Sunday, November 10, 2013

My Adventures in NaNoWriMo-Land

This year is my 5th year doing NaNoWriMo, and I hate to brag, but I have yet to not hit the goal. I got close one year, but it has not always been an easy journey. Since I don't really go into a whole lot of detailed ME stuff here, I thought it might be a good idea to actually write my NaNo stories down... before I forget them... and so you can see my journey. I'll be breaking this down by year, by what project I did, how I approached it, and other fun stuff.

2009- Empeddigo- Finished November 15

I first heard about NaNoWriMo in mid-September, and it intrigued me so much that I decided to take it on in about 6 weeks. Up until then, I had always been a pantser, not plotting anything, and finishing very few of my projects. My plots and characters wandered, and I was afraid that would get in the way of my actually meeting the lofty goal NaNo set. I honestly had no idea what 50,000 words looked like, but I wanted to do it. But what to write? I went looking for an idea (this is before my new method of finding inspiration detailed here- URL).

I poked around in the dictionary looking for a word that got my attention. No kidding-- this is exactly what I did. I opened to a random page, looked around, and if I didn't find anything that I liked, I tried another random page. Eventually I landed on the page holding the word impetigo, a skin condition, and I got the idea for a disease. I also decided I wanted to do a story with both science fiction and fantasy elements, and I went from there.
I finished my outline about a week before November actually started (yes, it took almost 5 weeks) but I had a whole story outlined chapter by chapter, and I had an ending in mind. Road map completed, I attacked, using some vacation time I had no other use for to get me the entire first week of November to myself. being single and living alone made for ideal conditions-- for me, anyway.

Well, like I said, I really had no idea how many words 50K really was, how fast I wrote, or anything like that. I just lacked the experience talking to other writers could bring me. Well, it turns out I'm a really fast writer... most of the time. I passed the 50K mark and actually wrote the last line of Empeddigo on November 15th. On Day 1, I wrote over 10,000 words, in fact. When I have TIME, I can WRITE! And whup things out, really. This may sound like I'm tooting my own horn, and I kind of am, but these are just the facts. Of those 15 days between writing the first word and writing the last word, I actually only wrote on 9 of those days. So... yeah, I wrote Empeddigo in 6 days. I was reclusive, taking every spare minute I could to write, eating cold food or leftovers and writing while it was in the microwave. I basically turned off life as much as I could because I was, well, single and living alone.

2010- Criminal from Birth- Finished November 26th or so (this is the year I'm not sure about when I finished, but it was close, and I barely made 50k)

Honestly, I don't remember much about this particular NaNo, I guess because it wasn't all that eventful. This is the year I started seeing the Nashville region people more, attending a couple write-ins when I could (I lived an hour away from Nashville, and a 2-hour round trip just felt like wasted writing time to me, so I didn't go up much), and the story gave me lots of trouble.

What's bad is that I remember more about my trials outlining this particular project than I do writing it. I think it's most because during this fall and winter, I was going through a really difficult time in a bad relationship and blah blah blah. Bad things happened, I made some bad decisions, and I'm past it now.

It occurred to me around March that I didn't need to wait until summer or fall to start planning for NaNo. I could outline as much as I wanted as early as I wanted, so I actually started outlining a project. And it got stuck and I couldn't get out. I tried another, and it just wouldn't work like I wanted. I admit, after a few unsuccessful attempts at planning some NaNo projects, I gave up. Time got away.

About 6 weeks before NaNo, getting into what I like to think of as crunch time, something sparked in me, and I whipped out the outline for Criminal from Birth, again finishing it mere days before NaNo began. I guess that's just how I function: on a deadline.

I fought with that novel, I'll tell you that. If you've ever seen the movie Basic, with John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson, the format is fairly similar for Criminal from Birth. You keep hearing elements of the same story over and over, but it's never the same, and we're trying to sort out the truth. That wasn't easy to write.

But it's in its 3rd draft now (finally) and I really hope to get it out in the world sometime soon!

2011- The Extra Son- Finished November 20

This was actually my most frustrating NaNo. Yes, it was harder than 2010, when I almost didn't finish, but for different reasons. It was just harder. 2010 was more frustrating. I ran into the same outlining problem, trying to get started earlier, but it didn't work. Again. In fact... I didn't even finish the outline for the project I was going to write. I did, however, know that I had mor than 50k words worth of material to write, so it didn't bother me that I didn't finish the outline.

When NaNo itself came around, I had just started a new job with a new company and couldn't get my usual first week of November off for vacation since I was just out of training. So that was obstacle one. Obstacle two was that I had also just started taking online courses to get my MBA (don't get me started on this dumb process), and I was starting my first class during the first week of November. I had to answer four essay questions A WEEK for this dumb course, each of at least 1,000 words. So that's about 4,000 words a week that were not going toward NaNo, and that was time taken away from what was really important to me. It took some serious time management. I did my schoolwork as quickly and as well as I could Monday and Tuesday (and Wednesday if I wasn't finished yet) and then had Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday to work on NaNo. But I was doing so much writing that it was extremely annoying to have to write something other than my project. But since I was paying to take these courses (and by I, I mean the company I was working for), they had to come first. Because NaNo is free.

So I finished on 11/20/11, which I believe was the Evening of Scribbling Recklessly (ESR) in Nashville. It's a big potluck writing party raffle they have every year, where a bungh of spend about 6 hours or so just going crazy writing, eating, and all that. But being able to concentrate put me over the goal.

I never did finish the outline or that novel, though. Except that now, I've pulled it back out, completely restructured it, and will hopefully be workshopping it with The Roundtable Podcast sometime in the future. I'm sure that if/when that happens, I'll be talking about it like crazy.

2012- The Rising Fog- Blood of Princes, Book One- Finished November 6

This was, by far, the easiest NaNo I have ever undertaken. I mean, look at what date I hit 50k. But that's partly because I had my usual NaNo vacation and I was working on a project that I had been developing for years with my best friend and co-author, Erin M. Pruett. In fact, I had actually written a version of this book before, but it underwent serious retooling, being built from bottom-up again, and it needed to be completely rewritten. The original draft couldn't be fixed. Needless to say, my experience with the world and story, and the time I had to work on it, made this a breeze. I crossed 50k on day 6.

This is the year I did a double-NaNo... crossing the 100k mark during that month, too. By November 30, I had over 110k words. I finished the book itself in February (I think) and it's about 152k total and needs some editing, of course. This is the first book of a trilogy we have been working for 5 years now to write, but it's an epic fantasy, so it needs the development and time, and since I'm working on it with someone else (I'm doing the writing, but we brainstorm and outline together) I can't just forge ahead myself and work on it all the time. But we had the outline finished long before NaNo started, and I was revved up and ready to scream out of the starting gate when November 1 came.

Oh yeah, another reason I finished 50k so quickly is because I was packing to move (November 30 was the date I actually had to leave my apartment) and Erin was due to pop out baby #2 at any time. (Baby came Dec 8). But yeah, I had other things to do, and I needed to be done with writing.

2013- In the Name of Chaos- Blood of Princes, Book Two

I don't even remember what day Erin and I finished the outline for this book. I could look it up, because I keep track of these things, and I may look it up later just to see. Suffice it to say, it's been finished for months, and I am again ready to speed through 50k words again. My life has changed significantly since last NaNo, though, so we'll see what not living alone does to my NaNoing. I do get some time off work this NaNo. I have through November 6 off from work if I want it, but we'll see if Book Two comes as easy as Book One did. If so, maybe I can save some vacation time for next year. Wish me luck!