I’ve lived in Melbourne’s Northern suburbs (Melbourne, Australia) for over 25 years. In a former life I did things like manage law libraries, maintain a ceramic art practice, study art curatorship part-time, feed an intense novel-reading habit, cycle everywhere, and dance Argentine tango three to four nights a week. Then I had a baby. Now most of my time is devoted to keeping one step ahead of the-pre-schooler-who-never-sleeps – and writing historical romance!
Day 23 of my debut NaNoWriMo, and for the last five days, I’ve stalled. The little word-count-stat-thingy in Scrivener is telling me that if I want to reach 50,000 words by 30 November, I will need to write a whopping 2,750 words a day. The first 17 days of November showed me that when pressed, I can type around 1,400 words of ‘stuff’ in an hour. Theoretically, if I set aside two hours a day for the next week, victory could be mine (does quick analysis of non-negotiable commitments in the upcoming week…)
Ok. Things are not looking good. In order to win NaNoWriMo 2013, I would have to sacrifice something, and the only real candidate appears to be Sleep. Unfortunately, I am Extremely Partial to Sleep.
Is NaNoWriMo worth it?
I will not lie. NaNoWriMo has been instructive thus far. After almost three weeks of meeting a daily 1,667 word target on the one project, I have a clearer idea of the things that sabotage my first-draft process, and I’ve taken a stab at developing strategies to get around said obstacles.
The bad guys, in order of increasing challenge, are:
1) The Internal Editor. I admit it. I’m a fiddler. I get a thrill when I write a nicely turned phrase, I enjoy a spot of considered pacing, and I like things to flow in a way that seems logical. But do I REALLY need to do all the tinkering I do along the way? Maybe. To an Extent.
The compromise I’ve made with myself during NaNo, is to write furiously each day, without editing. Then—at the start of the next days writing—I allow myself a brief time to reorganise the previous day’s writing into broad categories of ‘gobbledygook’, ‘potentially-useful-but-I-have-no-idea-where-it goes’, and ‘clearly-belongs-to-the-story-arc-as-currently-stands’. I label my diced up files, and that’s as far as it goes. I’m not allowed to delete anything, and I’m not allowed to mess with sentences. I am, however, allowed to add in thoughts, as they occur to me, about how each excerpt might be developed in a broad structural sense. The whole process takes ten to fifteen minutes, and is a great warm up for the next writing sprint.
One of the nice features of Scrivener is that each labeled block of writing can can be easily shuffled around to give a sense of structure to the larger work
2) Research Holes. A simple example: I’m writing along merrily, and then it suddenly transpires that my characters need to travel somewhere, and I decide that they are going to catch a hansom cab, and then I think – hang on, given their social status, would they have really caught a hansom, or would they have traveled by some other means? etc, etc, etc. A more complex example: the realisation that my entire plot hinges on possibly erroneous assumptions about 1890s English probate laws and processes. o_O
There are clearly degrees here. The trick is being honest about the extent to which not-knowing the missing information will send my story rocketing down a rabbit hole. At the start of NaNo, I created a ‘research questions’ file. Each time a seemingly urgent research question has reared it’s head, I’ve jotted it down in ‘research questions’, and then moved on, fudging the details. Surprise (well, no surprise), most of my research questions don’t need to be resolved in order for me to keep the story moving along
3) Goal/Motivation/Conflict. This is the bottom line. As my story as stands, it’s a dead duck. My heroine and hero appear to be completely mismatched in the Goal/Motivation/Conflict arena. I could bust-a-gut to push through this by just churning out words, but I’m pretty sure that it would be more constructive for me to use my time to do some focused brainstorming instead—without a wordcount goal clouding matters.
So, that’s a wrap.
I’ve given up on winning NaNoWriMo 2013, but I still have a writing goal for 30 November—
Keep going in the best way I know how.