Finishing My 2013 NaNovel

I might have written my full 50,000 words last month for NaNoWriMo to earn victory, but you might recall that I was not at the end of the plot yet, and I wasn’t even certain what was going to happen in the book. Well, I entered a pact with another author to finish the actual draft by Friday the 20th of December. He got his finished by the 17th, but I managed to just skid my way to a stopping point tonight with a couple of hours to spare! Whew!

I don’t particularly like these last 10,000 words I wrote just to get to an ending. I do, however, like my final sentence. I listed my NaNoWriMo genre as “Pre-apocalyptic Philosophy”, and my final sentence is suitably so:

And they all lived happily ever after, for at least one day more.

My next goal: Read the entire draft of my Camp NaNo novel from this past summer by the end of next week. Hopefully it will not be as rough as I remember…

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Let the Sunshine In!

Recently, I was asked, “Did you have a bad winter last year?” And my response was a resounding “Yes!” And they responded with, “Oh? Did you get a lot of snow?” And I realized they meant “bad weather”, not the soul-sucking constant darkness that settles over the land for several months. I know I’ve got it easy — there are far northerly climes which barely see sun at all in the winter. But I have still found it quite difficult to get through the winter. Until now.

Last month, I attended a talk where the speaker described the cycle of melatonin and serotonin that regulates your sleep schedule and affects your mood, and also how the light and darkness affect that cycle. He gave specific tips for coping with these winters. I’ve been taking Vitamin D supplements every morning, and I drink a half cup of warm milk shortly before bed time to make sure I have the building blocks needed for serotonin and melanin in the first place. I have tried to exercise every day. That is a definite mood-booster, but you have to be in a good enough mood to start with, or you end up just sitting on the couch under a blanket instead of mustering the energy to exercise. I’ve been muddling through every day, but I could feel myself slipping farther and farther into a winter darkness funk. Even going outside in the sunshine didn’t help much — it’s so low in the sky and covered with clouds that it is hard to get a lot of light.

Yesterday, things changed. I finally got my full-spectrum light bulb in the mail, and that has made a noticeable difference! Half an hour in front of the light, and I feel like I have energy again. It’s not like I’m over-the-top happy; I’m just not sad and run-down. I think I’m going to make it through this winter feeling normal, which is a drastic change from last winter! The bulb I went with was this one, but there are plenty of bulbs and lamps to choose from if you need just a little something extra to get through the winter. It’s super-bright and very white. I’m not sure how I’ll end up in front of it for half an hour every morning while getting ready for work, but if it makes such a difference, then it’s worth starting my day a little later. It’s a small price to pay for being normal again.

 

Post-NaNo Blues

The crazy month of November is over, and like all those other folks who won NaNoWriMo, I’m left feeling a little lost at sea now. I wasn’t at the end of my plot when the 50,000 words came and went. For a while, I tried to finish my novel by not writing, but that didn’t seem to be working, so instead I have begun writing every night again. It feels best when I get more than the magical 1667 words, but I’m happy with anything over 600. Since I don’t care about word count and only about plot progression, I have cut the conversations (a.k.a. philosophical rants) very short and put in things like ‘They talk for a while, then they arrive at their destination.’  I figure I have enough philosophical ranting to cut from other sections to fill into these parts later. This has made the plot move more swiftly, too, since I’m just writing the bare bones of it. I still don’t know how it is going to end, and I know for sure that there will be room for a sequel, but I can see things moving together towards a common point, perhaps with a climax as soon as tomorrow! I really don’t know what I’ll do when I actually finish the plot and decide to start editing one of these novels.

In other news, I dropped my laptop really hard last night and completely shattered my wifi dongle. As I stood over the shards of plastic surrounding my computer, I frantically tried to remember the last time I backed up my novel, and panicked a bit when I realized it was 30,000 words ago. But everything turned out fine (ish). I bought a new wifi dongle tonight, so I’m back online. The laptop has been no more flaky than usual, and I did immediately backup my novel as soon as possible. But it served as an object reminder to backup more frequently!

 

Winning!

2013-Winner-Facebook-Cover

I hit 50,000 words on my NaNo novel on 22 November, which felt totally awesome! Then I couldn’t bring myself to even touch my computer for several days. I did manage to write another 2K this weekend, even though we’ve been very busy this Thanksgiving weekend with friends. I said that I was going to write 60K for NaNo, but after hitting 50K and getting the “WINNER!” banner on my screen, it was very hard to motivate myself for the other 10K. So I am only going to win NaNo this year, without overachieving. This doesn’t finish my draft, however; I probably need another 25-35K to get to a stopping point. I have entered a pact to finish the draft by December 20, which is fortunately a bit slower than the punishing NaNo speed. And I’ve entered another pact to actually edit and publish a novel by the end of June!

I thought that this time through NaNo was much easier than in July, when I was hampered by a fear of not finishing. This time, I knew I could get to 50K, and that freed me to write much more quickly than last time so that NaNo didn’t suck up the entire month the way it did this summer. (I didn’t have tons of spare time, but some.) I also discovered that I really enjoyed the meetups. I didn’t think I’d get anything done in a crowded coffee shop, but somehow sprinting with all those other people at the same time was quite productive. I enjoyed meeting others on the same grand adventure into writing as me, and I look forward to trying to keep in touch over the next few (editing) months. To others who met their goals: congratulations! And to everyone who wrote this November, congratulations, and let’s keep writing!

