NaNoWriMo: Week Two

Did you miss the post for week one? So did I! But accountability isn’t just about making posts regularly, it’s about admitting when you missed a post and need to do another to make up for it. Like this one.

While technically we are stepping into week three now, I haven’t written my words yet for the day. I’m OK with that. Also, I need a few more minutes for my brain to warm up to the story and jump back in.

As of yesterday, I’m just past the 19k mark on the novel. That puts me slightly ahead of the average (where average is 50,000 words/30 day month equals about 1,666 words a day). I’m not on track to finish weeks or even days before the end of the month, but I also have a little wiggle room if I need it.

I agreed to do NaNoWriMo (agreed with myself, anyway) because I needed that kick in the seat to get writing again. It’s been a tough 12 months, much stress and interruption, and this is a great opportunity for me to write. That said, as soon as my word count hits 50,000, the pace is dropping. For a better insight than I could offer, I suggest reading Toby Buckell’s piece, “How Much Should You Write Every Day?“. Toby makes some great points, and I find myself realizing that I as NaNo.

You see, I could be further ahead in the novel if I wanted to be. My stopping just shy of 2k a day is a choice, not me running out of words or time. And I stop because I want to leave something for my brain to fester on over night, so that when I start writing the next day I have a starting point I know and a good 12-20 hours of mental mulling to carry it to the next milepost. 500 words a day seems a bit short, but it’s really not the number that matters I think. The point is that by writing less than you could each day, you leave enough to be able to write more the next day. And that’s how a first draft is born, no matter what the tabloids tell you. They’re messy and prone to being lopsided, but until you shape all of that wet clay you don’t have anything to chisel away at. (And yes, I know I just mixed two completely different disciplines there. Whatever.)

All right. My coffee’s getting cold, Bear McCreary is playing on the headphones, and my wife thinks all of this typing is me getting in my words for the day, not blogging. Time to get back to my novel.

And if you want to check in on my NaNo progress in real time, feel free to check in at https://nanowrimo.org/participants/mcummings

NaNoWriMo? NaNoWhyNot!

Despite the (almost) catchy title, this is something that I have been giving serious thought to.

For a few years, when November rolled around, I would trot out the coffee mugs and Moleskines, get my spreadsheets prepped and ready (or in later iterations, a new project in Scrivener), and settle down for the haul.

I won’t slow this narrative down with the details – you can learn about NaNoWriMo here if you aren’t already aware.

After a while, though, I started questioning my participation. I didn’t think I was getting anything out of it any more. I was, after all (or so I thought), already established in my writing routines. What need did I have for a gimicky, and grueling, month of writing?

But as with so many things in life, I have since learned to recognize my hubris. My writing, and my commitment to writing, aren’t as great as I used to believe they were. I, in fact, need the kick in the pants on occasion. And no matter what else may result from NaNoWriMo (and I don’t believe it will produce a great manuscript, at least not during the month of November), I do know that it will get me back into sitting down every day and writing.

And that’s something I actually want to do. I’ve done a lot of retrospectives the last few months. It makes sense, given everything that’s been going on. When it comes to writing, one of the things I’ve noticed is that the works I look back on most fondly are the ones I just had fun with. I’ve written (and tried to write) science fiction novels and fantasy epics, because these are how I entertain myself. But time and time again, when I look back at my past projects, the one project that sticks out in my mind as being the most fun I ever spent on a keyboard was when I wrote A Scent of Roses. That book, in a lot of ways, was a homage to every trashy paperback I read as a teen, every beat up cover I shelved working at the library in High School, every movie I watched late at night when no one could interrupt. It was fun.

I want to do that again. I think I had something good going when I went at it with the mindset of writing a bad B-movie. Write like Hammer Films is going to pick it up (hey, did you know they were still around?!?). But most of all, have fun writing.

Will I make it to 50k? Maybe. It’s been a while since I’ve had the energy or discipline to sit down and write any words on a given day, let alone the minimum average of 1,666 per day necessary to write 50k words in 30 days. But, I’m going to try. I’ve already prepped my family, repeatedly reminding them that November is approaching, that I’m going to be spending a lot of it writing. Most of them just wave a hand at me, but I understand, they’re distracted with Inktober.

In what makes a brave departure for me, I’ve also started on an outline. Or, rather, a week ago I started throwing all of my thoughts down in a doc. Over the next two weeks I want to flesh those ideas out a little more, bullet point them, and then do that dastardly thing where I arrange them so they almost make sense. And this, I think, I will call an outline. Or a notion.

I always hate making announcements on this blog, namely because I feel extra guilty if I fall short of achieving them. And yet, here I go. Watch this space – November will be peppered with weekly updates on my NaNoWriMo progress. Hopefully not more than that unless my writing is going especially well, because more than that means I’m blogging more than writing fiction, and that’s not productive. And if you are participating, feel free to buddy me. After some recent updates to their site, it looks like parts of my profile have vanished (including everyone I was a buddy with previously).

For me, it’s time to get ready for work before I spend the weekend doing Dad things – and outlining my November novel.

Of words and things

It’s early morning, and I didn’t get a lot of sleep. The resulting blog post could end up being slightly incoherent.

Last week, I finished the first draft of The Mermaid’s Tears. Not tooting any horns – it’s a hot mess, and I’m too burned out from writing it to want to fix it right now. But, it has a beginning, a muddle, and an ending, and there is at least some sense of closure to a story line buried in there somewhere. Pitmad is next week, and that’s pretty tempting despite the mess that is the novel as it stands (I mean, that’s what editing is for, right? Right?)

Meanwhile, the mental butter mill continues to churn on the next novel. As is the course of the things, I find myself muddling back and forth on outlining vs pantsing. Instincts of course say I should take the time to¬† outline the next book, find the direction it’s going to take, get a roadmap for speedy writing. The side that usually wins, though – and it’s not helped by a current reread of King’s On Writing, says outlining is for fools. What I need to do, what I really, really need to do, is just sit butt in chair and start getting those words out. “You know what the story is [vaguely] about,” that voice chides, “and you know where it ends [ish]. What’s the problem?”

And that’s the problem. I’m a glutton for diving right in. It’s usually a mess and I hate myself for doing it, but it’s so much fun along the way.

OK, coffee time. That next book isn’t writing itself.