NaNoWriMo Begins Sunday….But Not For Me

Few things are as divisive among writers as the mere concept of NaNoWriMo. You either embrace it wholeheartedly as a fresh kick to your muse, or you think it’s an abysmal experiment for people who aren’t “real” writers. I have always been very pro-NaNo, because I think it’s a good ceremonial event and rite of passage.

A lot of anti-NaNo people take it a bit too literally, as if us pro-NaNos think we can only write a novel during November. Or that we only consider ourselves “writers” in November, then forgo writing the rest of the year. Are people who run marathons only capable of running 26 miles the day of the event? Of course not. They train for months. They run a lot of marathons in their own time, with only themselves to notice. But certainly doing it in an official, public way makes the accomplishment all the more real. And accomplishment aside, isn’t it fun to cross the finish line with other people too? Likewise, you don’t have to participate in a public event to be considered a real writer/marathon runner either. 26 miles, or 50k words, is an accomplishment regardless.

But I will be sitting NaNo out this year, because it simply doesn’t jive with 2015’s interests. I do have my next book in mind. I have it fully outlined. I have some early drafts of it, which I may or may not pull from. But 2015 needs to be the year I finish Paradisa, and I am fully invested in getting it ready for a copyeditor by the new year. Sure, it probably won’t be ready to query until May, but at least the meat of it can be finished by January. At least most of 2016’s work will be proofing, polishing, query-writing, and agent researching.

As for the next book? I’ll probably write the first draft in January-March. I’m not going to kill myself trying to do it all in one month, as I have some other endeavors to focus on. And with any luck, this one will reach the finish line a little faster than Paradisa, as it’s a memoir and I can’t change the plot too much ;)

I probably will return to NaNo next year, as I already have my next NaNo idea in mind. For the rest of you – good luck, stay strong, and reach whatever goal you’ve set for yourself!

A Slow Start To NaNoWriMo

The bad news? I only wrote about 1700 words this weekend. Cheers to a weak, hobbling start to NaNoWriMo, ha! But the good news? I knew I’d have some sick days, so it’s not like this puts me too behind.

However, starting this novel for real gave me a…perspective on how undercooked the concept is. I must have rewritten the first paragraph six times. And not just futzing with the wording, but futzing with the location, the atmosphere. At first I opened with my character naked on the floor of her childhood bedroom. Then I just put her in the bed, dressed, in her childhood bedroom.

Then I put her on the moon, and went from there.

It’s all so haphazard right now. So many sidebars and ramblings because that’s the sort of book this is, and I don’t have a great grasp on how much my protagonist remembers about before. It’s all sort of a mess, and I’m not fond of how I achieved the narrative beats in Chapter One but…I think the intro to this book was one of the hardest parts and I’ve crossed a hump. My fingers feel much more comfortable now that I’m in Chapter Two and the book’s path is clearer.

The hard part about this book is knowing that the dust hasn’t settled in my mind yet. Knowing that I’m still not sure what I want it to BE and how I want my character to discover it. It results in a lot of backspacing, not because I’m doubting myself or editing but because I’m constantly having better ideas that merit massive changes. I’ve told you before that my stories have to cook a long time in my head before I’m ready to write them, and this has not cooked long enough. Only last week did I make the eleventh hour choice to set most of the story in a desert instead of a Portal-esque puzzle lab, which massively changes how it all comes across.

So. Difficult new challenges, that’s for sure. Not sure if I’m going to win NaNo this year with this type of book on my plate, but we’ll see. I found that once I got going with it, the word count really poured out of me. It’s just finding the path that’s hard.

On the positive note, I made a book cover for it which I’m pretty proud of. I’ve only got the blurry thumbnail below, but I’ll try to upload a hi-res version later. I also changed the title from Wake to Figments, as I wanted the title it to be….less spoilery :P

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Being Realistic About Tackling NaNoWriMo

I have spent the better part of six days in sick girl limbo. Not sick like…flu sick. Just sick with sinuses, lethargia, headaches, and a lack of coffee because my latte-making SO didn’t live with me for a few of those days. With the house to myself for a while, you’d think I’d get a lot done. But you don’t want to do much when a nail’s driving through your eyeball for two straight days, or when you just want to sleep.

I have chronic sinus issues, and the headaches are getting more difficult to deal with. Used to be, I could take two ibuprofen and knock it out. Now it takes about a day and a half and ~8 ibuprofen to kill the headache, and sometimes it’ll still come back the next day. As anyone who’s had a sinus headache knows, it’s not just about the pain. It makes you dizzy, nauseus, loopy. Like you can’t focus on anything and that you just want to sleep.

So, while I went home early on Friday and had a mostly empty weekend, I still barely sewed at all. And because I’m so behind on my cosplay and so swallowed by it, I definitely haven’t looked at my writing!

What does this have to do with the title – planning for NaNoWriMo? Because I know myself. I know my health issues. I know that at least 3-4 days a month are devoted to me clutching my skull and whimpering about how miserable I feel. And I know that on those days, I won’t be writing.

I also know that Thanksgiving is in November. And AtomaCon, which will eat three straight days from November 14-16. Another Saturday will probably be devoted to PlanitCon in Myrtle Beach. These are also days that I won’t be writing. I just know that I won’t. I’ve done this a couple of years now and I know that AtomaCon is WAY too busy to even look at my laptop, and sickly days are really hard to fight through.

I aim to write about 70,000 words (or a finished book – whatever comes first) this month. And I won’t be doing it in thirty days. I’ll probably be doing it in about 21 days, if I’m realistic about my busy schedule and my health.

So that means on the days I do write, I need to write more. I need to strive for about 3300 words a day instead of 2300 if I’m going to really finish in November.