Quick NaNo Update

This week has been okay for writing. I wrote a decent amount every night except Tuesday, when I just didn’t feel motivated (and I also discovered “What does the Fox Say” on YouTube) so I opted out at a mere 1000 words. My sprinting technique that I outlined last post is working well for me, even if I didn’t have a 10K day this weekend. My back is no longer sore, though, so maybe this coming weekend I will have a super marathon day. Since I hit 30K last night, a 10K day this weekend would put me really close to the finish, word-count-wise. Story-wise, I’m having a harder time. It still feels like nothing is happening, probably because it isn’t. (In my last sprint, my character went to the park and read a book. *Yawn*) I’m trying to focus now on just writing something exciting to happen next, even if I’m not clear on how it fits with what I have so far. It has to be better than nothing happening!

How to Write a Novel, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love My Timer

This post could also be titled How to Do Anything Big, Scary, and Intimidating. You see, I had a great day of writing yesterday, over 5000 words, without really trying too hard, and I think I have figured out the method of novel-writing that works best for me. It’s something I should have realized long ago, because I’ve advocated this method for doing all sorts of big, scary things like dissertations, cleaning out the closet, planning a wedding, starting an exercise program, or anything that’s so large it can’t possibly be done. Are you ready to learn the secret that has turned novel-writing into something fast, easy, and enjoyable? Here it is:

1. Plan for a few minutes, somewhere between 5-15. Think about your next scene and what really needs to happen in it. Do you need to describe a character? Then think about what the bits are that need to be described. Is it a conversation in which the characters make some realization? Plan out the general flow of the dialog and how you’ll reveal the conclusion. Perhaps you just need some action — what is that action going to be? Just plan out the one very next thing you need to write about. If you can’t quite see the next scene, but you see the one after that, then go for the later one and come back to fill in the gap the next time around. You will find a way to bridge the gap. (If you’re one of those folks who plan your novel ahead of time, you might not need very much of this planning time, but you still need some mental preparation to remember what should happen in the scene.)

2. Set a timer for 15 minutes.  Then write as quickly as you possibly can for that 15 minutes. If there is someone else there also writing, compete to see who can get the most words down in that time. If you’re alone, try to break your own record for speed. You know what needs to be in the scene from your planning, so now you just have to get it down on paper as quickly as possible.

3. When the timer goes off, finish your thought. If you have a significant portion of the scene left to write, you can do another timed 15 minutes immediately, but I usually need a little more planning time before I’m ready for the next bit.

4. Set the timer for 15 minutes and do something else — anything else. Make and drink some hot chocolate, play a video game, or read a book. As long as you are taking a break from writing and planning. You might find your mind wandering back to your novel during your break. That’s okay; creativity works best when you are relaxed. But don’t try to force it during your break time. That’s what the planning time is for! When the timer goes off, stop your break and repeat these steps until you’ve painlessly written your words for the day.

I went to three in-person writing meets so far, and all of them have featured a variation on this technique. We chat and socialize for a little while, then we get a warning that a sprint is coming up in5-10 minutes while everyone starts to prepare. Then we have a 15 minute sprint where we race to write, and at the end we compare word counts and chat and drink coffee and relax again. It has been super-effective to my productivity; I managed 4000 words in four hours at a coffee shop yesterday, and that time was spent mostly chatting and not writing. My personal 15-minute record to beat: 898 words, which I hardly thought would be possible in just 15 minutes!

I went to bed Friday night hating my novel because it was slow and dragging, but by the end of yesterday, I loved it again because the planning, sprinting, relaxing technique helped me see how to get the plot moving again. This renewed excitement has led me to want to attempt the ultimate test of this technique today. I have always considered a 10,000-word day to be something of myth and legend, something not attainable by us mere mortals but only the highest echelons of writers. Today, I am going for it! Today, I attempt the impossible! 10K or bust!

(Edit: I cannot claim credit for the 15-minutes-at-a-time method of working; that’s something I learned from FlyLady a dozen years ago.)

NaNoWriMo 2013: End of Week 1

I finished week 1 strong, with 14041 words. I wrote 2000 words every day except Wednesday, when I just didn’t have it in me, and I managed a meager 960. Fortunately, I made up for it yesterday! This time through has been much easier than the summer novel; I’ve spent only 1-2 hours a night on writing. I plan to spend tomorrow doing a writing marathon, with a meetup in the morning at a local coffee shop, and then some time spent writing in the afternoon as well. I don’t have any specific plans for a word count goal, but my minimum is 2000.

As far as the story is going, I think I have a good start. I like my characters and some of the themes I am currently exploring. I do not feel as if I am 25% of the way through the story, though. Because I am plotting this novel as I write it, with just a vague idea of where I’m starting and ending, it is a little hard to tell exactly what the plot is going to be and how far along in it I am. I will say that it seems to be moving very slowly, and I look forward to something happening really soon!!

Finally, for those of you Dear Readers who are not as familiar with National Novel Writing Month, I would like to tell you a little more about the non-profit organization which sponsors it every year. In addition to the online and in-person resources for aspiring writers every November, they also have a Young Writer’s Program, in which they encourage children to write. They have quite a broad scope, as they say on their website; they “bring free creative writing programs to more than 500,000 kids and adults in approximately 100 countries, 2,000 classrooms, 600 libraries, and 500 NaNoWriMo regions every year.” I encourage you to donate to NaNoWriMo today, because it’s not just my novel they’re supporting– there are so many people, adults and children alike– who benefit from their programs!