Monday, December 06, 2010

Nanowrimo redux

This year when I mentioned to Ed and the boy that I was thinking of doing NaNoWriMo, they said "see you in a month!" and "what do you think you'll get out of doing that again?" I guess they're annoyed with me because I haven't finished rewriting Chapter 1 of last year's novel, and I need to pump up the tension at the climax, so I haven't sent it out yet.

Anyway, I ignored them, and decided to do it anyway. I've been writing a lot of short stories lately, and I wanted to do something longer.

I have lots of novel ideas, but nothing was really fully baked. The only idea I had that came with a plot was "Pampelmouse". Unfortunately, since most of the characters are parrots, they have some limited communication skills, and their POV is limited, and I thought it was outside my current skillset.

I don't know at what point it would have been within my skillset, but whatever.

I started anyway. Sometime in October, I outlined (eight words each probably) the first 18 of my 30-chapter novel. And I started typing at midnight on November 1, getting 700 words before I went to bed.

For 2009, my strategy had been to write 500 words per day Monday to Friday, and 5000 words each of Saturday and Sunday. I also wrote my normal page-a-day Monday to Friday (I gave myself Saturday and Sunday off) on I can't remember what, the novel I was working on last year (that's grim that I can't remember, I'm pretty sure it wasn't St. Praxis). November started on a Saturday last year, and this meant that I had a good headstart.

This year, if I had followed the same strategy, I would have been more than 5000 words behind on Friday. I don't know if I could have recovered. So, this year I set a quota of 1000 words per weekday, 3500 Saturday, and 3500 Sunday, which came out to the same amount, and had me only 3335 words behind Saturday morning, meaning I could look caught up Sunday. I also used my page-a-day amount as part of my wordcount. Each morning I would write, longhand, my usual 250-300 words just after I got up, and then in the evening, I would type those into the manuscript and finish the 1000 words, leaving myself a note about what I was going to write about the next day on a sheet of paper. Then, after midnight, I would enter my wordcount (this is where that first 700 words after midnight on Nov 1 became important, because I was always entering the words at the start of the day rather than the end, so I could always feel my status (I was always behind the first two weeks, except for about two days) was overly negative, and I wasn't really doing that bad. It allowed me to keep motivated by pretending I had words in the bank.

This clearly didn't work too badly. I got to 50,000 words on November 28, though I didn't tally my wordcount on the NaNoWriMo website and collect my winnings until I'd written "The End" the next day.

The real crisis came on November 21, when I got to the end of my 18-of-30 chapters outline. I knew how the story was supposed to end, but I was like 17,000 words from there, and I had nothing to write about.

What did I do? Um, I kept writing anyway. I fell back on my old standby, I had my characters eat. (I have this rule that I have to reflect on any scene where my characters are eating more critically than other scenes, because I tend to write pointless eating scenes, but now I think I know why.) While two of my characters were eating, a third character walked in, carrying a prop, and suddenly, I had the missing 11 chapters, and I could finish the book. That was the turning point.

Now I have a list of "next tasks", and when I've got a little bit of distance, I've got an exciting new manuscript to read! And I think it doesn't have all the usual problems my other manuscripts have. If I recall correctly, the first chapter is pretty good.

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