Do you have your own personal minimum word count? Are there days you know that you won’t write in November, or are you determined to write EVERY day? Or are you just winging it, and what happens happens?

Throwback Thursday #11: NaNoWriMo

This will be a slightly different version of Throwback Thursday, because I’m tackling multiple past/current projects!

My NaNoWriMo timeline, under the name musemorgan (which you can become writing buddies with if you want!) goes as follows…

2010: My very first NaNo. I was a sophomore in college, taking Organic Chemistry and Calculus II at the same time, and it was probably the worst time I ever could have competed in NaNo, lol. But I ached to rekindle my writing skills, especially because I was also attending Bret Lott’s creative writing class that semester. I jumped in on November 1st with nothing except a few characters and a loose concept. It was the first iteration of Paradisa, back then called Crusaders. I failed the challenge with only 32,000 words, most of which was outline. Because as I realized, I can’t work without an outline. Only about three chapters of actual prose was written, and barely any of it became part of Paradisa.

2011: Skipped NaNo. I was in Physical Chemistry and Instrumental Analysis. My junior year was hell.

2012: Senior year gave me a lot of free time, so I tried my hand at NaNo again. This time I did have an outline, but I also had the benefit of living my story. The Shadow of Saturn was a memoir about my internship at NASA, because what happened to me at NASA was often so serendipitous that it all could have been scripted. A lot of natural parallels between people, etc. This was the first year I won NaNo, just barely eking out 50,000 words. If you’re wondering what happened to that story, well – I never finished it. I got about 10 chapters into a rewrite, and nailed out a final, full outline, but it is a massive story. If I ever finished it, it would probably be 150,000 words. But I hope to finish it someday, and perhaps self publish.

2013: This year, I wanted to actually finish a novel. Because I knew that if I half-finished one, like in 2012, it would sit in my drawer forever. I outlined Paradisa and set a goal of 100,000 words. Unfortunately, November is INSANELY busy for me, with AtomaCon, Thanksgiving, and a week-long business trip I took in 2013. I did not make my 100,000 word goal, but I still topped out at 65,000 words. I took December off and finished the first draft of Paradisa in January 2014.

I’m still working on Paradisa, as you all know, but I’ve decided to throw myself into something new this November. I’ve uploaded the basic details of Wake, which I’m in the outline stage for.  I’m setting my goal word count at 70,000 words, because I think that’s what it will take to finish this novel. It’s going to be a short, simple book. Or it might not be, in which this post will probably show up as a Throwback Thursday next year :P

Pre-Nano Month Begins!

It’s here, folks. October. The month where Fall truly begins, the month of cosplay and Halloween, the month of great weather and food that is unnecessarily flavored with pumpkin spice. For the past few years, October has also represented the month where I plan my next NaNoWriMo novel.

Let’s talk about NaNoWriMo itself for a sec- why do I bother? Any good writer should be able to pump out a novel any month they choose, right? And yeah, we know NaNo is full of inexperienced hacks who think a high word count = a novel they can send to an agent on December 1st. Why would any legitimate writer want to associate themself with an amateur hour like NaNo?

Personally, I enjoy participating in a well-known, organized, public challenge. Think of it this way – a common goal for many people is to run a marathon. In order to achieve it, you have to slowly work yourself up to running 26.22 miles, which means you probably have to run a marathon on a treadmill or around your neighborhood before you can compete in an official one. Or at least, you have to know you can get really close. “I know I can run 10 miles, so I can probably run a marathon” won’t cut it.

So if you run almost 26 miles around the block, why aren’t you satisfied? Why does it not feel official? You’ve accomplished it right? You ran the length of a marathon. But that’s not the important part. The important part is being there alongside everyone else. Waking up early to get to the start line, cheering as everyone runs across the start together, pushing it out for 26.22 miles where everyone can see you, and then hearing the cheers when you cross the finish line. Having a physical, solid, official finish line to cross. That’s when you feel you can tick that box on your bucket list.

Now, it’s a little different with writing novels. If you complete a novel during any time of the year, you still feel pretty accomplished. But ideally, it takes me about a year to write a novel, edit it, and get it potentially publishable. Why not start that year every November? Because that’s what NaNo really is for me – a start on a new project. A start that I cannot delay or avoid. November 1st is going to come and I can either hop on the bandwagon and get going, or I can keep pushing it off until I’m done with Paradisa, which will be at least another six months.

I also like to challenge myself a little bit farther every year. My first NaNo was in 2010, when I was in the midst of Organic Chemistry and Calculus II. I got to 35,000 words and lost. My first successful NaNo was in 2012, when I just eked past 50,000 words. Last year, I resolved to write 100,000 words – actually completing a novel instead of half a novel. I believe I got to 70,000, which was still pretty impressive. This year, I think my goal is going to be 75,000, which should be the completed version of the novel I’m outlining. I’m a little afraid of how short this story might turn out, but this might also be one that I consider self-publishing. So word count may not be as crucial.

I also like the prizes NaNo offers. And NaNo’s word count and statistics software are top-notch. I really wish it was available all year. Tracking words in a spreadsheet myself just isn’t the same.

Plus, I don’t think there’s shame in needing a little bit of peer pressure to get the gears turning. You certainly shouldn’t pump out 50,000 every November and then never look at them again, or abandon being a writer for the other 11 months. Ultimately, we should write because we love it, and that’s why we’re participating in NaNo in the first place. But I dunno…I find it very fun. I don’t participate in the write-ins or the forums, but I keep tabs on my friends who are doing it. H.K. Rowe and I have NaNo’d together for many years. It’s sort of tradition at this point.

But, as you all know, I’m a plotter. So October is training month for me. It’s the month where I brainstorm and throw down all my thoughts into a legal pad and try to make sense of it. That way, on November 1st, I’m ready for the marathon. Lehgo!