November: In which I sort of won NaNoWriMo



At the halfway point of last month, I had pretty much thrown in the towel on reaching 50k.

But turns out cheating worked really well for me.

I had 4k of a draft before November started, which I input into day one’s total, but as I wrote pretty much exactly 4k between guest blogs and this blog in November, that evened out. Because I was able to include my university work, as a result I wrote about 6k for uni and my final projects are not that far off from done, which is good because they’re due this Friday and I’m in London from Tuesday to Thursday. As of today, the draft of my option book, codenamed Brainfreeze Book, is 39,091 words. I’m not sure of the percentage of the draft; I feel like I’m around 40% through the story. I’m sure at least 10k of what I wrote is going to be scrapped and rewritten. But it’s a lot of progress.

The NaNoWriMo graph

So, maybe I didn’t “technically” win. Who the heck cares? It’s an arbitrary number anyway. Back in January I planned to keep track of my word counts all year in a spreadsheet because I am a nerd. I gave up on it in mid-July, pretty much right after Tor offered on False Hearts and Brainfreeze Book. But in the first 6.5 months of the year I wrote around 155,000 words. From mid-July to the end of October, I think I wrote at least another 45k of Masquerade & the Vestigial Tales. So in as of December 1st, I’ve written at least 250k, and I’m going to edit all of Masquerade this month and finish my final projects for the first half of my MLitt. That’ll be inching pretty close to 750 words a day on average, all year long, despite working full time for almost all of it and, for a brief time, working 32 hours a week AND studying full-time (note: not recommended). Despite some shitty things happening, and then some really awesome things happening (which can be just as distracting for getting words on the page). I kept on pushing through, kept on writing, no matter what life threw at me. I’m really proud of that.

And, as I’ve said before, writing is not a race. There’s been plenty of 300 word days I’ve had that have been far more useful than other 3000 word days. A book is more than its word count. Some of the most important work you can do is stare out of a window and think really hard, or read a book, or watch a film, or get out into the world and live in it and be inspired that way.

I hereby declare 2014 a writing win.



NaNoWriMo: The Halfway Point


There is no way I’m going to win NaNoWriMo without cheating.

I thought now that I was working less I’d magically have more free time, and I do, but there’s still so much for me to do. I made really good progress in week one, but week two has been a struggle. However, I do think I can still write 50k in a month, it just won’t all be on Brainfreeze Book.

So I’ve added a little folder called “Cheating” in Screivener and I’ll copy my uni work into it. “CHEATING!” you cry. Me: “Yeah, so what?” The uni work is a lot more important to finish this month, versus rushing through a draft for a book not due until next October, and said rushing might mean a lot more work in edits down the line. I’m reaching the bit in the book where the corporate espionage kicks in. I’ve interviewed my cousin, who is basically a white hat hacker and owner of Secure DNA, which was SUPER helpful, but I still need to do more research to figure out how this next section of the plot will pan out. If I just make shit up, it’s going to stink and I’m going to have to re-write it all anyway. That’s a waste of time.

SO. I’m aiming to write at least 30k in Brainfreeze Book, which I’m well on my way to completing, and I’m also pasting in my essays and such and still updating my NaNo word count, because I’d find it disappointing to see my word count so far below the “goal”.

Every year I try NaNoWriMo, but the emphasis on word count over everything else always ends up stressing me out, and my anxiety is in overrdrive all the time anyway. I’ve tried NaNo twice before. Both books had to be thrown out completely. One is trunked forever, and the other one has a premise I love but that iteration of the book was so bad. SO VERY BAD. My best friend Erica read it and was like “…yeah, you need to throw this out and start again.” And she was so right. It was possibly one of the worst things I’d ever written, and it’s because I kept madly tapping even though I knew it was wrong. The books I write slower (first draft between 3-6 months)? Those are the ones published.

So if you struggle with NaNoWriMo, you’re far from the only one! For some people it works brilliantly. I thought this year maybe I could properly win it, since I have a detailed outline. And I probably could win it, but the draft would suck and I’d possibly fail my courses. So that’s not the way for me to go. I’m not enjoying the race, so I’m taking a different track. I’ll still probably write 50k this month, they just won’t all be on the same thing. It’s not wrong. There’s no wrong way to write, as long as you’re writing and making progress.

-Laura Lam, a three-time NaNoWriMo failure

November Writing Goals: The Verdict

eat-sleep-write-nanowrimo Last month, though I didn’t participate in NaNoWriMo, I did have some writing-related goals and shared them here.

How did I do?

1. Finish the draft of my WIP. CHECK! I wrote about 17,000 words and finished the first draft of Bonkers Book, which is currently 67,000 words. It’ll definitely be beefed up in edits, probably to around 80k. The ending is rather rough (ahahaa it makes no sense), but still, it’s done! It’s by far the fastest I’ve ever drafted and again by far the most fun I had while drafting. It’s so very, very different from my other work that it was freeing and refreshing to stretch out different writing muscles. Even if nothing happens with this book (though I hope that’s not the case), this book drove home how much I love writing. I’ve heard people mention a lifeline book before and didn’t know what that meant. Now I do.

