNoWriMo project, and that ended up as a best seller. I'll settle for just seeing one of mine in print, though.  Cheesy

“Don't be seduced into thinking that that which does not make a profit is without value.” ― Arthur Miller
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