2. Try not to freak out as Shadowplay reviews trickle in. FAIL. I wasn’t TOO freaked out, but I was definitely nervous. I’ve had enough come in now that I feel reasonably confident that not everyone will hate it and be horrifically disappointed, so that’s a relief. I’ve also made good progress on the blog tour and wrote about eight posts to be sent back to bloggers, so in that respect, CHECK.

3. Send off an application to the Scottish Book Trust to be on their author database for Live Literature. CHECK! Though I haven’t heard back and need to follow up. I’m also in the process of joining another group, so DOUBLE CHECK.

BONUS STUFF: Went to a convention in Brighton, I wrote a poem, planned another short story, put up some free fiction on the blog, and also wrote a few other entries. I finished up a few beta-reads. So, it’s not NaNoWriMo, but it’s a good month’s work around the day job just the same.

November Writing Goals

nanowrimoToday is All Souls Day, aka the first day of NaNoWriMo, where people endeavour to write 50,000 words in a month.

I’ve tried to do it a few times.

I always fail.

I’m not doing NaNoWriMo this month, but I do have some writing goals:

1. Finish the first draft of my WIP (I hit 50,000 words on it yesterday, so now I have a NaNo-length thing! I drafted it in about 2-3 months, though). It does have a working title, but on social media I’ve been referring to it as Bonkers Book. I reckon I have about 20-25k left before the first draft is finished.

2. Try not to freak out as Shadowplay reviews begin to trickle in, and also start ramping up marketing for its release in January. I’ll be working with the publicity people at Strange Chemistry to organise a blog tour. Perhaps write a couple of guest posts in advance, so I’m not absolutely overwhelmed closer to launch.

3. Send off an application to the Scottish Book Trust to be on their author database for Live Literature, to hopefully book more school visits. Nearly done!

So it’s not NaNoWriMo, but it’ll still be a productive month. Overall, I think NaNoWriMo is a great project for people who want to dip into writing. For me, however, the pace is not sustainable (I like to edit as I go, think and figure out a plot snarl rather than racing through it and then having to re-write it), and the stress on word count over anything else ends up kicking my anxiety into gear. I wrote 30k for NaNo last year, and I had to throw it out and start again. Twice. So I know enough about my working style by now to know that NaNoWriMo is not for me.

The community and support is great fun, and I plan to tap into that to help motivate me to finish my draft. I’ll go to some of the Aberdeen meets and maybe do word wars with people online.

What are your November writing goals?

NaNoWriMo – January Ruminations

Discussing NaNoWriMo in January–strange, I know!

I “failed” NaNo—only made it to 30,000 or 35,000 words before other real-life distractions barged in on my life. But, 6 weeks after the end of NaNo and I can still recognise the effect my demi-NaNo it had on me.

I don’t often suffer from the type of writer’s block where I can’t figure out what happens next. My main obstacle is the fear of starting and the fear of putting things down on the page. I used to dither quite a lot. I had a ritual I performed—first check Facebook and Twitter, then check the AbsoluteWrite forums, check my email, check Livejournal, and THEN I’d write. Obviously, if I only had a small bit of time to write, then this meant that many days, I never got around to actually getting words down on the damn page. It was a rare that I wrote more than 1000 words a day. I wrote my first novel in regular but small spurts of 400-800 words.

Enter NaNo.

I had to break that habit, and I had to break it fast. There was no time for pantsing around and checking my various feeds. Words went on the goddamn page, even if they were rubbish.

And that helped me so much as a writer, even if I wasn’t necessarily new to writing. It helped me get over the fear. Because, hey, I had a first draft, and despite all my worry and agony, it still wasn’t perfect. And so what?

While I still procrastinate a bit before writing—damn you, Twitter—I start writing a lot sooner, and now my writing sessions usually average at 800-1200 words at a time, which is a massive improvement. I’ve also worked on my books, planning, or research almost every single day since NaNo ended. Even if it was only for half an hour, I know how to make time for my writing. The few times I didn’t write or plan it felt completely wrong. Writing isn’t something I’ll be able to stop. I’ve had the disease for a long time, but now more symptoms are manifesting ;)

And this is the point of NaNo. Forces you to stop pantsing and actually writing, and to get you addicted so you keep writing in December, and January, and all the other months of the year.

NaNoWriMo: Not a “winner”

Alas, November 2011 is not the month I’ll write 50,000 words on a project. I made it a little over halfway, and I proved to myself that I could do it if I wanted to. But, unfortunately, I have to recognize that I have too many other things that require my attention for the remainder of this month. I have university assignments looming, a full-time job, and ideas for my main novels which are a lot closer to publishable standards are interrupting the ideas for the NaNoWriMo.

I was using NaNoWriMo as procrastination. I was stuck on the end of my newest Novel-in-Waiting (I heard that term on Twitter and I love it), but this morning I started working on it again and I’m no longer stuck. So I’m getting back to that one, and planning some edits on other work, and getting back into the essays I really should be further along into by now.

So now I’m a cheerleader. I’m not technically a “winner” but I am definitely not a “loser.” I made it to 30k, which is more than I’ve written in a month before, and the month’s not over yet. I like the basis of my project and I think I’ll be able to rewrite it into a pretty good book sometime in the future.

Maybe I’ll hit 50k next November. Or hell, maybe I’ll make 50k in December or January.